Political reforms critical to social stability, says EC chief

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 July, 2005, 12:00am

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has urged Beijing to introduce political reforms, saying democracy and civil liberties are the key to sustained economic growth and long-term social stability.

He also urged Chinese leaders to begin a dialogue with the government in Taiwan before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

'In Europe, we have learnt from our experience that without a sufficient level of political reform, growth may eventually be slowed or disrupted by instability,' Mr Barroso said in a speech in Beijing to scholars from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a top central government think-tank.

He said the mainland's internal long-term sustainability also depended on its ability to introduce political reform, allowing for more democracy and civil liberties.

Mr Barroso said holding talks with Taiwan would greatly advance the mainland's international standing.

'In the run-up to the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, the international community would welcome China starting a direct dialogue with Taiwan as a sign of great maturity,' he said.

The mainland has played host to historic visits by Taiwan's main opposition leaders this year but Beijing has refused to deal with Taiwan's pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian and his ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

The EU leader also called on Beijing to improve human rights on the mainland.

'We are of the opinion that the further improvement of human rights, good governance and the rule of law and the development of a strong civil society are key elements for the sustained success of China's reform process,' he said.

In a press conference yesterday afternoon, Mr Barroso cited Beijing's lack of progress on human rights as a barrier to the EU's efforts to the lift arms embargo imposed on the mainland after the 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.

He said it would be difficult to lift the embargo until Europeans perceived an improvement in the mainland's human rights record.

But he said the EU had been supportive of China's transition and opening up and stood ready to assist in further political and economic reforms.

In welcoming remarks before a meeting with Mr Barroso at the Great Hall of the People, President Hu Jintao praised his contribution to the development of a strategic partnership between China and the EU.

In response, Mr Barroso said his visit conveyed a strong message that the EU wanted to further its constructive strategic partnership with China.