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Sarkozy in China talks on immigration

BEIJING, Jan 8 (AFP) – France and China agreed to exchange police officers as part of increased efforts against illegal immigration and drug trafficking during a visit here Thursday by French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy, the centre-right French government’s point man in the fight against illegal immigration, told reporters he had also used his one-day visit to raise in a “calm manner” the thorny question of China’s poor human rights record.

The minister secured a rare meeting with China’s minister for public security, Zhou Yongkang, at which he broached the subject of illegal Chinese immigrants in France.

Afterwards he said the two sides agreed that police officers would be stationed in each others’ countries in an effort to dismantle human trafficking networks and learn more about drug dealing and counterfeiting rackets.

Sarkozy said he and Zhou signed an agreement on fighting crime and the exchange of liaison officers to tackle immigration matters.

According to the agreement, a French police officer will be sent to Beijing and another to Shanghai, while two of their Chinese colleagues will be stationed at the Roissy airport in Paris.

Between May and December last year French and Chinese authorities broke up a network trafficking Chinese minors which was run through an association that organized language study and sports trips.

Sarkozy said efforts to stop illegal immigrants from China were important given the huge increase in its population, which already stands at 1.3 billion.

“From 12 to 14 million people are born each year in China, the equivalent of the population of Belgium, so the stake is not negligible,” he said.

About 4,000 Chinese attempted to enter France illegally in both 2002 and 2003, according to French ministry figures.

Sarkozy said he also raised the issue of China’s human rights record in his meeting with Zhou.

“We talked about everything, and that includes human rights, but in a calm manner,” said Sarkozy, adding that “today we can talk about these questions in much less tense fashion than in the past.”

He said he reminded Zhou that Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin had submitted a list of political prisoners to China in 2003 and France “attached importance” to having news of these people.

Zhou said that he had made inquiries into allegations of torture, Sarkozy said, but the pair had not raised the issue of the death penalty.

China, which does not release figures on the numbers of executions it carries out, is said by the rights group Amnesty International to account for more than 80 percent of the executions carried out in the world.

Sarkozy travels to Hong Kong on Friday.


                                Subject: France news