Sir Leon makes bold call for democracy in China
SIR Leon Brittan, the European Union's Trade Commissioner, yesterday issued a bold call for democratic reform in China, demanding better human rights and an effective legal system.
Sir Leon claimed moves by Beijing to free its economy would have to be accompanied by democratic reform.
His call came as an Amnesty International report said China staged executions on a huge scale last year and was still detain-ing thousands of political prisoners.
Commenting on an EU policy document to improve relations with China, Sir Leon said: 'Europe has a stake in seeing that China develops into a stable democratic society based on respect for human rights and the rule of law.
'There has been all too little evidence of a sustained change for the better on these fronts.
'I believe political reform will become increasingly irresistible as China's economy opens up to the world.' The document said the EU intends to boost bilateral dialogue by holding more ad hoc ministerial, official and ambassadorial meetings on issues like disarmament, non-proliferation of chemical and nuclear weapons, and the conventional arms trade. However, the document said the EU deplored China's human rights situation, where 'violations continue to be part of everyday life'.
'Reports of such violations by authorities at every level continue, with severe restrictions on the rights of citizens to freedom of assembly, association, expression and religion, as well as due legal process and fair trial,' it said.
Through public pressure, formal private discussion and practical co-operation, the EU said it was confident it could achieve improvements in human rights, and the judicial and legal systems.
Moves to a better human rights policy should be co-ordinated through the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, said the document.
Amnesty's annual report said more than 6,000 political prisoners were being held without charge or trial in 15 Asian countries. But the London-based watchdog focused much of its criticism on China, saying Beijing was maintaining political repression six years after the Tiananmen crackdown.
It said China had sentenced to death almost 2,500 people and executed at least 1,791.
'Thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience arrested in previous years remained in prison and information on several hundred cases of previously unknown prisoners came to light,' the document said.
'Executions again continued on a massive scale,' it said.
'Amnesty International believes these figures are far below the real numbers.' The group claimed torture was widespread, with prisoners subjected to electric shocks, sleep deprivation and beatings.