Paris: China's deputy foreign minister Fu Ying has said that the fate of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo was "not a subject to be addressed between China and France" during a state visit.
Human rights activists had criticised France's President Nicolas Sarkozy for not taking advantage of the state visit to call on his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao to free the pro-democracy activist and 2010 Peace Prize winner.
But Fu dismissed this. "It's not a subject for discussion between China and France. Liu broke the law and was convicted," she told reporters at Sarkozy's Elysee Palace after the two leaders met to discuss trade deals.
A couple of hundred protesters, some of them wielding Tibetan flags, gathered by the Eiffel Tower during the friendly dinner between Hu and Sarkozy to demand more attention be paid to Beijing's rights record.
But French officials at the Elysee, despite having said before the visit that "no subject was taboo", made no reference to this, or even to Liu's case, which French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had previously raised.
Liu, 54, was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December on subversion charges after co-authoring Charter 08, a petition calling on China to implement democratic reform that has been circulated online and signed by thousands.
Several international governments and human rights bodies have called for his release, particularly after last month's Nobel Prize promoted him to the status of a worldwide champion of free expression.
Fu, however, was unapologetic, insisting that China had embarked on the path of reform and that any remaining critics in the West were relics of the Cold War who were ignorant of the progress being made in the country.
First Published: Friday, November 05, 2010, 17:04