Byline: DAMIEN LANE
TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern was yesterday accused of "dining with the Devil" for hosting a banquet for Chinese premier Zhu Rongji.
Green MEP Patricia McKenna, who was among hundreds of protesters outside Dublin castle, said: "I think the whole thing is deplorable.
"There are people in Chinese prisons, kids in sweatshops and a terrified population in Tibet who would agree with the view that the Irish government is dining with the Devil.
"The Chinese have to answer big questions on human rights."
But Mr Rongji flatly denied that China did not respect human rights.
He said: "The Chinese constitution and other laws provide citizens with free access to religious beliefs and it is exercised in reality."
But Alison Reynolds of the Free Tibet movement said: "I am quite surprised to hear Mr Rongji say his country has no problems with Human Rights.
"China is literally getting away with murder."
Guests were booed and heckled as they arrived for the five-course banquet.
More than 170 human rights and anti-globalisation protesters shouted "No welcome for the butcher of Tiananmen" at dignitaries attending.
Ministers sat down to a meal with China's 175-man delegation.
But as they feasted on smoked salmon and Irish beef, groups such as Amnesty International, the Socialist party, the Free Tibet movement and Global Resistance launched their protest.
Ms McKenna added: "They still occupy Tibet after illegally invading it in 1950.
"The government's decision to invite the Chinese gives other countries the impression that the Irish are willing to overlook issues of human rights in favour of trade and economy.
"The government has made a major mistake. It's a decision that is out of step with what the majority of the Irish people think."
The day had already got off to a bad …