, GENEVA, Jul 6 – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday led international calls for restraint in China after riots in its Xinjiang region in which at least 140 people were killed.
Italy’s president raised the sensitive question of human rights with China’s President Hu Jintao, while the British government voiced concern over the violence.
"Wherever it is happening or has happened the position of the United Nations and the secretary general has been consistent and clear: that all the differences of opinion, whether domestic or international, must be resolved peacefully through dialogue," the UN chief told a press conference when asked about events in Xinjiang.
"Governments concerned must also exercise extreme care and take necessary measures to protect the life and safety of the civilian population and their citizens and their properties, and protect freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of information," he added.
The violence in the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi erupted as China’s leader started a visit to Italy ahead of the Group of Eight industrialised powers summit.
Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano raised human rights with Hu.
"We agreed that the… economic and social progress that is being achieved in China places new demands in terms of human rights," Napolitano said at a news conference with Hu.
Human rights is "an issue that Italy has always confronted and intends to confront with the greatest respect for Chinese positions, as well as the integrity and decision-making autonomy of China and its institutions," he said.
Britain also took up the call for restraint.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s spokesman said the British government was concerned about the reports of violence and called for problems in Xinjiang, home to ethnic Muslim Uighurs, to be resolved through dialogue.
"Of course we are concerned about the reports of violence and the scale of the loss of life and I think we would urge restraint on all sides and, where possible, for problems to be resolved through dialogue," the spokesman said.
The violence in Urumqi on Sunday involved thousands of people, and triggered a security crackdown across Xinjiang where tensions have long simmered amid Uighur claims of repressive Chinese rule.