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A human rights group said Thursday it's worried that debt-ridden European countries pondering the idea of bailout money from China may be tempted to dial back the pressure on Beijing about human rights.
"Particularly on the Euro-zone question, we are concerned" that the unfolding debt crisis may make human rights less of a priority, said Human Rights Watch's China director, Sophie Richardson.
Richardson said it's wrong for countries with growing economic ties with China to assume that "to press for better human rights protections would be somehow to compromise the economic ties."
"At the end of the day, many of the same laws and processes that protect human rights are the same ones that protect better economic relations," Richardson said.
She was responding to a question at a news conference about whether the Euro-zone debt crisis would result in a shift in the balance of power that would leave European governments feeling they have less leverage over rights issues.
Heavily indebted European countries are struggling for economic lifelines to stay afloat to avoid defaulting on their debts. The chief of Europe's bailout fund visited Beijing in October to discuss possible terms for cash-rich China and other global investors to help finance a multibillion-dollar plan to resolve the continent's debt crisis.
Some European countries have made high-profile gestures in recent years that have angered China. French President Nicolas Sarkozy riled Beijing when he met with the Dalai Lama in 2008. In 2010, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded imprisoned dissident Liu Xiabo the Nobel Peace Price, prompting angry statements from Beijing and rejecting calls for his release.
On Tuesday, the German government's human rights commissioner made a symbolic euro100 ($137) donation to a campaign helping Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei pay a tax bill that supporters view as government harassment.