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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 January, 2004, 17:50 GMT
French MPs snub China president
Hu Jintao
Mr Hu says China will consider a UN covenant on human rights
Dozens of French MPs have led a protest against human rights in China by boycotting the Chinese president's address to the French parliament.

President Hu Jintao was given the rare honour of addressing parliament during a state visit which is aimed at boosting trade and other ties.

But human rights activists say the red-carpet welcome was inappropriate.

One MP stood in parliament during the speech wearing a white gag, while others joined street protests in Paris.

Associated Press said about half of France's 577 MPs, including socialists, greens and members from Mr Chirac's conservative party, did not attend the speech.

Hundreds of followers of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned in China, protested outside the Chinese consulate on Tuesday.

Protests

Police stopped a protest at the Eiffel Tower by a group of about 30 activists from the media organisation Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) who had been planning to release red balloons carrying portraits of imprisoned Chinese dissidents.

Vincent Brossel, from RSF, said it had been very difficult to demonstrate against Mr Hu's visit.

We very much appreciate France's continuing with its one-China policy
Hu Jintao
"We obviously want to denounce the fact that journalists and web users are detained in jail for a very long time just because of criticising the authorities and denouncing corruption," he said.

Mr Chirac and Mr Hu signed a joint declaration on Tuesday calling, among other things, for human rights to be protected.

Mr Hu made a veiled reference to the protests in his speech to parliament, saying the UN International Covenant on Civic and Political Rights would be put to the Chinese National People's Congress for ratification once all conditions were in place.

Mr Hu's visit began on Monday with a presidential welcome at the airport and a banquet at the Elysee Palace.

It is his first state visit to Western Europe since becoming president last March.

France's moves to boost its Chinese ties have sparked controversy.

Reporters San Frontiers
Reporters demonstrated near the Eiffel Tower
Taiwan was angered by Mr Chirac's description of a forthcoming referendum on defence as a "grave error".

Some European Union countries were opposed to a French call on Monday for the EU's arms embargo to be lifted by March.

The joint declaration signed in Paris contained opposition to the Taiwan referendum as well as a pledge to boost economic ties.

Mr Hu later announced that China had agreed to buy 21 Airbus aircraft from the European aircraft maker Airbus SAS.




SEE ALSO:
Taiwan rejects French poll warning
27 Jan 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Chirac backs China on Taiwan
27 Jan 04  |  Europe
China condemns Taiwan poll plans
17 Jan 04  |  Asia-Pacific


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