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France/China 22 November 2007

Sarkozy urged to speak out on human rights during China visit

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard has written to French President Nicolas Sarkozy urging him to intercede on behalf of China’s 83 imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents during a three-day visit to the country that begins on 25 November.

“You have said several times in recent months that you intend to raise the human rights situation and the fate of China’s political prisoners when you meet with Chinese officials,” the letter said. “This visit is an excellent opportunity to make France’s voice heard and to remind President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao of the undertakings China has given.”

The Chinese authorities promised to improve the press freedom and human rights situation when the 2008 Olympic Games were assigned to Beijing in 2001.

Reporters Without Borders has sent Sarkozy’s advisers a list of the 33 journalists and 50 cyber-dissidents and Internet users currently held in China, making special mention of Shi Tao, who is serving a 10-year sentence, Ching Cheong, serving a five-year sentence, and Yang Zili, serving a eight-year sentence.

Reporters Without Borders would like Sarkozy to organise a meeting with independent journalists, pro-democracy intellectuals and the relatives of political prisoners during his stay in Beijing.

“We also think that a member of your delegation should visit the home of the husband-and-wife human rights team, Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan, recently nominated for the European parliament’s Sakharov prize,” Ménard wrote. “Under house arrest for the past few years, they embody a courageous and determined defence of free expression.”

Finally, Reporters Without Borders also urged Sarkozy to pay attention to the position of the French companies whose merits he will be promoting during his trip. The press freedom organisation is of the view that their technologies should not be used for repression.

The French company Thalès, for example, sold China its powerful ALLISS antennae, which are used by the Chinese authorities to jam the signals of some international radio stations. And the European aerospace company EADS has sold communications systems to the Beijing municipal government for the security systems. More than 30,000 police officers and municipal security personnel are to be supplied with European equipment.

Reporters Without Borders has already voiced its concern that it could be used against dissidents.

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