World’s Press Dismayed by German Minister’s China Comments

The World Association of Newspapers has called on European leaders who are meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao this week to reaffirm their commitment to improving human rights and press freedom in China, after Germany’s justice minister expressed “respect” for the Chinese approach to human rights and the rule of law.

The German Justice Minister, Brigitte Zypries, in an interview ahead of Mr Wen’s meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, said: “The Chinese are taking their own path, their so-called Chinese third way. I think we should respect that. We can’t just say to them, ‘you have to behave like us.’”

In a broad interview that focused on the rule of law in China and progress fostered by a German-Chinese dialogue about justice and human rights, she said she believed that Chinese progress was occurring, albeit slowly.

In a statement, WAN said: “There are dozens of journalists and human rights activists in Chinese prisons who would take exception to the Justice Minister’s comments, as we do.

“Human rights are not only universal concepts, but are what the term implies: rights, not privileges. The Chinese regime’s approach to human rights continues to be disgraceful. The Communist Party withholds these rights from its own people, often in complete contempt for China’s Constitution and laws. This is certainly not an approach to be praised and respected.”

China is the world’s largest jailer of journalists. At least 30 journalists and 50 cyber reporters are currently held in Chinese prisons for reporting facts or peacefully expressing their views.

Mr Wen is in Europe for meetings with leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and will visit Germany, Spain, Britain and European Union headquarters. WAN called on the European leaders to ensure that human rights and press freedom issues were included in the discussions.

The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom and the professional and business interests of newspapers world-wide. Representing 18,000 newspapers, its membership includes 77 national newspaper associations, newspaper companies and individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups.

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