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Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports from Beijing
"Mrs Robinson's visit could not have come at a more sensitive time"
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Wednesday, 1 March, 2000, 11:02 GMT
Robinson critical on China rights
Police in Tiananmen Square
Tight security has been laid on for Mrs Robinson's visit
UN Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson has criticised China's human rights' record as she arrives in Beijing for a regional forum.

Speaking in Hong Kong en route for the Chinese capital, she was concerned about "what has been a deterioration in the human rights situation in China in the last two years, particularly in repression of freedom of expression, freedom of religion and severe sentences for activities related to political expression".

In Beijing, she opened the forum on human rights cooperation in the Asia-Pacific with Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen, ahead of a one-to-one meeting on Thursday.

There was tight Chinese security outside the venue, with uniform and plainclothes police randomly searching pedestrians and refusing entry to anyone without official business.

Building blocks

Mrs Robinson opened the forum by calling on Asian governments to allow more civil and non-governmental institutions to promote and protect human rights.

Qian Qichen
Qian Qichen will meet Mrs Robinson on Thursday
"We enter this century looking for new developments in setting up the building blocks for the establishment of regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights," she said.

Mr Qian called on Asia to develop its own values to protect human rights, putting China's long-held view that subsistence was the most basic right.

In an apparent warning to Mrs Robinson, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has said the country will not tolerate any pressure over its ongoing crackdown on the Chinese spiritual Falun Gong movement.

"The Chinese Government is strongly opposed to any country and any international organisation making irresponsible remarks about the internal affairs of China," foreign ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said.

Hunger strike

The New York-based Human Rights In China said police surveillance of dissidents had increased in the past few days ahead of Mrs Robinson's visit and the opening of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, the country's parliament, on Sunday.

Falun Gong
The Chinese authorities have cracked down on Falun Gong practitioners
The wife of China's most prominent jailed democracy campaigner - Xu Wenli, the founder of the China Democracy Party - is staging a 24-hour hunger strike to draw attention to his case during Mrs Robinson's visit.

Mr Xu, 56, is suffering from hepatitis 14 months into a 13-year prison term and believes the medicine prescribed by prison doctors is ineffective.

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13 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
China defends academic's detention
26 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
US warns China over Falun Gong trials
18 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong followers arrested
28 Oct 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong followers call for help
07 Oct 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Leading Chinese dissident released
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