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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Hu Jintao's Tokyo visit overshadowed by Tibet

May 9, 2008

By Richard Spencer in Beijing
The Telegraph (UK)
May 7, 2008 Last updated: 9:58 AM BST

The first visit by a Chinese president to Japan for a decade was
marked yesterday by hundreds of protesters in Tokyo.

President Hu Jintao's visit was supposed to set the seal on three
years of rapidly improving relations between Asia's two economic giants.

The five-day trip has been carefully choreographed to include not
only talks but a ping-pong match with Japan's prime minister, Yasuo
Fukuda, and dinner with the emperor.

While sensitive issues such as disputes over history, China's rapid
militarisation and territory in the East China Sea were expected to
be discussed, expectations that negotiations would have any substance
were downplayed in favour of creating a more positive "mood music".

The last presidential visit, by Mr Hu's predecessor Jiang Zemin in
1998, was popularly seen as a disaster. Japan refused to issue a
public apology for its war crimes in China in the Second World War,
which prompted Mr Jiang to use his main speech to lecture his hosts
on their attitude to their controversial past.

But the visit has been overshadowed by events in Tibet. This is the
first visit abroad by Mr Hu since protests and riots rocked the
region in March, which triggered an unusually strong reaction in
Japan where the issue had not in the past been a priority.

While Mr Hu was met by cheering Chinese at the airport, in the centre
of Tokyo 1,000 protesters staged a peaceful march calling for human
rights in Tibet. Japanese nationalists also drove round the city
blaring anti-China slogans from loudspeakers.

Mr Hu issued a brief statement on his arrival. "Relations between the
two countries now have new opportunities for further development,"it
said. "I hope through this visit to increase mutual trust and
strengthen friendship."

One fortuitously well-timed cloud that cast a silver lining over
preparations for the trip was the death last week of Tokyo zoo's last
remaining panda, Ling Ling.

Even as he was being mourned by the city's children, his passing
provided a chance for Mr Hu to resurrect China's old policy of "panda
diplomacy".

Offering gifts of pandas to "foreign friends" is regarded as passé by
the Chinese foreign ministry nowadays, but Mr Hu clearly regarded a
request by Mr Fukuda for replacements as too good an opportunity to miss.

At an informal dinner with Mr Fukuda at a Tokyo restaurant last
night, he offered to lend him two replacements.
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