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Canada's Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, left, shakes hands with Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi upon arrival for a bilateral meeting at the Foreign Minister office in Beijing, China, Monday, May 11, 2009. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)Shanghai—Canadians need to recognize that China "has made progress" on human rights, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said on 13 May, a remark that seemed aimed at justifying the Conservative government's recent efforts to improve ties with Beijing.

Speaking at the end of a four-day visit in which he repeatedly sought to push disagreements on issues such as Tibet into the past, Mr. Cannon said Canada would continue to raise concerns over China's human-rights record, but would do so more quietly and as a friend.
"You're much better working on the inside with the Chinese leadership to get things done, than to be outside and criticizing."

Mr. Cannon said the new bilateral human-rights mechanism that he discussed with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi this week would not resemble former prime minister Jean Chrétien's Canada-China Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue, which was criticized for letting Canada complain and China do nothing in response and was ditched by the Tories shortly after they took office.

Human-rights groups such as Amnesty International have questioned whether resuming the dialogue will be any more effective.
Mr. Cannon said the main purpose of his visit was to set the stage for a visit to China by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the near future, though he said it was still premature to talk about when that might happen.

Mr. Harper, who previously vowed he would never sacrifice Canada's human-rights values "to the almighty dollar" in its relationship with China, ruffled feathers here by deciding not to attend the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

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