Chinese President Hu Jintao is greeted by cheering crowds upon his arrival at Ottawa International Airport, Thursday afternoon.
Prime Minister Paul Martin says he will be discussing the issue of human rights with Chinese President Hu Jintao during his visit to Canada.
Hu Jintao arrived in Canada Thursday, as Ottawa faced calls from human rights groups to raise the issue of China's poor human rights record during the visit.
Martin insisted there was no "trade-off between human rights and economics" and that he would indeed be discussing the issue with the Chinese president.
"I can tell you that you in my meetings with the president on this particular trip, it will be at the very top of the list," Martin told reporters following a cabinet meeting Thursday afternoon.
Hu Jintao landed at Ottawa airport amidst a steady downpour. His visit marks 35 years of diplomatic ties and expanding energy and trade agreements between the two countries.
He plans to woo investors during his trip, but some say this visit should be less about trade, and more about getting firm commitments about ending human rights abuses in China.
Prime Minister Paul Martin speaks from the halls on Parliament Hill following the Liberal caucus meeting on Thursday.
"The coming days offer a critical chance to take a bold new step forward by raising these issues with confidence and without apology and asking for some concrete and time-bound human rights commitments in return," said Alex Neve, the Secretary General of Amnesty International.
Neve said China's interest in boosting investment in Canadian oil and natural resources suggest Canada's influence with China is on the rise, and that now is a good time to speak up about abuses.
"The past record of standing back and allowing trade and investment to easily trump the human rights concerns can't stand," Neve told a news conference Thursday.
"And there's a strategic moment now to adopt a new approach."
Hu Jintao's visit to North America -- the first since assuming leadership of China two years ago -- will take him to Ottawa, Toronto, Mexico City, the United Nations in New York, and then to Vancouver.
Protesters are expected to shadow his every move, amid complaints over China's death penalty, the situation in Tibet and the treatment of members of the Falun Gong movement.
Protesters claim that the government has tortured and even killed worshipers who follow Falun Gong, which is based on an ancient form of refining the body and mind through special exercises and meditation.
Chinese officials have gone so far as to program the search engine Google to shut down if the words "Falun Gong" are typed into the search box in China.
"We hope our Prime Minister can openly and publicly speak to the President of China to urge him to stop the persecution," said Lucy Zhou of the Falun Dafa Association of Canada (FDAC).
Neve said he doesn't expect "the human rights situation in China is suddenly going to turn around overnight...but it will be an important contribution to the kind of change we all want to see."
Martin will host Hu Jintao at a state banquet on Thursday. During his visit, he will also give a speech at the Canada China Business Council and visit Niagara Falls. Hu will be in Eastern Canada from Sept. 8 to 11.
Hu Jintao heads to Mexico on Sunday. Next week, he plans to meet with U.S. President George Bush on the sidelines of a UN summit in New York, before returning to Vancouver for a two-day trip on Sept. 16.