Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 1 News List

First Taiwan, now rights: Miliband plays Beijing's tune

ENGAGEMENT David Miliband said discussion of human rights concerns should not be linked to the Beijing Olympics

AGENCIES , BEIJING

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband backed China in its skirmish with groups seeking to link the Beijing Olympics to progress on human rights, saying yesterday that "engagement, not isolation" is the correct approach.

Miliband, who is on an official visit to China, said "no opportunity has been wasted" to raise rights concerns with Chinese officials, but he mentioned no specific cases and said such discussions should not be explicitly tied to the Games.

"We believe that the Olympics are an opportunity to celebrate the progress that has been achieved in China," Miliband said after a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) at Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.

"From our point of view, engagement, not isolation, is the right way forward," he said.

Appearing alongside Miliband, Yang sarcastically dismissed questions about links between rights issues and the Olympics, denying that a laid-off factory worker who went on trial last week on subversion charges had been arrested for protesting against the Olympic Games.

The worker, Yang Chunlin (楊春林), had sought to rally support for landless farmers by posting a letter on the Internet with the title: "We want human rights, not the Olympics."

"People in China enjoy extensive freedom of speech," Yang said. "No one will get arrested because he has said human rights were more important than the Olympic Games."

Yang said Chinese citizens were welcome to lecture police officers on the need to protect human rights.

"If they've been talking for too long and get tired, the officer will offer him a cup of tea," Yang said.

Yang also defended China's involvement on the Darfur issue, pointing to Beijing's dispatch of peacekeepers and development assistance to Sudan. But he said outsiders had limited influence with the government there.

TIANANMEN MOTHERS

Elsewhere, mothers of people killed during the Tiananmen Square Massacre have joined the list of groups using the Olympics to draw attention to their cause.

In an open letter released yesterday, the Tiananmen Mothers warned the Games would be dogged by lingering guilt and mistrust unless China confronts the truth about the crackdown.

"Is it really possible that, as the host of the 2008 Olympic Games, the government can be at ease allowing athletes from all over the world to tread on this piece of bloodstained soil and participate in the Olympics?" the letter said.

DISSIDENT DETAINED

Meanwhile, police detained an ethnic Mongolian dissident at Beijing airport as he arrived from Mongolia, a country of which he is now a citizen, the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center said.

Jiranbayariin Soyolt, originally from Inner Mongolia, was placed in handcuffs when he landed on Jan. 7 from Ulan Bator for a business trip, the center said.

His detention has only just come to light because the government had told his family not to talk to the press, the center said.

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