Reinfeldt heads to China for climate talks

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt sets off on Thursday for China for talks with President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on the environment and possibly human rights, the government said.

“Sweden will hold the presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2009 when UN negotiations on a new climate agreement are to be wrapped up, and China has a key role in these negotiations,” a statement from Reinfeldt’s office said.

Before his departure, Reinfeldt ruled out a Swedish boycott of the Olympic Games.

“My opinion is that we should not boycott the Beijing Olympics, neither the opening ceremony nor the Games,” he said this week.

“It was well-known for the world when the International Olympic Committee made its decision in 2001 that China was not a country that works the way we think a democracy should work,” he said, calling China “a one-party state without free elections and extensive human rights abuses over a long period.”

“If the criteria were not met then you can’t now suddenly act on human rights abuses,” he said.

Sweden’s opposition Social Democrats have urged Reinfeldt to raise the issue of four dissidents jailed in China, including Hu Jia, a prominent AIDS and human rights activist jailed for three years and six months last week for “incitement to subvert state power.”

The charge related to 34-year-old Hu posting articles on the Internet about human rights issues and speaking with foreign reporters, and rights group say his jailing is part of a campaign by China to silence dissent before the Olympics in August.

Reinfeldt has stressed that the climate talks are his priority, but has not excluded the possibility of raising human rights issues.

“It’s natural to discuss Tibet, but when it comes to raising individual names I’ll wait and see,” he told Swedish television on Sunday.

China’s greenhouse gas output has soared in recent years as its largely coal-powered economy has expanded at double-digit pace, and it now ranks alongside the United States as the world’s biggest emitter.

“Getting China to understand they are a big part of the problem and a big part of the solution is the big issue,” Reinfeldt told Swedish news agency TT on Tuesday.

Sweden’s Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren and Trade Minister Ewa Björling will take part in the visit, as will a large business delegation.

Reinfeldt’s visit begins Saturday in Hainan where he will take part in the Baoa Forum for Asia and meet with President Hu. On Monday, he will hold talks with Wen.

The Swedish leader will leave China for Japan on Wednesday, where he will meet top officials for climate talks.