Amnesty International, the human rights group, is urging the European Union to put pressure on China to improve its human rights record. In a statement issued by Amnesty's Brussels office, the organization says it is time for the European Union to rethink its approach to China, and to stop glossing over widespread human rights violations there.
Amnesty says that as the European Union and China upgrade their already considerable economic ties, the Europeans must begin insisting on the protection of human rights as a key element in the relationship.
A 20-page report on human rights abuses in China accompanying Amnesty's statement charges China with carrying out more than 80 percent of the world's known executions, many of them the result of what the document says were unfair trials.
The report also accuses China of detaining hundreds of thousands of its citizens without trial, and of torturing and mistreating people held in labor and so-called re-education camps.
Amnesty says Chinese authorities have singled out for ill treatment such varied elements of the population as cyber-dissidents, who post what are considered subversive messages in internet chat rooms; AIDS patients and activists; and practitioners of the Falun Gong exercise and meditation movement.
The human rights organization says Beijing continues to crack down on Tibetan monks and nuns and has used the international war on terrorism as a pretext for repression of Uighur culture, language, and religion in the heavily Muslim western province of Xinjiang.
Amnesty says it is also alarmed about the plight of North Korean asylum seekers in China, who continue to face forced repatriation and almost certain execution in their homeland.
There has been no comment from the Chinese government on the report, but Beijing did free veteran dissident Kang Yuchun, just after it deported a Chinese-American businessman who had been held for espionage.
China, which argues that feeding, clothing and housing its 1.3 billion people must take precedence over individual rights, frequently releases high profile dissidents to coincide with visits by foreign leaders.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, is leading a top level delegation to Beijing for talks Thursday that are expected to cover trade, investment, and Chinese cooperation with the European Union in space exploration.
But Amnesty, while acknowledging China's remarkable economic success, says the European Union must exert pressure on Beijing to achieve concrete improvements on the issues raised in its report.