Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir: No Need to Discuss Rights With China

August 22, 1999
BEIJING -- China and Malaysia have no need to discuss human rights, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Friday at the end of a visit to China. The topic was not raised in his talks with President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji, Mahathir said at a briefing. "Asians are less likely to criticize others. We don't think we should lay down the law for others to follow," he said in response to a European reporter's question.

"The fact we don't talk about it doesn't mean it isn't happening in Europe." The Malaysian leader sought Beijing's backing for an Asian monetary fund, regional caucus and news media to rival institutions he says are dominated by the West. Mahathir said he also urged China to import more Malaysian palm oil, but got no specific promises. Jiang and Zhu were adamant that they had no plans to devalue the Chinese currency, the yuan, Mahathir said.

China has held the yuan steady throughout the Asian economic crisis of the past two years, helping to prevent a new round of devaluations in the region. He said it was Malaysia's stance that it could accept a slight devaluation of the yuan since the ringgit fell so sharply during the Asia financial crisis. However, China's leaders gave no indication Beijing was contemplating such a move, he said.

Mahathir had been expected to press Chinese leaders to back a set of rules governing regional conduct in the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea. Malaysia, China and four other nations claim them in whole or in part. All problems over the Spratlys should be settled in discussions by all parties or bilateral talks, Mahathir told reporters without elaborating.

In his news conference before leaving China Friday morning after a three-day visit, Mahathir said he had no regrets about the jailing of his former friend and deputy Anwar Ibrahim. Anwar is serving a six-year jail term for corruption and faces up to 20 years if convicted for sodomy. He denies the charges, saying they are part of a political conspiracy to quash his challenge to Mahathir. "We don't interfere with the process of the law, although there are of course some people who will never believe this," Mahathir said.

(AP)