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The BBC's Duncan Hewitt
"The EU described the summit as friendly"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 21 December, 1999, 15:21 GMT
EU raps China on human rights

Falun Gong The EU raised the issue of the banned Falun Gong movement

The European Union has called on China to work harder to improve its human rights record at the end of a high-level meeting in Beijing.

The battle for free trade
In a statement, EU leaders expressed concern at the pace of reform and called on China to ratify United Nations human rights' covenants.

Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, European Commission President Romano Prodi and other officials held meetings with Premier Zhu Rongji, which they called "open and friendly". They went on to meet President Jiang Zemin.

Mr Lipponen said that, although he saw some positive signs on human rights, he wanted more concrete results.

He said China had defended its position on the use of capital punishment, Tibet and the banning of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

The subject of human rights was given added sensitivity by the presence of EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten, who, as the last British governor of Hong Kong, was sharply critical of China's record.

Mr Prodi, left, and Mr Zhu A hug for Mr Prodi, left. Mr Patten got a handshake
He was described by China as "the whore of the East" and a sinner of a thousand generations after his attempts to expand democracy in the former British colony.

For his part, the former governor described China's system of government as doomed and its still-revered late leader Chairman Mao as an old pervert.

"Engagement should include speaking your mind on human rights and other issues," Mr Patten said.

"I'm not sure whether Chinese leaders have changed their views about some of my values. I certainly haven't changed my views."

Trade talks

On trade, Mr Lipponen said remarkable developments had been made between the two sides.

But the BBC's Duncan Hewitt in Beijing says there appeared to be little sign of rapid progress on China's admission to the World Trade Organisation.

Following China's recent agreement with the US, a deal with the EU is now one of the last major remaining obstacles.

"We are ready to negotiate [WTO accession] as soon as China has completed the examination of the EU's position," Mr Prodi said after the meeting with Mr Zhu.

EU officials had hoped to set a date for delayed talks on a deal clearing the way for China's entry to the WTO.

EU countries are seeking improved access to China's markets in areas such as telecommunications and insurance.

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See also:
24 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
China deal to boost economy
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China trade deal with Canada
15 Nov 99 |  The Economy
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28 Sep 99 |  Asia-Pacific
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19 Sep 99 |  Asia-Pacific
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02 Sep 99 |  Europe
Patten warns EU on China trade

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