China has appointed a special Africa envoy whose first task will be to focus on the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region. The appointment was announced after U.S. lawmakers warned China of a backlash if it does not do more to pressure Sudan. Claudia Blume reports from Hong Kong.
China's new special envoy on African affairs is Liu Guijin, a former ambassador to Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing that Liu will initially work on the conflict in Darfur.
Jiang said since the Darfur issue raises a lot of concerns in the international community, the first task of the special representative will be to focus on that issue.
The appointment came a day after more than 100 U.S. lawmakers sent a strongly worded letter to China's President Hu Jintao, asking him to take immediate action to help stop bloodshed in Darfur.
They warned that the 2008 Beijing Olympics could be tainted because people will link China's government with Sudan and atrocities committed in Darfur.
The United Nations says more than 200,000 people have died in Darfur since government-backed militia and rebels started fighting there in 2003.
China, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, buys much of Sudan's oil and is one of the largest investors in the country. Beijing has been criticized for not using its influence to force Sudan's government to end the violence in Darfur.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang did not respond directly when asked to comment about the U.S. lawmakers' letter.
Jiang says that China and the United States have the same goal on the Darfur issue and that both want to solve the issue by political means.
Earlier this week, Beijing announced it will send engineers to support international peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region.