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Rights Group Urges EU to Address Alleged Chinese Abuses

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton listens to a question during her news conference after the high-level talks between world powers and Iranian officials in Almaty, Kazakhstan, April 6, 2013.
Human Rights Watch is calling for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to make China's human rights record a central part of her trip to Beijing, later this week.

The New York-based group sats that Ashton cannot ignore the "deteriorating human rights environment in China." It says she should publicly raise concerns about its "ongoing and persistent" violations.

Ashton, is visiting the Chinese capital on Thursday and Friday as part of a regular EU-China dialogue series. It is her first visit since China's new leadership took power in a once-a-decade transition.

Human Rights Watch praises the EU's "strong statements" in recent months on China's human rights record. But it questions the effectiveness of the regular dialogue sessions, saying they have done little to address China's human rights record.

The HRW statement says the 25-member body's "engagement on human rights in China has been extremely weak" since Ashton took over as the EU's first foreign policy chief in 2009.

Among the issues the group wants Ashton to raise with Chinese officials are the imprisonment of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, the ongoing self-immolations in Tibet and the crackdown on dissidents and human rights activists.

It also says she should urge China to stop obstructing international action on Syria. Beijing and Russia are considered allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and have blocked three United Nations Security Council resolutions against his government.