China rebuffs human rights critics

March 12th, 2008 - 10:28 pm ICT by admin  

Beijing, March 12 (DPA) China’s foreign minister Wednesday mounted a strong counter-attack against critics pressing his government to improve its human rights record ahead of the Beijing Olympics, as another official announced the addition of a former security chief to the elite group leading preparations for the games. Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said the rights critics were a “small number of individuals and forces who are anti-China and very biased against China”.

They were “out to tarnish China’s image” but would “never get away with it because what they are doing is opposed by the people of China and people around the world”, Yang told reporters on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress, China’s annual show-parliament.

A report by the US State Department Tuesday said China’s human rights record “remained poor” in 2007, but some reforms helped remove the country from the US list of the world’s most systematic rights abusers.

China continued to tighten restrictions on religious freedom in Tibetan and Uighur areas, and monitor, harass and arrest political activists, journalists and lawyers, the department’s annual human rights report said.

Yang said China remained “ready to hold human rights dialogue” with the US.

“But we are strongly opposed to the practices of clinging to the Cold War mentality, drawing lines according to ideology, launching confrontation and exercising double standards on human rights issues, and interfering in China’s domestic affairs in the name of human rights,” he said.

At a separate press conference, Beijing Vice Mayor Liu Jingmin confirmed that Xi Jinping, widely seen as the country’s next leader, had been appointed to head a new group in charge of preparations for the Beijing Olympic Games.

Former minister of public security Zhou Yongkang and Liu Qi, who previously led Beijing’s Olympic preparations, were deputies to Xi in the new group, Liu said.

Top members of China’s ruling Communist Party approved the three-member group at a special meeting in January and it has since “given effective support to the preparation work” for the August 8-24 games, Liu said.

Xi, 54, is seen as the likely successor of Hu Jintao as party leader in 2012 and state president in 2013.

Hong Kong media reported last month that Xi had been placed in charge of Olympic preparations, and it is unclear why the government waited until Wednesday to make a formal announcement.

Both Xi and Zhou are members of the elite nine-member standing committee of the party’s Politburo, while Liu Qi is an ordinary member of the 25-strong Politburo.

In their new posts, Xi and Zhou have the difficult responsibility of improving Beijing’s air pollution, which has drawn the International Olympic Committee’s concern, as well as coordinating the deployment of security forces and coordinating among usually uncooperative government agencies.

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