Rudd to Pursue Rights Talks With China

The Sydney Morning Herald: August 8, 2008 – Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao have agreed to pursue discussions on human rights in China in the next round of bilateral talks later this year.

Mr Rudd said he raised the issues of human rights, Tibet and religious and internet freedom with Premier Wen during a 45-minute meeting in Beijing.

“I said to the Chinese leadership that on questions of human rights, of religious freedom, of Tibet, of internet freedom, that these continue to be concerns, that we would continue to prosecute these concerns, both through the discussions we have just had and through the bilateral human rights dialogue which lies ahead between Australia and China,” he told reporters in Beijing.

“We agreed that these matters will be pursued further in the continuation of Australia’s bilateral human rights dialogue between Canberra and Beijing, and we believe the next round of that dialogue will be scheduled for later this year.”

Mr Rudd said it was important to recognise the Chinese government had done much to improve civil and political liberties since opening up to the western world.

But he said progress on human rights in China had always been a process of “two steps forward, one step back” and there was “much, much more” to be done.

Comparing the level of civil and political liberties and economic freedoms of the Chinese people today to when he first arrived in China as a diplomat 25 years ago, Mr Rudd said there had been “a very large change”.

“Has it resulted in a perfect set of civil liberties? Of course not, and that’s why we continue to have a human rights dialogue, engagement and points of disagreement with the Chinese,” he said.

“But let’s acknowledge where changes have occurred, let’s also be equally frank about where changes still need to occur, and that’s very much the tone of my conversations with the Chinese leadership in the past and will be in the future.”