New U.N. chief, in China, calls for human rights respect

November 28, 2016 5:26 AM EST

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and U.N. Secretary-General-designate Antonio Guterres meet at Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 28, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter


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BEIJING (Reuters) - The United Nations needs to make sure there is an "effective combination" of human, civil and economic rights in a world where many rights are not respected, U.N. secretary general-elect Antonio Guterres said on Monday during a visit to Beijing.

China's leadership has overseen a sweeping crackdown on activists since President Xi Jinping took power, including detaining or imprisoning dozens of rights lawyers in what the government says is the targeting of criminal acts.

While in China in July, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on China to respect civil society.

China often clashes with U.N. bodies and envoys over the issue of human rights, and was angered last month when the U.N. human rights chief spoke at an award ceremony for a prominent Chinese academic jailed for life two years ago.

Speaking to reporters with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi standing at his side, Guterres, without specifically mentioning China, said what was needed was a United Nations that abides by its principles.

"In a world torn by war, a United Nations able to enhance diplomacy for peace," he said.

"In a world where so many rights are not respected, to make sure that there is an effective combination in human rights, of the civil and political rights and the economic and social rights in a balanced way," Guterres said.

Wang made no mention of human rights in his comments, but said he thought Guterres would make an "outstanding" secretary general and said the world had great expectations of the United Nations.

"The U.N. is an effective platform for responses to global challenges and the central institution for international efforts to handle global affairs," Wang said.

Guterres, who assumes his role on Jan. 1, praised China's role in U.N. peacekeeping missions and hot spot diplomacy.

"China can be a very important honest broker, trying to bring together some that are involved in conflict," he said. "China can play a very important role in the diplomacy for peace that the world badly needs today."

While China has been deeply involved in efforts to resolve the Iran and North Korea nuclear issues, and in African problems like South Sudan, it is also stretching its wings to try to help bring peace in the Middle East.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)



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