Reinfeldt presses Chinese leader on human rights

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has pressed Chinese President Hu Jintao on his country's human rights record, emphasising the importance of freedom of speech and association.

“I told the president, which he already knew, that we are strong supporters of human rights, that we think it is important to respect international agreements and that it is important to have a political dialogue where you discuss the foundations of human rights,” Reinfeldt told reporters.

Hu and Reinfeldt met for more than two hours in Stockholm on the final day of the Asian leader’s three-day state visit to the Scandinavian country – the first by a Chinese leader.

Reinfeldt said he had expressed Sweden’s opposition to the death penalty in China.

“I also raised the issue of freedom of association and freedom of expression, which are an important part of (human rights),” he said, adding that Hu was open to the discussion.

“He was open to the idea that it is important to have this dialogue and noted also… that China is changing,” Reinfeldt said.

“The president is very aware that these are big issues in Sweden and Europe. And China believes that it is in a stage of development where it listens and is influenced by this dialogue,” he said.

The two leaders also discussed trade issues and China’s role in combatting global warming.

Earlier in the day, Hu, who was accompanied by a large trade and business delegation, met with Swedish business leaders.

Among those he met were Peter Wallenberg, the patriarch of the powerful family financial dynasty whose holdings include telecoms group Ericsson, household appliances maker Electrolux, truckmaker Scania and the SEB bank.

Wallenberg’s son Jacob, the chairman of the board of the Investor holding group, and Jacob’s cousin Marcus, chairman of SEB, were also in attendance, as well as Ericsson’s chief executive Carl-Henric Svanberg and chairman Michael Treschow.

Hu attended a ceremony where several important contracts were signed between Swedish and Chinese companies, including a one-billion-dollar deal under which Ericsson will supply China Mobile with equipment to expand the Asian company’s GSM coverage in 19 regions of China.

Another 600-million-dollar deal agreement was also signed between mobile phone maker Sony Ericsson and China Postel Mobile Communications Equipment concerning mobile phone purchasing.

Sweden and China also signed an agreement on environmental cooperation under which the two countries will exchange information and know-how.

Hu was to attend a dinner with the Sweden-China Trade Council later Sunday in Stockholm before heading back to China.