China's premier visits Cairo ahead of China-Africa summit

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

File photo of Chinese Premier Wen Jibao

China's Premier Wen Jiabao is in Cairo, Egypt, where he held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in preparation for the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation that begins on Sunday in Sharm el-Sheikh.

The leaders of 49 African countries are gathering in the Egyptian Red Sea resort for a two-day meeting to discuss economic and political cooperation with China.

At their talks, Wen and Mubarak discussed ways to improve bilateral relations. The Chinese leader also delivered a speech at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo. He spoke about ways to further enhance the friendly relations between China and the Arab world - and to promote the Middle East peace process.

"The relationship between Chinese civilisation and Islamic civilisation goes back years," Wen said in his speech. "China is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. The basic policy of the Chinese government is to ensure equality among all ethnic groups and speed up the economic development of all regions."

This July, clashes between Muslim minority Uighurs and the dominant Chinese group Han killed almost 200 in the Xinjiang region; vigilantes from the latter group started attacking Uighurs several days later.

Chinese officials said that they would punish those responsible for the attacks "severely", and several hundred people were detained in a crackdown. The government's treatment of the Uighur group was condemned by some countries abroad, with the United States saying that China was "[repressing] peaceful expressions of religious beliefs and political views."

Wen, however, maintained that there was no discrimination against Muslims in China. "In China, more than 20 million people from 10 ethnic groups believe in Islam. They are all members of the big family of the Chinese nation," he continued in his speech. "Their beliefs, culture and way of life are fully respected."

At this second China-Africa summit, Wen is expected to offer African nations several billion dollars in credit and loans. To feed China's appetite for raw materials, Chinese companies have invested billions of dollars in Africa. Trade between China and the continent also continues to grow.

The first China-Africa summit was held in 2006.


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