01/27/2004, 00.00
CHINA – FRANCE
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Paris and Beijing, a multipolar world unmindful of human rights

Paris (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Chinese president Hu Jintao arrived in France yesterday for an official 4-day visit. On today's agenda was a meeting with president Chirac to sign a bilateral agreement, a visit to the Eiffel tower and the Toulouse Airbus factories, a speech before the National Assembly at the French Parliament, and a series of meetings with French businessmen interested in investing in China.     

The president's choice of France as his first European "stop", following his election in 2003, is significant. It is not by chance that today also coincides with a particular date in history (Jan. 27 1964) when diplomatic relations were first sanctioned between France and China. On that day 40 years ago, the then president, Charles De Gaulle, recognized the legitimacy of Mao's People's Republic of China, which at that time was internationally isolated.  

Like 40 years ago, France and China share many political and economic interests. Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Hervé Ladsous, said that such a "convergence of visions" for a multipolar world is even stronger after the war in Iraq. France aims at strengthening its own economic investments in China, Hervé Ladsous referring to investments in the television and DVD industries and nuclear plants.   

China on the other hand is looking for support for its new investments, new technology, environmental protection, cooperation in defeating Sars, the fight against crime and illegal immigration. France is an important intermediary for China's relations with the European Union. Just yesterday French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, pleased with other EU ministers to lift the arms embargo imposed on China as soon as possible. The embargo was set after the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989. 

Last December, the European Parliament voted down Beijing's request by passing a resolution on the issue. In it the European Parliament decided to keep the embargo, due to insufficient guarantees in terms of China's human rights violations and threats made against Taiwan. Even Germany, despite being in agreement with France to life the embargo, appeared cautious yesterday.

French authorities gave Hu Jintao "a royal welcome", decorating the Eiffel Tower in red, criticizing Taiwan and keeping the special guest away from embarrassing situations concerning human rights issues. Figures considered "unwelcome" in Beijing were not present at the "Year of China in France" cultural event.

Members of the religious sect, Falun Gong, outlawed by the Chinese government, were forbidden to participate in last Saturday's parade along the Champs Elysées. The writer Gao Xingjian, in exile in France and noble prize winner for literature, was not invited to Paris's book fair, where a special area is dedicated to Chinese literature.    

French NGOs showed their tough stance on such issues.  Francis Perrin, president of Amnesty International-France, said that "consistency is needed between words and actions. French politicians often remind us that France is the home of human rights. The least they can do is face the issue of human rights of China."

Amnesty International is concerned, among other things, about China's blocking of web sights. International human rights defense organizations (like Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and the International League for Human Rights) and concerned French politicians will boycott Hu Jintao's speech with a sit-in protest in front of Parliament, in order to denounce China's use of the capital punishment, human rights violations, oppression of minorities, its policies regarding Tibet , and the country's arrest and imprisonment of dissidents.  (MR)
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