Wen Jiabao secures UK trade without official tirade
[28 June 2011] Disappointingly, the British government failed to take the opportunity of Wen Jiabao’s visit to deliver a strong message that China’s policies in Tibet and the ongoing abuses of human rights are not acceptable. Though Britain signed trade deals worth £1.4 billion Prime Minister Cameron only managed a weak public statement that human rights are "the best guarantor" for a stable and prosperous society.
Instead, it was Tibetans and Tibet supporters that ensured Wen Jiabao left Britain knowing that the people, if not the government, are still demanding immediate freedoms and human rights for Tibet and the whole of China.
In a press release, Philippa Carrick, CEO of Tibet Society, said, “Where is the proof that [the UK’s] trade deals with China will bring a betterment of human and civil rights? Signing trade deals alone does not “bring light” to those living in the dark. Unless there have been guarantees of civil and human rights built into these economic agreements, it would seem Britain has sold out its human rights values in the short term interest of trade with China.”
Throughout his three-day visit to the UK, Wen Jiabao was confronted by protests. In Birmingham, Wen encountered a small but vociferous group at the entrance to the Chinese-owned MG Rover factory. On his arrival in London on Sunday, Wen was greeted by a group of 30 protestors, who had gathered at the hotel where he was staying.
On Monday, about 100 protestors assembled opposite Downing Street for Wen’s meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Tibetans and Tibet supporters were also joined by Chinese democracy activists, Uighurs and Burmese as well as Falun Gong practitioners. The protestors waved placards with messages including “Human rights before trade”, “Stop the crackdown at Kirti monastery”, “Wen: Tibet will be free” and “Release all prisoners of conscience”. Along with the ever-popular “Free Tibet, China Out” and “Shame on Wen Jiabao” slogans, the crowd made their feelings clear by chanting “Human rights, not for sale”.
Following his Downing Street meeting, Wen Jiabao was whisked to The Royal Society to give a speech to invited dignitaries and business leaders. Over 60 protestors were on hand to ‘welcome’ him. With a narrow street and a single entrance the protestors were hoping to glimpse the Chinese leader. To everyone’s surprise, they had more than a glimpse as Wen exited his car on the ‘wrong’ side - the side of the protest! He stood looking at the demonstration for about half a minute before his minders realised the error and escorted him into the building. His exit from the Royal Society was much quicker, with Wen being virtually bundled into his waiting car and quickly driven off. However, the protest had not quite finished as protestors continued their chanting for the benefit of those leaving the lecture. Leaflets were also handed out, hopefully giving the businessmen and dignitaries pause for thought.
Tibet Society will continue to lobby the British government for stronger statements and practical actions to support Tibetan freedom and to defend the human rights of all those living under the Chinese regime. Tibet Society calls upon the British government to:
• make strong statements supporting those calling for end to the oppression in Tibet and support human rights defenders across China;
Perhaps the disappointment over the British government's failure to take a strong stance on human rights is summed up best by a report on the Prime Minister's own official website. It proudly announces the trade deals signed with China and says that Britain is “the natural home” for Chinese investment in Europe. But it fails to even mention if human rights, the crackdown on dissidents or Tibet were discussed.
• ensure its dealings with the Chinese government are open and transparent. Dialogues should not be held behind closed doors and must have benchmarks and viable outcomes;
• fulfill its promise of putting human rights at the centre of its foreign policy by including measures in trade deals with China that will help develop civil society, benefit local communities and guarantee human rights including the freedom of expression.
The London protests were organised by a coalition of Tibet groups, including Tibet Society, Students for a Free Tibet, Tibetan Youth UK, Free Tibet and Tibetan Community in Britain.
Tibet Society: "Is Cameron selling Britain's human rights values to China?" (28 June)
Letter to Editor
Guardian: Letter from coalition of Tibet, Uighur & Chinese groups (25 June)
The letter from the coalition, including Tibet Society, appeared on the day Wen Jiabao arrived in the UK. It is the second letter of two under the title "Sex selection, China and human rights".
RFA: Wen Rules Out Rights Debate (28 June)
Wen Jiabao warns European leaders not to lecture China on human rights and against interfering in its internal affairs.
Reuters: China premier's call for reform draws accolades and barbs (28 June)
Wen promises China's citizens democracy and human rights in a speech made at The Royal Society in London. However, seasoned observers see no prospect of the ruling Communist Party reining in its vast powers before the big political shake-up next year.
Independent: Don't lecture China about human rights, warns Wen (28 June)
Wen warns Britain against "finger-pointing" and "lecturing" China about human rights.
Guardian: China rebukes Cameron for pointing finger over human rights (27 June)
Wen issued a diplomatic dressing down of the British government by declaring the UK should stop "finger pointing" over human rights in discussions with Beijing.
BBC: Video report of visit - 2 mins (27 June)
Includes footage from joint press conference where Cameron said political and development go hand in hand, and Wen said Britain should cooperate more and finger-point less.
BBC: PM signs China deals but urges respect for human rights (27 June)
Includes 2 minute video clip from joint press conference.
PA (in Guardian): Human rights not off limits, says Cameron (27 June)
Cameron says UK and China 'should show each other respect'.
Guardian: Wen Jiabao visits the UK – in pictures (includes protests) (27 June)
SFT: Photos from protests on facebook (27 June)
Detail on UK-China agreements
FT: A more comprehensive list of today’s UK-China deals (27 June)
UK Trade & Investment: UK-China Summit: deals of £1.4 billion announced (27 June)
Mirror: Kevin Maguiere - Why we have to go cap in hand to China (29 June)
Independent: H McRae - We still don't grasp how little we matter to China (29 June)
Independent: Leading article - Turbulent times as China chooses its future (28 June)
Guardian: Michael White - Chinese human rights row: both sides are right (28 June)
Telegraph: George Waldin - Should Cameron really be lecturing China? (28 June)
Tibet Society, the world’s first Tibet support group, was founded in 1959. Funded by its members, it has been working for over 50 years to seek justice for Tibet through parliamentary lobbying, campaigns and actions. Help keep Tibet alive by joining Tibet Society today. (Annual membership £20; Overseas £32; Life £400).
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