China urges Suu Kyi to maintain positive ties, no mention of dissident

Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves the airport following her arrival in Beijing on June 10, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi leaves the airport following her arrival in Beijing on June 10, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP 

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Chinese President Xi Jinping told Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday that he hoped Myanmar would maintain a consistent and positive position on relations, state media said, regardless of any changes in Myanmar's domestic politics.

China has been keen to engage Ms Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party is expected to do well in a general election in November, the first free vote in the country for 25 years.

There was no mention of whether Ms Suu Kyi raised the issue of fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for subversion for organising a petition urging an end to one-party rule. He won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year.

Activists had urged Ms Suu Kyi to bring up Liu's case, a move that would be bound to embarrass Chinese leaders.

Ms Suu Kyi, on her first visit to China, is excluded from the Myanmar presidency under a military-drafted constitution, but her power and influence will grow if the NLD performs as well as expected.

While it is rare for Mr Xi to meet senior foreign opposition politicians, he told Ms Suu Kyi he hoped the NLD would continue to play a "constructive role" and guide Myanmar to hold a"rational" view of China-Myanmar relations, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

"(I) hope and believe that the Myanmar side's position on Sino-Myanmar relations will be consistent, and that no matter how the domestic situation changes, (Myanmar) will proactively push for the friendly development of ties," he was quoted as saying. "I hope this visit will help deepen your understanding of China and the Communist Party, which will contribute to our mutual understanding and trust, and lay a better foundation for the party-to-party and state-to-state relationship."

Myanmar's semi-civilian government took power in 2011 after 49 years of military rule and has initiated wide-ranging reforms such as releasing political prisoners and lifting restrictions on media.

But the military-drafted constitution dictates significant political power for the military, including one quarter of the seats in parliament and key ministerial posts.

Ties with China have been strained this year after stray army shells from fighting between the Myanmar government and ethnic Chinese rebels killed at least five people in China's southwestern Yunnan province in March.

China, which has urged the rebels to respect a new ceasefire, supported Myanmar's sovereignty and territorial integrity, Mr Xi told Suu Kyi, according to Xinhua.

Ms Suu Kyi said in response that her party valued its friendship with China's ruling Communist Party and admired its achievements. Myanmar and China were neighbours, and "neighbours cannot be selected", she added.

Foreign media was not granted access to the meeting, which was held at the cavernous Great Hall of the People.

Ms Suu Kyi won the peace prize in 1991 and spent most of the next two decades under house arrest, from where she continued to resist Myanmar's military rulers. She was freed in 2010. Ms Suu Kyi is scheduled to leave China on Sunday.

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