(Tokyo) - Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda should make human rights issues a priority in his historic meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Japan next week, Human Rights Watch said in a letter today.

“Japan should be looking for opportunities to discuss rights abuses in China, not for excuses to stay silent about them,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch. “President Hu’s visit is a litmus test for Fukuda’s stated commitment to promoting human rights globally.”

In the letter, Human Rights Watch urged Prime Minister Fukuda to press President Hu for four key rights improvements. Those include media freedom for foreign journalists, an international commission of inquiry into Tibet, release of political prisoners, and improvements in China’s approach to Sudan.

While the Chinese government’s suggestion that it may engage in dialogue with a representative of the Dalai Lama could constitute progress, the deteriorating human rights situation in China merits Japanese support for these four steps. Human Rights Watch has already asked Prime Minister Fukuda in a letter on April 9, 2008, to condition his attendance at the opening or closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing on the Chinese government taking these steps.