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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 19:07 GMT 20:07 UK
China defends Falun Gong policy
China's Prime Minister Zhu Rongji
A Falun Gong protest put Zhu on the spot

Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji has defended his government's repression of the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong.

Speaking at the Asia-Europe summit in Copenhagen, he said criticism of China's policy was not objective.

It is very rare for senior Chinese leaders to discuss the sensitive issue of Falun Gong. But with Falun Gong supporters demonstrating outside the summit venue, Mr Zhu was put on the spot during a press conference.

The Prime Minister said China had never persecuted members of Falun Gong. Instead, he argued, it was Falun Gong which had persecuted the Chinese people, and disrupted social order.

There was no question, he said, of it being a human rights issue.

International criticism

That is not the picture painted by human rights groups such as Amnesty International, which said this week that the victimisation of Falun Gong was bad and getting worse.

Amnesty has urged the European Union to do more about human rights in China.

While the EU says it does raise the issue at every major meeting with China, Amnesty says there is no dialogue. Instead, the group argues, there is a European monologue, and China is not listening.

That is the EU's dilemma - how to engage and do business with China, while also making effective criticism of the country with one of the worst human rights records in the world.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Chris Morris
"Outside the Asem summit venue a vigil by supporters of the Falun Gong movement"

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