PARIS, Jan 26 (AFP) – Members of the French parliament have threatened to boycott an address by Chinese President Hu Jintao – the key event of a four-day state visit which starts Monday – to protest at Beijing’s human rights record.
Hu, the first Asian leader to address the lower house National Assembly, was scheduled to give a 30-minute speech in Chinese on Tuesday, the 40th anniversary of the day France became the first Western power to recognise China’s Communist government.
France has previously extended the honour to only 12 other foreign leaders, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and South African President Thabo Mbeki.
According to the Chinese foreign ministry, Hu planned to speak about China’s foreign policy, and about relations with Europe and with France in particular.
The address was programmed to be the highlight of a state visit that began Monday and was to finish Thursday.
But while the French government have gone to lengths to woo China in an effort to boost trade with the huge Asian economy, some MPs from French President Jacques Chirac’s ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party and from the opposition Socialist and Greens parties were dismayed with the address initiative.
Lionnel Luca, a UMP member who heads a parliamentary committee on the Chinese-annexed territory of Tibet, said he would boycott Hu’s speech and would instead demonstrate with human rights activists nearby.
A Socialist MP, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said his party’s members wouldn’t boycott because it was “right that France has close relations with China”.But he said “all the MPs won’t be present” and he would send a letter to Hu via the Chinese embassy to “remind him of our expectations regarding Tibet and political prisoners”.
A former Socialist minister, Jack Lang, called on the party to “consider a sign of protest that could go as far as a boycott of the Chinese president” because of China’s human rights abuses and its use of the death penalty.
“China is, with Bush’s Texas, one of the world record holders for capital punishment,” he told the parliament, referring to US President George W. Bush, who used to be the governor of Texas.
“It’s all well and fine that big leaders come to the Assembly and get acquainted with the heart of democracy, but we shouldn’t forget also that we’re talking about a country where human rights are trodden on, and we shouldn’t forget Tibet either,” said another MP, Francois Sauvadet, of the UMP’s coalition partner, the Union for a French Democracy (UDF).
Others preferred a less confrontational stance.
“We can’t just ignore that country (China), otherwise it’s just a hypocrites’ ball,” a Communist MP, Alain Bocquet, said, explaining that economic realities came into play.
The speaker of the parliament, Jean-Louis Debre, sought to smooth over the row, saying that the idea of Hu’s address had been agreed to by all the parties and that it aimed to show “the attachment of the national representation to the Chinese people.”
Subject: France news