China Calls on Junta to Speed Up Its Democratic Reforms
covering burma and southeast asia
Saturday, July 31, 2021

China Calls on Junta to Speed Up Its Democratic Reforms

By The Associated Press/Rangoon Saturday, November 17, 2007


China has called on Burma to speed up democratic reforms, state media reported Saturday, in an unusual move for Beijing which has traditionally refrained from criticizing the country's military junta.

China's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi [Photo:]

China's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi made the call during a two-day meeting with the junta which ended Friday but which the state-controlled New Light of Myanmar newspaper only reported after the Chinese diplomat had left the country.

Yi also expressed support for United Nations-brokered attempts to reconcile the junta and the country's suppressed democracy movement led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the newspaper reported.

China, the junta's main political ally, does not usually publicly criticize the military government, reaffirming its position of strict noninterference in the internal affairs of the country.

But in recent weeks, it has been credited with working behind the scenes to pressure Burma to embrace democratic reforms.

China had provided important backing for the mission of Ibrahim Gambari, the UN secretary general's special envoy on Burma, by supporting a Security Council declaration and helping persuade Burma to allow him to visit twice since the military's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in September.

Gambari has been trying to nudge Burma toward democratic reforms.

The China visit also coincided with UN human rights investigator Paulo Sergio Pinheiro's trip to the country, who was there in part to determine the number of people killed and detained from September's protests.

Based on post-mortems and other official information, Pinheiro announced Friday that at least 15 people died in Rangoon when the military crushed the demonstrations, five more than the government has acknowledged.

"This is just in Yangon [Rangoon]," Pinheiro said. "The government has not told me all the casualties in the country." He added that he would continue seeking relevant information from other sources.

It was the first trip the junta allowed the Brazilian professor to make to the country in four years.

Pinheiro said he would give as complete an accounting as possible to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on December 11.

The military government has said 10 people were killed when troops opened fire on crowds of peaceful protesters on Sept. 26-27. Diplomats and dissidents, however, said the death toll was much higher.

Pinheiro said the authorities gave him post-mortem reports on 14 people whose bodies had been sent from Rangoon General Hospital to be cremated. He said the 15th known fatality in the crackdown was Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai, who was shot dead by security forces.

In Rangoon, a spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party said that the junta freed six political prisoners Thursday, the same day Pinheiro completed his five-day mission to the country.

Pinheiro said he had requested a meeting with Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, but it had not been granted by the government.

On Thursday, Pinheiro was allowed to meet with several prominent political prisoners at Rangoon's infamous Insein Prison. He described the facility, which holds about 10,000 prisoners, as being "old and overcrowded." He also said the prisoners there needed medical treatment.

The government told Pinheiro it had detained almost 3,000 people in connection with the crackdown, a figure previously announced. The military says it has released most of them, but many prominent political activists remain in custody.

"Of course, I am happy that large numbers of people have been released," Pinheiro said in Rangoon on Thursday. "But I have my concerns about the situation of those who have not been released."

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