Beijing bars NGO expert from EU-China rights event

AFP , Thursday 8 Sep 2011

Leading human rights expert denied visa to attend the seminar whilst China jails dozens of writers, lawyers and government critics

Beijing blocked a member of a leading non-governmental rights group from attending a two-day EU-China human rights seminar, despite protests from Brussels, the EU said on Thursday.

China refused to issue a visa to a member of New York-based Human Rights in China (HRIC), who was invited to take part in the talks that ended on Wednesday, the EU embassy in China said in a statement.

HRIC had been asked to attend the dialogue as a representative of the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights, an EU official told AFP.

"The EU made it clear to the Chinese side that it deeply regrets that one participant from a leading European NGO was not allowed to participate," the statement said.

China's foreign ministry spokesman said he was unaware of the visa refusal when questioned by reporters on Thursday.

The European Union regularly organises meetings between China and EU groups on the issue of human rights, as well as a high-level dialogue that normally takes place twice a year, alternating between an EU country and China.

HRIC said it was told that the foreign ministry called the group an "anti-China" organisation, whose participation in the seminar was "totally unacceptable".

"We regret being excluded from this exchange," it said in a statement, "but our more fundamental concern is the success of the Chinese authorities in stigmatising any independent voices as 'anti-China'."

HRIC did not name the expert who was barred.

The seminar comes as dozens of writers, lawyers, government critics and activists have been jailed, placed under house arrest or harassed by police since calls for Arab-style protests began appearing online early this year.

Meanwhile, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo remains in jail in China for his calls for greater democracy and human rights in the country.

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