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Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 04:19 GMT 05:19 UK
PM defends China human rights record
Irish protesters with anti-China banners
Zhu Rongji's tour has met with human rights protests
By the BBC's Sherine Wheeler in Brussels

High-level talks between the Prime Minister of China, Zhu Rongji, and leading European Union officials have broken up in Brussels.

Both sides called the fourth annual EU-China summit successful and productive.

But the Chinese premier dismissed EU concerns about human rights as unfounded.

Zhu Rongji arrived in Brussels flanked by a 135-strong delegation of ministers and officials, evidence he said of the importance of China's relationship with the EU.

The meeting with the EU's top officials and the prime minister of Belgium focused on deepening trade links and smoothing the way for China's membership of the World Trade Organisation in three month's time.

'Worsening situation'

But the EU also called for improvements to what campaigners say is a worsening human rights situation in recent months; top of their concerns were allegations of state-sanctioned violence against religious minorities like the Falun Gong spiritual movement, a record number of executions and the treatment of refugees from North Korea.

After the meeting, China's prime minister said that the Chinese human rights situation was at its best and getting better every day.

He said accusations that the government had breached international human rights were unfounded.

However, in a joint written statement after the meeting, both sides said that the dialogue on human rights will continue with another meeting due later this year.

See also:

04 Sep 01 | Europe
Trade dominates EU-China talks
10 Jul 01 | Business
China concedes in WTO talks
15 Dec 00 | Business
Red tape 'helping China overtake EU'
27 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
China arrest in Dover deaths inquiry
11 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
China backs anti-trafficking plan
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