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Canadian PM Paul Martin Speaks with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Human Rights

Martin emerged from a meeting with Hu, saying he told the Chinese leader that Canadians are very concerned about China¡¦s human rights record and want to see things improve.
( [email protected] ) Sep 09, 2005 03:59 PM EDT

On Thursday, Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in Ottawa, Canada to talk trade, investment, and human rights. Prime Minister Paul Martin vowed to put human rights as the top of the agenda.

According to Canadian Press, Martin says he had a frank discussion with Chinese President Hu Jintao about human rights. Martin emerged from a meeting with Hu, saying he told the Chinese leader that Canadians are very concerned about China's human rights record and want to see things improve.

Prime Minister Paul Martin told reporters following a cabinet meeting on Thursday, "I can tell you that you in my meetings with the president on this particular trip, it will be at the very top of the list."

Hu Jintao, only the third Chinese president to visit Canada and the first in eight years, was welcomed by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson at a state dinner Thursday evening at Rideau Hall.

During an assembly that included Prime Minister Paul Martin and several top cabinet ministers Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson, herself of Chinese background, made a brief reference to China's checkered human rights record by stressing the need for mutual understanding.

"It is simply wrong for anyone, however powerful, or an institution, however wealthy or dominant, to interfere with one people's understanding of another," she said.

And Alex Neve, head of Amnesty International Canada, said the Canadian government must speak up on torture and the plight of faith groups in China.

"For far too many years Canada has been timid and reluctant to put human rights squarely on the table in meetings with the Chinese government, scared that pushing too hard on human rights might detract from trade and investment prospects," he told a news conference.

When Prime Minister Martin visited Beijing in Jan, earlier this year, he brought up the problem of human rights in China, and now they will focus on specific agendas.

Canada, with a 35-years trade relationship and has major resource companies of China, has special leverage in diplomacy with China. In addition, China will be holding 2008 Olympic, thus, technological and financial resources is among the top agendas of President Hu.

China is the fastest-growing economy in the world and is actively looking for more sources of energy; however, the communist country, population 1.3 billion, remains a problematic global partner.

Hu Jintao, 62, took power in 2003 and human rights activists say the Beijing government has done nothing since to lift its iron heel from a closed society increasingly riven by class divides.

Martin will host Hu Jintao at a state banquet on Thursday. During his visit, he will also give a speech at the Canada China Business Council and visit Niagara Falls. Hu will be in Eastern Canada from Sept. 8 to 11.

Hu Jintao heads to Mexico on Sunday. Next week, he plans to meet with U.S. President George Bush on the sidelines of a UN summit in New York, before returning to Vancouver for a two-day trip on Sept. 16.