Tue, Oct 28, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Chinese delegation in New Zealand bristles at protest

AFP , AUCKLAND

China's foreign minister showed anger over the presence of pro-Taiwan independence protesters near a New Zealand museum President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) was visiting yesterday prior to his tour of a laboratory that is working on treatments for HIV, SARS and other diseases.

Hu and his party, which includes Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星), have been in New Zealand since Saturday to sign a raft of technical agreements and to hold out promises to Wellington of a free trade agreement sometime down the track.

Although New Zealand officials voiced delight over the trouble-free nature of the trip so far, it appeared to hit a snag yesterday when Hu headed off to the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Li, who arrived ahead of Hu, appeared to be angry about a pro-Taiwan protest group near the venue.

Just before the president was due to arrive at the museum, Li was upset because the protesters were so close to the steps.

Li approached media waiting on the steps, demanding to know who was in charge and said he was due to meet Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Chinese reporters said Li was angry that the protesters, who were about 40m away, were so close.

Minutes later Clark arrived and was greeted by Li who carefully pointed her in the direction of about 400 pro-Chinese supporters.

Both Clark and Li waved at the supporters, many carrying large Chinese flags, but they ignored about 30 protesters calling for China to end its occupation of Tibet and about 100 Taiwanese saying Taiwan did not need nuclear-armed missiles pointed at it.

Clark and Li chatted for a few minutes in front of the museum before Hu arrived and the wave to the crowd of Chinese supporters was repeated, with the Taiwanese and Tibetans again being ignored.

Hu later visited the Virionyx Corporation to discuss infectious diseases and anthrax.

In a statement, Virionyx said its scientists briefed Hu on current work on potential passive immunotherapeutic treatments for HIV, SARS and the West Nile virus and will shortly begin work on dengue fever and anthrax.

Clark and Hu held formal talks on Sunday. The premier later told reporters that if the preliminary round of talks agreed on were successful, a free trade deal was possible later.

"We have expressed hope that the outcomes of the bilateral consultations and the establishment of a trade and economic cooperation framework could in due course see us exploring the possibility of a closer economic partnership between us," she said.

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