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Uncomfortable diplomatic moment for Kofi Anna -

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Uncomfortable diplomatic moment for Kofi Annan

AM - Tuesday, 12 October , 2004 08:28:00

Reporter: John Taylor

TONY EASTLEY: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has uncomfortably seen for himself China's continuing
sensitivity to any questioning of the government's human rights record.

Mr Annan is in China for a series of high-level meetings, as China Correspondent John Taylor
reports.

JOHN TAYLOR: Be careful what you ask in front of Chinese officials, even if the UN Secretary
General is standing right there in front of the international media.

China's Foreign Minister, Li Zhaoxing, yesterday took offence at a question raised at a press
conference with Kofi Annan after the pair had finished a meeting.

Mr Annan was asked if he raised any concerns about China's human rights record, or the possibility
that the UN rapporteur on torture might be allowed to visit soon.

KOFI ANNAN: I know that there has been quite a lot of visits from the Human Rights Commission,
including the previous High Commission, and I hope the new High Commissioner would also make a
visit.

And we had the chance to discuss human rights, and also I did it earlier this morning with a member
of the high-level panel, and the need for the panel also to give us some recommendations on how we
can render the Commission much more effective, and we will continue our discussions over lunch.

JOHN TAYLOR: Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing was angered by the questioning. He asked the reporter to
step forward, and put to her - had she read China's Constitution?

Switching to English, he added:

LI ZHAOXING: Now it's your turn to answer my question, please.

JOHN TAYLOR: Her response was that the purpose of the news conference was for Mr Annan and Mr Li to
make comments.

"You dodged the question well," he said. "Let me tell you, the Constitution of China protects the
human rights of Chinese citizens."

He followed up with was a series of points, with an uncomfortable Kofi Annan looking on.

"I don't know whether you have read the charter of the United Nations, especially the preamble," he
said. "There are individual countries in the world which interfere in China's internal affairs in
relation to the question of Taiwan, and hurt the national feeling of the Chinese people.

"I don't know whether you have taken note of these developments. I don't recall if you have ever
stood for justice on these issues or if you have ever spoken or written for justice on those
matters.

"I also feel it is most inappropriate not to know anything about the UN charter when one is asking
questions to an important people like the Secretary-General. I suggest we go to lunch now. Thank
you."

And so the press conference ended.

TONY EASTLEY: John Taylor reporting from Beijing.