Chirac has shamed EU, says Glenys

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Labour Euro-MP Glenys Kinnock (right) yesterday accused the French President, Jacques Chirac, of bringing shame on Europe by leading a trade promotion delegation to China.

The four-day official visit involves French business and industry leaders and is seen as a major flag-waving opportunity for France with the Chinese.

But Mrs Kinnock said President Chirac's involvement was "a disgrace", in the wake of the EU's attacks on China's human rights record.

She accused the President of putting commercial interests ahead of humanitarian considerations, adding: "It is a disgrace for all of us who are fighting for human rights and it is a disgrace for Europe.

"Chirac's trip, surrounded by industrialists, will ruin the efforts of everyone who has worked to defend human rights in China. If we let up pressure now on the Chinese, what future has democracy there?

"Let us not forget the repression of Tiananmen Square."

Mrs Kinnock's attack came just days after the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, outlined the Government's new mission statement on foreign affairs, which declares that human rights will be placed at the heart of policy.

Mrs Kinnock, a member of the European Parliament's development committee and a fervent human rights campaigner, was supported by the Dutch socialist MEP Hedy d'Ancona, who said: "The Dutch government, which is in the EU presidency, has clearly stated that national and commercial interests must be set aside when dealing with human rights question.

"I deeply regret the fact that the government of one of the most important member states has deliberately chosen to ignore this approach."