China ambassador says products are safe

PORTLAND — China's ambassador to the United States defended the quality of Chinese products and blamed the press for "churning up agitating stories."

"By and large, the quality of Chinese products and the safety of the food made in China are reliable," Zhou Wenzhong said in a speech Tuesday to the World Affairs Council of Oregon. Goods from China have come under scrutiny this year after toxic chemicals were found in a variety of exports. Zhou said inspections would increase, and that a spot check would be conducted on each consignment leaving China beginning Sept. 1.

On other topics, the ambassador criticized Congress for filing more than two dozen bills that target China for product piracy, the Chinese trade surplus and alleged currency manipulation. He also urged the U.S. to stop selling weapons to Taiwan.

Zhou, 62, described China as working for world peace while enduring unfair criticism. He said China has cooperated with the United States and other nations by participating in United Nations peacekeeping missions, working on Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues and helping address conflict in Darfur region of Sudan.

"It is unfortunate that some people in the U.S. turn a blind eye to Chinese efforts," Zhou said.

Zhou ignored the shouts of protesters outside who called for Tibetan independence from China. The Oregonian newspaper reported that members of Zhou's entourage expressed irritation at the demonstration, whose volume was only lowered after protesters agreed to turn off a bullhorn because they lacked a permit.

"I would like to apologize for the disruption to your talk," Maria Wulff, president of the World Affairs Council, told Zhou in front of the audience of 175. "Freedom of speech is the most sacred American value, but it doesn't mean that it's easy."

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