Dutch FM "prefers cheese trade to human rights"

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The human rights policies of Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal have come in for sharp criticism. Chair Ciska Dresselhuys of the Human Rights Defenders Tulip award says Rosenthal is putting Dutch cheese exports above human rights.

Ms Dresselhuys was speaking at an award ceremony in The Hague where the laureate, the imprisoned Chinese activist Ni Yulan, was to have been presented with the Human Rights Tulip. However, Ms Ni's daughter, who would have represented her mother was not allowed to leave China, so the ceremony had to be cancelled.

Lawyer Ni Yulan defended Chinese citizens, including a Falun Gong member and people whose homes were destroyed to make way for the 2008 Olympic stadium, in court cases against the Chinese government.

Speaking as chair of the Tulip jury, Ms Dresselhuys said that economic interest should never be a reason to remain silent in the face of injustice: "Open support to the fight for freedom and justice should always take precedence over the export of Edam cheese, tomatoes, fresh flowers and superfluous tanks."

Mr Rosenthal said China appears not to appreciate the Tulip being awarded to Ni Yulan. He pointed out that China was "an important partner of the Netherlands". According to the minister, having "good relations with China enables one to broach sensitive subjects".


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