In China, Britain's Cameron aims to boost trade ties but can't escape human rights issue
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was recently placed under house arrest, called on British Prime Minister David Cameron to raise the issue of human rights during his trip this week to Beijing.
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“Britain has already said, pretty robustly to the Chinese, that it is going to send a representative to the Nobel Prize ceremony and they can damn their grubby little letters saying that people shouldn’t go,” says Dr. Brown.Skip to next paragraph
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Cameron did raise the issue of human rights in talks Tuesday with the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, but did not refer specifically to the plight of Liu Xiaobo. The Prime Minister still had an opportunity Wednesday to bring up the dissident's case during an official banquet hosted by Mr. Wen later or in talks with President Hu.
Benefits to trade ties
The fruits of the visit for the British were already apparent Tuesday in the form of a boost for the British firm Rolls-Royce, whose share price took a battering last week after a blowout by one of its engines on a Sydney-bound Qantas flight.
The British engineering firm won a massive deal worth $1.2 billion dollars to supply and service jet engines for a major Chinese airline. The order was signed in front of Cameron in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
Earlier, his first stop after landing at Beijing's airport was a branch of the British-owned Tesco supermarket chain, which is planning to significantly expand from its current 99 outlets in China.
Whether trade ties come at a hidden price remains to be seen.
IN PICTURES: Liu Xiaobo: Nobel Peace Prize recipient
The Nobel controversy
Following Chinese President Hu Jintao's European visit, France said Monday it will hold a meeting in Brussels to develop a common European position on whether or not states should attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for Liu Xiaobo.
Brown observed: “China certainly spends a lot of time working on bilateral relations, even with quite small countries, within the European Union. At times like this, when they are lobbying countries not to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony you can kind of see why because they can really pull their favors in.
“They have been tremendously patient in building up diplomatic relations with a surprisingly wide number of countries. However, it’s pretty asymmetrical so they have a history of creating discord in Europe when there are issues that impact on them, such as Taiwan or Tibet. They have quite a record of dividing different countries in Europe."