French President Francois Hollande, who is in China to meet his counterpart Xi Xingping, has said his talks touched upon Beijing’s human rights record.
Nearly 100 Tibetan monks have set themselves on fire since 2009, after calling for religious freedom and the return of their exiled leader the Dalai Lama.
Hollande said the recent self-immolations “created some legitimate emotion,” adding:
“Regarding human rights and democratic principles, they are both part of the dialogue that we are having. It should not be seen as an obligation, we should simply put this issue as it should be: as part of frank and respectful political dialogue.”
Hollande is travelling with a delegation representing dozens of French businesses on a mission to boost trade amid worsening economic troubles.
He is therefore taking a sizeable risk by speaking of Tibet or the country’s human rights record and must tread carefully.
Chinese officials have shunned high-level meetings with their British counterparts since Prime Minister David Cameron met with the Dalai Lama last May.
And relations with Norway have also been frozen since the Scandinavian country awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiabo.