China Envoy Responds to Critics of Darfur Policies

China's envoy on Darfur is in Washington, responding to critics who accuse the fast-rising Asian power of turning a blind eye to bloodshed in the Sudanese region out of economic self-interest. In particular, China has been bloodied by a Hollywood campaign to re-label the 2008 Olympics as the "Genocide Games." China says the Western critics are hypocrites who have exploited oil resources globally but now condemn Beijing for its oil exploration.

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Activists on Darfur have been turning up the heat on China. They accuse Beijing of ignoring the bloodshed to cozy up to the Sudanese government for oil concessions. There's even a campaign to label the 2008 Beijing Olympics as the genocide games. China is responding, sending a top envoy to Washington to meet with members of Congress and some of the most vocal activists.

More from NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Many here in Washington see China as Sudan's protector on the U.N. Security Council, a big business partner more interested in buying Sudan's oil than resolving what the U.S. has called a genocide in Darfur. China's special envoy on Darfur, Liu Guijin, seems eager to change that perception, while acknowledging China's $3.3 billion a year trade relationship with Sudan.

Ambassador LIU GUIJIN (China's Ambassador to South Africa): (Through Translator) It's simply not right to criticize China and ask China to shoulder all the responsibility of some killing in Sudan simply because we have oil explorations there.

KELEMEN: He's also trying to dispel the image of China gobbling up Africa's resources, not just in Sudan. He reminded reporters yesterday afternoon that the majority of Africa's oil and gas exports go to the U.S. and Europe.

Ambassador GUIJIN: (Through Translator) The Western countries and Western oil companies have, for years, carried out oil exploration in the most oil-rich regions in the world. In other words, you have eaten all the meat and only left us with some soup, which is in the most difficult regions of the world. And simply because we sip a little bit of the soup and we are severely condemned, do you really think that it's fair?

KELEMEN: Ambassador Liu served in Zimbabwe and South Africa before being appointed as China's envoy on Darfur. He said the job was created because of China's interest in helping to resolve the conflict, not because of outside pressure. But a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, says he found that on the Security Council, pressure on China worked.

Mr. JOHN BOLTON (Former U.S. Ambassador to the United nations): I think China is susceptible of embarrassment on this point. Some of the steps we were able to take in the Security Council came when the United States was willing to say, whether you support a resolution creating a peacekeeping force for Darfur or not, we're going to press ahead for a vote, can change their behavior. And I do think that pressure through to the 2008 Olympics can have an affect as well.

KELEMEN: Ambassador Liu complained about that effort to label the games the genocide Olympics. He said that's like comparing cattle with horses. And he pointed out that no world leader has turned down an invitation to take part.

Ambassador GUIJIN: (Through Translator) That means that none of the countries in the world is going to link the Olympic games with the Darfur issue. To link these two issues together actually to politicize the Olympic games, does simply doesn't hold water and is ridiculous.

KELEMEN: As to China's record on Darfur, Liu says it was his country that helped persuade Sudan to accept a joint United Nations/African Union force for Darfur in a way that only a friend that could. China plans to send 315 military engineers to Darfur in October to help pave the way for the hybrid force.

He explained all of this to activists from the Save Darfur Coalition today, including Larry Rossin.

Mr. LARRY ROSSIN (Save Darfur Coalition): We have, in fact, recognized the contributions that they have made. But we also recognize that there is more that they could do, that they're in a positive evolution. But that evolution has not come to its full fruition.

KELEMEN: Rossin says he told the Chinese diplomat that the Save Darfur Coalition is a pressure group that will keep up its campaign to link the Olympics to Darfur.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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