UN chief Ban urges China help with Myanmar, Sudan polls, but skirts rights issue
BEIJING, China — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Security Council member China to help with contentious polls in Sudan and Myanmar, but skirted the issue of Beijing's human rights record.
Ban said China, a close ally of Khartoum, could help ensure a peaceful outcome to Sudan's January referendum over whether the south will secede from Africa's largest country.
"I asked your government's help in assisting the two sides find their way to a peaceful future, recognizing their shared interests," Ban said in a speech Tuesday at the ruling Communist Party's central training institute. A text of the speech was viewed on the website of the U.N. mission to China on Wednesday.
In addition to diplomatic engagement, Ban said China, which has a substantial peacekeeping mission in Sudan, could help with logistical tasks of transport and technical support in the voting.
He also asked that China use its influence with its southern neighbour Myanmar to ensure it moves in a positive direction following the military-run government's staging of the country's first elections in two decades on Sunday.
"I see it as an important test. Will the vote perpetuate an untenable status quo? Or will it set the country on course toward a more open, democratic and inclusive political future?" Ban said.
"As a trusted neighbour and friend, China's role will be critical in helping the U.N. to help Myanmar find its way forward."
Ban has been criticized by advocacy groups for failing to raise specific human rights issues either publicly or in private meetings with President Hu Jintao and other top leaders. Rights groups have expressed particular disappointment that he did not broach the case of imprisoned dissident writer Li Xiaobo, who last month was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in a move that embarrassed and enraged the Chinese leadership.
The closest Ban came to such appeals was in a reference to the importance of recognizing that "achieving the shared goals of human rights around the world is more than an aspiration, it is a foundation of peace and harmony in our modern world.
"So too is respect for freedom of expression and the protection of its defenders," Ban said.