Fri, Nov 17, 2006 - Page 7 News List

China president to meet Canada PM at APEC summit

AFP , BEIJING

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the APEC summit in Hanoi, an official said yesterday, despite a row over China's human rights record.

"The Chinese government attaches great importance to the China-Canadian relationship," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu (姜瑜) told journalists at a routine briefing. "During President Hu's attendance at the APEC informal leaders' summit, he will meet with the prime minister of Canada."

However Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) was more cautious about a meeting.

"The meeting has not happened yet. How do you know it won't happen?" he told reporters in Hanoi.

Harper's spokesman had earlier said that Hu did not intend to meet Harper at the weekend summit, with press in Canada linking the potential snub to the Canadian leader's fierce human rights criticisms of China's communist regime.

Harper told reporters on his flight to Hanoi that Canadians would not sell out their values to pave the way for better global trade relations.

"I think Canadians want us to promote our trade relations worldwide, and we do that, but I don't think Canadians want us to sell out important Canadian values -- our belief in democracy, freedom, human rights," Harper said.

Harper did not directly mention China, but his statement came after his spokeswoman Sandra Buckler told reporters that Chinese President Hu Jintao had refused to meet with Harper on the sidelines of the summit.

"They've now declined that offer," Buckler told the Globe and Mail newspaper. "But, look, if they want to meet in the future, we'd be happy to do so."

China had asked to hold bilateral talks, but backed out at the last minute, suggesting a backlash over Harper's fierce human rights criticisms of Hu's Communist regime.

Beijing has also complained about a meeting between Harper's parliamentary secretary Jason Kenney and Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama earlier this year, about delays in the deportation of an alleged Chinese crime ring boss who fled to Vancouver, and about Chinese espionage allegations made by Foreign Minister Peter MacKay.

While saying yesterday Hu would meet with Harper, Jiang said the Canadian leader should not be commenting on China's human rights situation.

"We always hold that we should maintain dialogue on the basis of equality and mutual respect," Jiang said. "But we firmly oppose other nation's using China's human rights problems to make irresponsible remarks on China's internal affairs."

Jiang did not say if the meeting between the leaders at the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation leader's summit would be a formal or informal encounter.

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