Chinese President arrives in Malta amid protests

VALLETTA, July 23 (Reuters) - Chinese President Jiang Zemin arrived in Malta on Monday for a three day visit, sparking protests from members of the banned Chinese religious movement Falun Gong against China's human rights record.

Six members of the movement had to be removed by police from Malta's war memorial just outside the capital shortly before Jiang arrived, amid tight security, to lay a wreath on the site.

The protesters wore t-shirts and displayed a banner decrying China's non-observance of human rights.

A small Maltese political grouping, Alternattiva Demokratika, also said it would hold a candlelight vigil outside the Chinese embassy in St Julian's, four miles north of Valletta on Monday night, to protest over China's human rights record.

The president's visit is the last leg of a five nation tour which has already taken him to Russia, Belarus, Moldovia and Ukraine.

Jiang was due to meet Maltese President Guido de Marco in Valletta later on Monday. De Marco visited China earlier this month.

He will also attend an official dinner hosted by Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami.

This is the second visit by a Chinese President to Malta, Li Xiannian having visited in November 1984.

Malta was the first Western European country to recognise China in 1971 and China subsequently assisted successive Maltese governments in port development and other infrastructural projects.

13:45 07-23-01

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