Row erupts over Chinese extradition treaty

4th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 4, 2007 (AFP) - Rights groups raised a chorus of alarm Thursday over French plans to sign an extradition treaty with China, despite the Asian giant's dismal record on prisoners' rights and widespread use of the death penalty.

PARIS, Jan 4, 2007 (AFP) - Rights groups raised a chorus of alarm Thursday over French plans to sign an extradition treaty with China, despite the Asian giant's dismal record on prisoners' rights and widespread use of the death penalty.

France is set to become the second European country, after Spain in 2005, to reach a bilateral extradition deal with Beijing, which is also in talks with Portugal and Australia.

France's Justice Minister Pascal Clement arrived Thursday in Beijing for a four-day visit on which he was to put the seal on the treaty, to be signed in Paris later this month during a visit by his Chinese counterpart Wu Aiying.

Rights groups accuse the government of President Jacques Chirac of taking a soft line on China's rights record, in the name of boosting business and strategic ties with the country -- which it has declared a priority.

Amnesty International France Thursday urged Paris not to ratify the text, due to "continuing reports of serious violations in China, including the use of the death penalty and abusive forms of arbitrary detention, torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatments."

A day earlier, the Paris-based League of Human Rights (LDH) and the

International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) issued a joint appeal to the French parliament to block the treaty's adoption.

"The commercial interests of France do not justify the slightest leniency towards China," they said in a joint statement, describing China's penal system as "notorious for being one of the worst in existence".

The French justice ministry dismissed the criticism on Thursday, insisting the treaty would mark a "great step forwards" and would "create a legal framework where before there was none."

"China has agreed to lay down in black and white that there would be no extraditions in cases which could involve the death penalty, and for any offences based on politics or opinion.

"It is the path of reason, this is what takes human rights forwards," a spokesman for the ministry said.

The ministry argued that the treaty would make it easier to repatriate people for trial in France -- citing a recent case in which it took three years to repatriate a Frenchman wanted for raping a minor.

Paris also said it had secured extra guarantees by accepting only extradition requests issued by the Chinese judiciary, rather than the police.

But Amnesty France director Genevieve Sevrin, pointing at a lack of judicial independence in China, said there was "no certainty that a Chinese citizen extradited one day with the clearest guarantees will not be sentenced to death at a later date on a different charge."

According to Amnesty, 68 types of offence are punishable by death in China.

The exact number of executions in China is a state secret but Chinese academics have publicly estimated the state puts up to 10,000 people to death every year.

Rights advocates were angered by the publication last month of a French tourism ministry pamphlet advising businesses to avoid mentioning the 1989

Tiananmen Square massacre, or China's contested claim to sovereignty over

Tibet and Taiwan.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people were killed when the government sent troops into Beijing in June 1989 to quell six weeks of peaceful democracy protests, firing upon the unarmed protesters gathered in Tiananmen Square.

Despite opposition from rights groups, the French president has long campaigned for the lifting of a European arms embargo imposed on the country after the massacre.

The controversy erupted as Segolene Royal, the Socialist frontrunner for April's presidential election prepared to leave on a four-day trip to China, during which she was to meet top officials, including possibly President Hu

Jintao.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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