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China must be given a human rights message - Locke

4 April 2006

China must be given a human rights message, say Greens

"Prime Minister Helen Clark should raise New Zealand's concerns with China's human rights record when she meets Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during his visit here this week.

"We have recently seen her reluctance to raise New Zealand's valid concerns over the war in Iraq with Prime Minister Tony Blair. In the rush to stitch up a free trade agreement with China there could be a similar temptation to forget about the dire human rights situation in China," says Mr Keith Locke Green MP.

Mr Locke points to several areas of concern about China's human rights record. .

"Large numbers of Chinese dissenters are in jail, often for years at a time. Summary executions without due process of law are common, and China has the highest use of the death penalty of any country." .

"Helen Clark should also be expressing New Zealand's concern at the continuing abuse of the national, religious and cultural rights of the Tibetan people," Mr Locke says.

The Green Party also has misgivings about some of the the likely consequences for New Zealand manufacturers of the free trade agreement now being negotiated with China.

"There is no way there will be fair competition between New Zealand and Chinese manufacturers under an FTA arrangement, given the low Chinese wages that are an outcome of the state suppression of labour rights."

"It is not worth destroying New Zealand manufacturing for one or two export opportunities in the agricultural sector, " Mr Locke says.

A useful and productive dialogue is possible with China on some international issues, Mr Locke says.

"China has rightly advised caution on dealing with Iran's nuclear programme.

"Therefore, there is scope for New Zealand to engage positively with China, on, for example, opposing the Bush administration's eagerness for strong measures, including possible military action, against Iran," Mr Locke says.

ENDS

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