March 7th, 2008 04:32 EST
Darfur-Olympic Games connection? China says, 'No way.'
By Stephanie Ho
China says it is not reasonable to link the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region with the Beijing Olympic games. China's special envoy to Darfur made this comment to journalists Friday, shortly after returning from a trip to the East African region.
The Beijing Olympic games have become a lightning rod for international criticism of the Chinese government, for a host of issues. One topic that has perhaps received the most attention is the crisis in the Sudanese region of Darfur.
Critics accuse China of not using its close ties with the Sudanese government to help end the violence in Darfur, which has pitted Khartoum-backed militias against rebels. International estimates say 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million others have been driven from their homes.
Speaking to reporters in Beijing Friday, China's special envoy to Darfur, Liu Guijin, acknowledged the Sudanese government can do more to, in his words, "show its sincerity."
But Liu also accuses rebel groups of continuing to attack Sudanese villages and police stations, in an effort to garner greater influence or benefits in negotiations with Khartoum.
Liu acknowledged that China is involved in oil deals with Sudan and has also sold weapons to the Sudanese government.
In the oil development deals, he said, China is merely a partner with other Asian countries, including India and Malaysia.
And in the field of arms sales, Liu pointed out that there is no United Nations arms embargo on Sudan.
He says China is one of seven countries providing weapons to Sudan, but he said it is by far not the largest supplier.
The U.S. Congressional Research Service ranked the United States and Russia as the top two sellers of arms to developing countries in 2006. The U.S. share of the world market was nearly 36 percent, while the Russians had a 28 percent share. In contrast, the report put the Chinese share at about three percent.
Liu said the Chinese government firmly opposes any attempt by international activists to use the Olympics as an opportunity to highlight China's role in Darfur.
He rejected accusations that China is not doing enough to help press for a resolution as groundless and unfair.
He was in Sudan last month, for the fourth time since last May, to try to talk to Sudanese government leaders about reaching a lasting diplomatic solution to the Darfur crisis. He did not meet with what he termed "resistance groups," though, because the Chinese government does not have direct contact with them.