Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Wednesday that the Arab people's demand for democracy must be respected, in remarks at a news conference wrapping up a parliamentary session.
"We believe that the demand for democracy by the Arab people must be respected and truly responded to, and I believe this trend towards democracy cannot be held back by any force," Wen told reporters.
His remarks come amid rising international concern over the bloody crackdown on a Syrian protest movement that began during the Arab Spring uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East countries last year.
China has drawn fierce international criticism for twice blocking UN Security Council resolutions condemning the crackdown in strife-torn Syria and instead repeatedly called for a "political solution" to the conflict.
Wen called for an immediate ceasefire in Syria and for the lives of civilians to be protected.
"The killing of civilians must be immediately stopped by all relevant parties in Syria," Wen said.
"China respects the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for change and for the pursuit of their own interests."