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EU Official Presses China on Political Reforms


A top European Union official visiting China is calling on the Beijing government to introduce more political reforms and to hold a direct dialogue with Taiwan. The official also says the EU is not ready to lift its arms embargo against China because of human rights concerns, and will not give China market economy status until conditions are right.

The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, praised China's economic progress during his visit Friday. But he also said Beijing must initiate further political reforms if it wants to maintain its economic growth.

Speaking in Beijing at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Mr. Barroso warned that a lack of sufficient political reform could lead to instability.

"China's internal long-term sustainability also depends on its ability to introduce more political reform, allowing for more democracy and civil liberties," Mr. Barroso said.

Mr. Barroso said he also encouraged Chinese officials to resume a direct dialogue with Taiwan in the run-up to hosting the 2008 Olympic games. He said if China made such an effort, it would greatly advance China's international standing and reputation.

Meeting with reporters after talks with China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Mr. Barroso said the European Union would not lift an arms embargo against China until all governments in the EU agree that human rights concerns have been addressed.

"I believe that the Chinese authorities also understood our concerns on those matters, namely on human rights," he said. "And, I believe some progress can be made so that we can have that consensus in the European Union and that the decision on that matter can have the support of our public opinion and also of our parliament."

The arms embargo was put in place in 1989 after hundreds of student protesters were killed by government troops near Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Mr. Barroso also repeated earlier comments that the European Union would not give China market economy status until certain conditions are met. However, he did not specify what those conditions are.

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