Canadian minister blasts China ahead of PM's visit

Mon Jan 23, 2012 5:54pm EST
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's foreign minister launched an outspoken attack on China's "abhorrent" treatment of religious minorities on Monday, just weeks before Prime Minister Stephen Harper goes to Beijing in a bid to sell more oil.

John Baird's comments came as a major surprise, given Canada's right-of-center Conservative government has gradually toned down its attacks on Chinese human rights issues over the years in favor of boosting trade.

Baird said in a speech in England that he would speak out against what he saw as attacks on freedom of religion.

"In China, we see Roman Catholic priests, Christian clergy and their laity, worshipping outside of state-sanctioned boundaries, who are continually subject to raids, arrests, and detention," he said in his prepared remarks.

"We see Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan Buddhists, and Uyghur Muslims face harassment, and physical intimidation. These abhorrent acts fly in the face of our core principals, our core values."

China has recently started jailing writers on subversion charges, suggesting a crackdown on dissidents ahead of a leadership transition later in the year.

Neither Harper's chief spokesman nor the Chinese embassy were immediately available for comment.

Chinese troops fired on thousands of Tibetans protesting in southwestern Sichuan province on Monday, killing at least one and wounding more, two overseas advocacy groups said [ID:nL4E8CN6R0]   Continued...