Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who left New York on Saturday, arrived on Sunday evening in Hangzhou, an attractive and prosperous lakeside city in a silk-producing region south of Shanghai that is said to have captured nearly a third of the world market in silk ties.
On Monday morning, the Secretary-General sought to rally Chinese youth to actively fight the spread of AIDS, both nationally and worldwide. He made the call to action in a speech at Zhejiang University, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate.
“The truth is”, he told the students and faculty, “that today China stands on the brink of an explosive AIDS epidemic”.
Most of these infections so far, he said, had happened through unsafe procedures for paid blood collections and needle-sharing by drug users, but, increasingly, they are happening through sex.
China is facing a decisive moment, he declared. And what happens in China will also determine the global impact of the disease.
Young people are key, he told the students, and must be empowered to protect themselves against the virus. “By giving you honest and straightforward information”, he said, “we can break the circle of silence across all society”. He warned that “silence is death”.
“Confronting AIDS is a point of pride”, he told them, “not a source of shame”. While the task of spreading the message across China is huge, he said, young people don’t usually shy away from huge challenges. “Quite the opposite”, he said, “they are drawn to them.”
He pledged that the United Nations family would work with them “every step of the way”. See Press Release SG/SM/8436.
At midday, he flew from Hangzhou to Beijing where he met with his Special Envoy for Myanmar, Razali Ismail. He and Razali then went to the Great Hall of the People to meet with President Jiang Zemin.
The President commented that this was their eighth meeting. He presented his thoughts on the big issues of the new century -- globalization and the balance of wealth and power as well as the major threats to peace and security -- terrorism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, tensions between India and Pakistan and the threat of military action against Iraq. He said that civilizations should work
together towards peace, and that China would continue to work through the United Nations towards that end.
On Iraq, the Secretary-General said the situation was a challenge but also an opportunity. Handled correctly, it could strengthen international law and the United Nations.
Finally, the Secretary-General referred to his speech on AIDS earlier in the day. He thanked the President for his leadership on the issue, but added that leadership was needed at all levels.
The President responded that China was ready to work actively on the disease and expressed his hope that a way could be found to cure it.
The Secretary-General then went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before meeting with Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, he was asked by the press for his thoughts on Saturday’s terrorist bombing in Bali. “It is a brutal and inhuman act”, he replied. But it underscored the importance, he went on, of “the international community coming together to fight terrorism”.
His Special Envoy for Myanmar also accompanied him to the meeting with the Minister, which lasted an hour and a half and touched on a range of subjects. First on the agenda was Iraq, and efforts by the Security Council to agree on a resolution regarding the return of weapons inspectors. They also touched on the Middle East, Afghanistan and India and Pakistan.
Razali Ismail then briefed the Minister on his efforts to promote reconciliation in Myanmar between the Government and the opposition.
The Secretary-General again raised the issue of AIDS, and the Minister referred to the good discussion the Secretary-General had with the President. The Secretary-General finished by addressing relations on the Korean Peninsula and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
The Minister then hosted a dinner in honour of the Secretary-General and his wife Nane, at which their substantive discussions continued, including on United Nations reform.
The Minister then surprised Nane with a cake for her birthday.
Earlier that day, Nane Annan had visited a traditional neighbourhood in East Beijing where 2,700 residents recently voted in Beijing’s first democratic, multi-candidate community elections, ahead of similar elections planned citywide. She praised the involvement of both men and women, as well as migrant residents, in the elections. All nine candidates elected to the new Neighbourhood Committee were women, including the new director.
She said that she was pleased that the United Nations was working with the community on the participation of women and on stemming violence against women. “I do believe the two issues are related”, she added. “To fight violence, women have to be empowered.”
In official meetings on Tuesday in Beijing, the Secretary-General continued to press for full mobilization of Chinese society to fight an alarming growth of AIDS infections in the country.
In a meeting with Chinese Vice-President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People, the Secretary-General talked of the United Nations development goals, saying that international cooperation since 11 September was more important than ever, on topics from terrorism to economic development. “We are living a paradox”, he said, because on the one hand we are living in a messy world, while on the other we realize that peace and development go hand in hand. “We can’t afford another failed State like Afghanistan”, he said, referring to the period when the international community ignored that country as it became a bastion for organized terror.
He also pledged to work with China on human rights issues and repeated his message to students at Zhejiang University the previous day that all levels of society, especially youth, must be involved in the fight against AIDS. “We must remove the stigma”, he said, adding that China can set an example for the rest of the world.
The Vice-President said that AIDS is a menace to public health for all mankind, and that China was paying close attention to its prevention and control. Not just Government resources must go into the effort, he said, but the whole society must get engaged. The Secretary-General replied that he was “heartened” by that attitude.
The Secretary-General then met with those most active in the campaign against AIDS, from the Minister of Health, Dr. Zhang Wenkang, and other Government officials, to Zeng Yi, President of the China Foundation for AIDS Prevention and Control and other representatives of non-governmental organizations and agencies.
“We have to accept that this is not just a medical problem”, he said. “It is becoming a security problem, and it really can destroy societies.
“We need all hands on deck”, he declared.
He listened as one after another speaker described their efforts to cope with the disease, which is advancing at an alarming rate in China.
Meanwhile, Nane Annan attended an event at a Beijing primary school with 200 students and officials of the China Children’s Press and Publications Group, the country’s largest and most influential publisher of children’s newspapers, magazines, books and audio-visual publications.
Earlier in the year, the Group mobilized children in 7,000 primary schools throughout China to collect over 20 million pledges in the global “Say Yes for Children” campaign spearheaded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Each child was asked to obtain pledges from three adults on 10 principles needed to ensure children’s rights and well-being.
Students of Jing Shan Primary School presented their key concerns to Mrs. Annan, namely an end to war, protection of the environment, and education for all girls and boys. They also appealed for more attention to the growing global problem of AIDS orphans.
Mrs. Annan showed slides of the United Nations development work. She praised the students and China Children’s Press and Publications Group for their deep compassion and commitment, which was further emphasized through new campaigns for anti-smoking, the environment and confidence-building.
“As we all know, the ‘Say Yes for Children’ campaign did not end with the United Nations children’s summit last May”, she said. “It does not end until all children are cared for and protected.”
In the late afternoon, the Secretary-General met with Vice-Premier Qian Qichen, who also referred to the AIDS issue. It is a problem that deserves the attention of all governments, he said, and China took it very seriously. China was stepping up its efforts to cope with the disease, he said, and had mobilized its medical sector to join in the search for a cure.
The Secretary-General described the meeting he had just had on HIV/AIDS, as well as his efforts to get the major drug firms to lower their prices for poor countries.
They also discussed Iraq and the Security Council’s effort to agree on a formula for the return of United Nations weapons inspectors.
The Vice-Premier then hosted a dinner in the Secretary-General’s honour, during which their substantive talks continued.
With that dinner, the Secretary-General concluded his official China programme. He left for Mongolia on Wednesday morning, 16 October.