Stephen Harper meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao during APEC summit

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Stephen Harper met with Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday. The fifteen minute conversation at the APEC summit was not a "very long discussion" and according to Mr. Harper was a "very frank discussion". It occurred just before a gala dinner on Saturday with 21 other world leaders.

Harper raised many issues including the case of Chinese-Canadian, Huseyincan Celil, a Chinese-Canadian who is being held in a China prison for allegedly having links to Muslim separatist extremist groups in his native Xinjiang province. Hu refused the meeting days before due to talks about Harper bringing up China's human rights record. Beijing denied that and said "President Hu Jintao and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet."

"We've had very frank discussions with a wide range of leaders, including although it was not a very long discussion, a very frank discussion with President Hu of China, a distinct impression, if I may say that, that the Chinese aren't used to that from a Canadian government, but I can't speak for them," Harper said at the end of the APEC summit. "I think if you're going to have frank discussions with other leaders, then you know, except obviously for the broad objectives you're trying to pursue, I think the details of those discussions have to be private,"

A Chinese foreign ministry official gave the Canadian media the first details of the meeting. The details were sent by e-mail to Canadian media travelling with him 14 hours later.

"If you run out of private discussions every 10 minutes and give a play-by-play of everything that was said, nobody will have a frank discussion with you," said Harper. "The fact of the matter is that neglecting human rights has not opened a lot of doors either. Obviously we don't think you get anywhere by short changing your values."

"It was quite a brief one," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

Harper, 47, on his first trip to Asia, said he "had a good time" at the conference.

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