Expert excluded from EU-China human rights forum

AP News
Posted: Sep 08, 2011 3:49 AM

The European Union said Thursday that it deeply regrets China's exclusion of a human rights expert from a forum held in Beijing this week and it has communicated its disappointment to the Chinese side.

In its statement, the EU office in Beijing did not name the individual involved, but New York-based Human Rights in China said one of its experts who had been invited by the EU to represent the International Federation of Human Rights had been refused a visa to attend at the last minute.

It said it was told the Chinese Foreign Ministry regarded HRIC as an "anti-China" group whose participation in the seminar was "totally unacceptable."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said he had no information on the case.

The EU and China have been carrying out regular exchanges on human rights and "both sides are satisfied with the progress," Liu said at a regular ministry briefing.

HRIC Executive Director Sharon Hom said in a statement that her group was "dedicated to advancing the protection of the fundamental rights of the people inside China."

"We regret being excluded from this exchange, especially because one of the seminar's topics is technology and human rights, an area in which HRIC has some experience to share," Hom said. "But our more fundamental concern is the success of the Chinese authorities in stigmatizing any independent voices as 'anti-China.'

The forum, the EU-China Human Rights Seminar, is part of a regular series of meetings between the sides on human rights.

China has sought to deflect criticism of its human rights record in recent years by staging such closed-door forums.

Beijing's authoritarian communist government is broadly accused of muffling free speech and political participation, restricting religious expression, and failing to follow its own rules on summary detention.

Beijing dismisses such claims as inherently hostile to China and says its measures are constitutional and designed to maintain social stability in the vast country of 1.3 billion people.

The two-day EU-China seminar that ended Wednesday featured discussion of drug policy and human rights along with technology and human rights. More than 50 European and Chinese human rights experts and civil society organizations took part.