Protesters urge China to change Myanmar policies

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WASHINGTON, Sep 19 (Reuters) Activists protested at Chinese diplomatic missions across the United States urging Beijing to use its influence with Myanmar to free political prisoners and end violence against minorities.

The demonstrations led by the US Campaign for Burma drew dozens of Myanmar exiles and American activists yesterday who sought to use the publicity of the 2008 Beijing Olympics to highlight Chinese support for the military junta that runs Myanmar.

''China, China must be shamed. This is not a game,'' chanted demonstrators outside the Chinese embassy in Washington -- part of a chain of protests planned for Chicago, New York, Houston, Los Angeles and other American cities, as well as London.

Aung Din, policy director at the US Campaign for Burma, said the protests marked the 19th anniversary of a power grab by generals who renamed the country Myanmar. It coincided with protests by Buddhist monks in Myanmar.

''This regime has survived to this day because of Chinese government support -- financial, diplomatic and military,'' he said at the protest in Washington.

The activists called on China to support efforts by United Nations, Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) and others to win freedom for jailed Myanmar democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

China has sold millions of dollars of arms to Myanmar and is a big importer of its timber, minerals and oil. One of few countries with friendly ties to Myanmar, China has been hostile to Western pressure for political relaxation in other states.

But a high-profile Olympics-linked campaign for the victims of the deadly conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan, another Chinese friend and oil supplier, prodded Beijing to begin to help international efforts to stop the carnage there.

Aung Din said his campaign wants China to ''follow the precedent in Darfur and change its policy on Burma -- even though it hasn't worked 100 per cent there.'' Chinese diplomats had no immediate comment on the protests.

But last week in Beijing, senior Chinese diplomat Tang Jiaxuan told visiting Myanmar Foreign Minister U Nyan Win that his government should press forward with a ''democracy process that is appropriate for the country.'' Although the army has run Myanmar since a 1962 coup, September 18 is the anniversary of the latest incarnation of the junta, which now goes by the name of State Peace and Development Council.


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