BRUSSELS: A senior Chinese official on Monday (early on Tuesday in Manila) defended his country’s human rights record against European criticism, saying Beijing favored the “right to development and survival” over civil liberties.
Officials said they discussed the cases of high-profile prisoners in China, the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and the plight of the Roma in Europe during the European Union-China human rights dialogue in Brussels but gave few details.
“Neither party should judge the other country’s system,” Li Junhua, a senior Chinese foreign ministry official, said at a press conference following the dialogue.
Europe is “focused on civil liberties and the right of government but in China we’re talking about the right to development and the right to survival,” Li told reporters as he stood next to the European Union’s Gerhard Sabathil.
He said 85 percent of the Chinese are happy with their country’s development, adding that European critics “have attached their personal aspirations” to how China develops.
“We need to treat each other in a fair and respectful manner,” he added through an interpreter. “You cannot say whose model is better,” he further said.
China has made “great strides in the last 30 years on human rights,” which compare to a hundred years of progress in Europe, he said.
Nor should critics “lose sight of the welfare of 1.3 billion people” for that of a few individuals, Li said.
Sabathil welcomed some areas of progress in China.
“We are well aware of the progress in China in the last 20 or 30 years in the improvement of economic and social rights,” he said.
But Sabathil said China “can facilitate its further economic progress also by improvement on the human rights side in general.”
He said the EU raised the cases of Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese writer and Nobel peace laureate jailed for inciting subversion in 2009, and of Ilham Tohti, a prominent scholar from the mostly-Muslim Uighur minority who in September was sentenced to life in prison for “separatism.”
He said EU and Chinese officials discussed the “restraint” shown so far by the police and student protesters in Hong Kong as well as “the need for a better dialogue” to resolve the underlying issue.
Li said the Hong Kong protests were a domestic issue and not a human rights issue.