Hu cuts short G8 trip over Xinjiang riots

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Chinese President Hu Jintao’s move to not attend the G8 summit in Italy and return to China to restore peace is unprecedented, says an expert.

Beijing – Chinese President Hu Jintao cut short an official visit to Italy for the G8 summit and returned home Wednesday following deadly rioting in the Xinjiang region, China's foreign ministry said.

Hu's sudden return came after fresh ethnic strife erupted Tuesday in Urumqi, capital of China's northwest region, as thousands of Han Chinese armed with makeshift weapons marched through the city where 156 died in weekend riots.

He arrived in China early Wednesday "in light of the current situation in Xinjiang," the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.

The G8 summit was set to open later the same day in the central Italian town of L'Aquila and although China is not a member of the Group of Eight nations, much of the talks were to include emerging powers.

Hu's decision not to attend the summit and postpone a subsequent state visit to Portugal was "unprecedented," according to Jean-Pierre Cabestan, professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University.

"I have never seen a Chinese President shorten a trip abroad before. It's a sign of panic, there is clear concern," he said.

"It shows that no important decisions can be taken without him – he is the only link between civil and military power."

State Councillor Dai Bingguo will take part in the G8 summit on Hu's behalf, the foreign ministry said.

The chaos that gripped Urumqi Tuesday came in response to unrest two days earlier that saw thousands of members of the mainly Muslim Uighur community take to the streets in deadly riots that also led to more than 1,000 injuries.

During his visit to Italy, Hu met Monday with his Italian counterpart Giorgio Napolitano and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

After raising the issue of human rights with Hu, Napolitano told a joint news conference: "We agreed that the... economic and social progress that is being achieved in China places new demands in terms of human rights."

Human rights is "an issue that Italy has always confronted and intends to confront with the greatest respect for Chinese positions, as well as the integrity and decision-making autonomy of China and its institutions," he said.

Berlusconi examined bilateral economic matters with Hu while several trade agreements worth more than EUR 1 billion were signed.

Leaders of the Group of Eight industrialised nations and a host of emerging powers are meeting until Friday in the city of L'Aquila, which was devastated in April by an earthquake that killed nearly 300 people.

G8 talks traditionally bring together the eight leading economies – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States – but much of the discussion will be expanded to include emerging powers such as China and India.

AFP / Expatica

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