Foreign minister criticises China on Tibet

Blaming fatigue, Chinese foreign minister skips planned press conference after meeting that includes praise and criticism from Søvndal.

Chinese foreign minister Jiechi told press after official dinner that as far as human rights were concerned.

Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal criticised the Chinese record on human rights while also commending their efforts to pull hundreds of millions out of poverty at the first visit by a Chinese foreign minister to Denmark in 11 years.

Only Søvndal appeared at yesterday’s press conference after the meeting with Yang Jiechi, which stretched for half an hour longer than was initially agreed, sparking worries in the Danish media that Søvndal’s criticisms might not have been well received.

Søvndal explained, however, that the meeting was amicable and that the meeting was extended simply because they had a lot to discuss.

“It’s no secret that as Danes believe China should be far more ambitious when it comes to political and other human rights such as the rights for minorities in Tibet,” Søvndal said. “I expressed our desire that Tibet achieve greater autonomy and cultural and religious freedom.”

Søvndal has long criticised China’s stance on Tibet, calling Tibetans the “victims of Chinese torture and repression” in a speech on 1 May 2008 in Fælledparken.

Søvndal stressed, however, that the meeting was as much about strengthening ties between the two countries, as it was an opportunity to express critical views.

In areas where the two countries share interests, such as the green economy and issues related to piracy, Søvndal stated that China and Denmark would seek to strengthen co-operation and “constructive dialogue”.

And while Denmark might take issue with China’s human rights record, Søvndal stated that China deserved praise on some issues.

“China has pulled three or four million people out of poverty and I think deserves respect. Many countries also benefit from China being the driving force behind large parts of the global economy. Without them we would be in an even deeper crisis than we are at the moment,” he said.

Søvndal explained that Yang couldn’t attend the press conference as he was tired after “his long trip”, but added that he found China’s foreign minister to be “experienced and insightful.”

“I think we have established a good starting point for a continued cooperation between Denmark and China.”

Yang attended an official dinner in the evening and was confronted by journalists about his view on the meeting as he left.

“In regard to human rights it’s good to exchange ideas and experiences,” he said, according to Politiken newspaper. “No country is perfect and as far as human rights are concerned, self-criticism is as important criticism from others.”

Yang is currently on a two-day visit to Denmark that also includes a meeting with Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

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