Taoiseach leads trade delegation to China


The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, travels to China this afternoon leading the largest trade mission ever to leave Ireland.

Some 200 Irish companies hoping to make inroads in the world's fifth-biggest market are represented by the delegation.

The Taoiseach will visit Beijing and Shanghai before travelling to Hong Kong.

He will meet President Hu Jintao and Mr Wen, as well as Hong Kong's Chief Secretary, Mr Tung Chee-hwa.

The Irish focus on China has been growing since 1998, following the Government's bid to raise Ireland's profile among all key Asian countries, particularly China.

Links with China have grown considerably since, and a host of leading Chinese politicians have visited. Last year alone Chinese premier Wen Jiabao and vice premier Huang Ju visited.

The Government will raise human rights abuses in China during the visit, although it will be done discreetly.

A Government official this week said the Government had always brought up human rights questions in bilateral talks in the past. China's human rights record was now covered by the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, which has been running since 1994, the official said.

.The New York-based Human Rights Watch recently described China "as a highly repressive state" which frequently imposes the death penalty, although legal reforms have been made, along with some greater press freedom.