Ireland, China Discuss Human Rights

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) - Prime Minister Bertie Ahern used a meeting with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji Monday to raise his concerns over China's human rights record. But Irish protesters used paint bombs and eggs to express theirs.

Zhu's vehicle was pelted with red paint and eggs as it arrived for an official dinner at Dublin Castle Monday evening. Nearly 200 protesters carried signs reading ``Free Zhao Ming'' and ``Solidarity with Chinese workers - No welcome for the butchers of Tiananmen Square.''

Earlier, at a joint news conference with Zhu, Ahern said their talks had been ``frank and friendly.'' China's treatment of Tibetans and the Falun Gong sect were discussed, he said.

He also said he had raised the case of Zhao Ming, a post-graduate student at Trinity College, Dublin, who reportedly was arrested during a visit to China in 1999 and sent to a labor camp.

Zhu took exception when a reporter asked whether China was prepared to abide by international standards on human rights. Saying that the reporter was leaping to assumptions, Zhu offered his questioner a free trip to China to see the situation for himself.

He also defended China's crackdown on the Falun Gong movement. ``Falun Gong is not a religion,'' Zhu said. ``It is an evil cult which harms people. So the government has to protect the interests of the people and take legal actions.''

Irish Labor Party leader Ruairi Quinn boycotted the state dinner Monday evening.

``The most appropriate way for me to convey the concerns that the Labor Party has ... about human rights abuses in China is for me not to attend,'' he said.

``I think China must be welcomed into the world's community. I think it should become a member of the World Trade Organization, but economic liberalization must come hand-in-hand with human rights freedoms as well.''

In his post-dinner address, Ahern said early figures for the year indicated trade between Ireland and China, excluding Hong Kong, was up nearly 75 percent from last year.

Zhu is on a 13-day tour that includes visits to Belgium, Russia and Kazakstan, as well as meetings with European Union officials.

AP-NY-09-03-01 2143EDT

Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.