Page last updated at 12:11 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 13:11 UK

China's Hu speaks out on Olympics

China President Hu Jintao speaks to journalists on 1 August 2008
President Hu Jintao said countries should work to understand each other

With one week to go to the Beijing Olympics, Chinese President Hu Jintao has urged people not to politicise the Games.

In a rare news conference, Mr Hu said politicising the event undermined the Olympic movement, and called for dialogue to resolve contentious issues.

Hosting the Games showed China's desire for peaceful global ties, he said.

His comments came amid apparent concessions by Beijing in a row over internet access for journalists.

More sites which had been blocked in Olympic media centres - such as that of rights group Amnesty International - were accessible on Friday, journalists said.

Previously unavailable sites were also available in some cities in China, the BBC confirmed.

The move followed talks between Chinese organisers and officials from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Thursday.

'Mutual respect'

In the lead-up to the Games, China has faced mounting criticism over its human rights record on issues such as Tibet, Darfur and free speech.

A journalist works in Beijing's Main Press Centre on 31 July 2008

But, said the president, China's core aim for the Olympics was to promote international peace and friendship.

Politicising the Games ran counter to the Olympic spirit and to the shared hopes of people across the world.

"It is only inevitable that people from different countries and regions may not see eye to eye with one another on some different issues," he said.

"And I think in this context, we should enter into consultations on an equal footing to narrow our differences and expand our common ground on the basis of mutual respect."

Comprehensive reforms - both economic and political - would continue after the Olympics, the Chinese leader said - an answer, correspondents say, to critics who believe any increase in freedoms in China now will end with the closing ceremony of the Games.

And Mr Hu emphasised that China's rise should not be perceived as a threat.

"The development we pursue is peaceful, open and co-operative in nature," he said.

The Chinese leader also touched on the internet row. Journalists were welcome, he said, and should abide by Chinese rules and regulations.

"We also hope you will provide objective reports of what you see here," he said.

Foreign journalists' access to the Chinese president is almost non-existent, reports the BBC's Jill McGivering.

So the government's decision to invite foreign media to a 70-minute personal meeting was in itself extraordinary.

China is well aware of its image problem, our correspondent adds, and the decision to put Mr Hu in front of the press - and his conciliatory tone - show how desperately China wants the Olympic Games to be a public relations success.


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