Sarkozy says discussed human rights with China's Hu
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters he had discussed the sensitive topic of human rights with his visiting Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao during talks on Friday.
Asked whether the two had talked about human rights, Sarkozy replied: "Of course. President Hu Jintao is someone you can talk to."
Sarkozy was speaking to reporters as he arrived at a restaurant in the French Riviera city of Nice for a dinner with Hu, who is on the second day of a state visit to seal a reconciliation after diplomatic strains in recent years.
Activists and political opponents had criticised Sarkozy for not speaking up in favour of the jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the Nobel Peace prize last month in a move that enraged Beijing.
"France wants to move things forward. To do that we have to talk about these matters without taboos," Sarkozy said, outside the chic restaurant La Petite Maison near the palm-lined Nice seafront.
"We have values to uphold and we do so with respect for others, understanding that they have a different culture, that they have had further to come (in terms of human rights) and that they should be encouraged to move towards openness."
Rights groups had urged Sarkozy to call for Liu's release and had complained that he was avoiding the subject to avoid offending Hu given the high economic and diplomatic stakes of the visit.
In Paris on Friday morning around 20 activists approached Hu as he visited the Arc de Triomphe. Police dispersed them and press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said six demonstrators were arrested.
No joint news conference has been scheduled by Hu and Sarkozy, an exceptional departure from state visit procedures that has been criticised by campaigners who want Hu to be pressed on the issue of human rights.
© 2010 AFP