Sarkozy urged to talk rights with China

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Rights campaigners Tuesday urged French President Nicolas Sarkozy to broach the sensitive topic of human rights with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao when he makes a state visit to France this week.

"We call on you to include protection of human rights in China and the freeing of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo on the agenda of your talks with the Chinese president," Human Rights Watch said in an open letter.

Hu is due to hold a series of bilateral talks with Sarkozy during his three-day visit from Thursday, during which major commercial contracts worth billions of euros are expected to be announced.

Sarkozy has remained silent on the awarding of the Nobel prize to Liu a jailed Chinese pro-democracy activist, which angered China when it was announced by the Norwegian Nobel Committee last month.

France and China have had tense diplomatic relations over recent years, notably over French backing for the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, but they maintain important economic ties and relations have warmed since 2009.

"In our eyes it is essential that France remind China of its obligations in terms of human rights, and demand that the Nobel winner be freed and his wife Liu Xia's house arrest ended," the US-based rights watchdog added.

Another campaign group, the press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders, called for a demonstration in central Paris on Thursday at the start of Hu's visit, planning to release doves as a symbol of peace.

"Liu Xiaobo is innocent. For 20 years he has been committed to the defence of human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, in accordance with the Chinese constitution," the organisation said in a statement.

"These are the reasons why he is the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and why his detention is unacceptable."

© 2010 AFP

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