China opposes forced regime change in Syria
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun said Beijing opposed armed intervention and forced "regime change" in Syria, a day before he heads to Damascus to push for an end to the conflict there.
"China condemns all acts of violence against innocent civilians" and does not approve of armed intervention or forcing so-called 'regime change'," Zhai Jun was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.
Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters Zhai would "exchange views with the Syrian government and parties concerned in Syria on the current... situation to push for a peaceful and proper resolution of the... crisis."
His announced visit comes just days after a Chinese diplomat met the head of the Arab League to discuss the crisis. Another envoy will also soon go to the Middle East. He held talks with Nabil el-Araby, head of the Arab League, on Monday to explain why Beijing vetoed the resolution.
On the ground, Syrian armour moved on the main hubs of an 11-month uprising yesterday killing at least 22 people, monitors said, a day after President Bashar al-Assad set a vote for a new constitution.
Opposition groups rejected the newly proposed constitution and urged voters to boycott a referendum set for this month, and to step up efforts to oust Assad.
As troops pummelled the central city of Homs for a 13th straight day, 18 people were killed in central Hama province and four others died in the southern city of Daraa, monitors reported.
Assad, whose government has vowed to crush dissent, on Wednesday decreed a vote for February 26 on a new charter that could end nearly 50 years of single-party rule.
The United States dismissed the move as "laughable," saying "it makes a mockery of the Syrian revolution." Russia, a major weapons supplier to Damascus, welcomed it.
In April, Assad scrapped emergency rule in force since 1963 when the Baathists took power in a coup d'etat. But he has repeatedly promised reforms that have failed to materialise since the uprising erupted in March.
Analysts said the referendum was too little, too late and fell short of what was required to end the uprising inspired by similar movements that last year overthrew authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.