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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

PM must talk human rights with China: coalition

CBC: A coalition of Canadian human rights groups is urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to use the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao as an opportunity to urge China to improve its human rights record.

"Increased prosperity [in China] must not be mistaken for increased human protection," the group argues in a letter to Harper. The letter details human rights violations against Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, democracy activists and human rights lawyers.

President Hu Jintao arrives in Canada Wednesday for an official visit and will stay for the G20 meetings on the weekend.

The human rights coalition, which includes Amnesty International Canada, Canada Tibet Committee, and Rights & Democracy, among others, is urging Harper to push for reforms to China's human rights practices. But the coalition also wants China, with its growing clout, to take on a leadership role in improving human rights around the world.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, was asked at a news conference if these goals are wishful thinking.

"It's long-term thinking," Neve said.

"We're certainly not imagining or expecting that at this summit we would suddenly hear some remarkably forceful foreign policy pronouncements from the Chinese governments advancing progressive human rights issues," he said.

"But we think it's absolutely vital, especially at this stage where the G20 is really coming together, is really defining itself, asserting its place on the world stage and within that, China obviously playing a key role, that there start to be some meaningful dialogue around human rights issues."

The coalition also wants Harper to raise the case of Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen of Uyghur origin who is serving a life prison term in China.

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