Ai Weiwei accuses David Cameron of 'putting human rights aside' during Chinese President's state visit

The artist, who was detained for 81 days in his home country, said Chinese people would be disappointed if the Prime Minister did not use the opportunity to raise China's human rights abuses

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The Independent Online

Ai Weiwei has accused David Cameron of “putting human rights aside” in his eagerness to cement deals worth billions of pounds during the Chinese President’s visit.

The Prime Minister today sealed deals with Xi Jinping on industrial hacking and cyber theft, while ministers signed agreements on issues ranging from customs to development and investment.

Mr Ai, a political activist and artist who has been granted a three-year visa in Germany after being repeatedly detained in his home country, said Mr Cameron must not shy away from discussing uncomfortable topics.


“I think the British Prime Minister has had a record on putting human rights aside which is very bad strategy and also is a very bad aesthetics, because this certainly doesn't represent the British people,” he told Sky News.

“When they see Mr Cameron not put human rights as an issue, (that) will make people very disappointed.”

Mr Ai said China was changing “very dramatically” and its people believed in the democratic movement, but any transformation would only come about with a strong joint effort.

He said Britain was at risk of sacrificing essential values for short-term gain, adding: “This is wrong and lowers standards.”

When asked what he would say to Mr Xi if the pair met, he replied “First, I would wish him a good trip.

The Chinese President and Prime Minister during talks in London

“I think yes China does need to develop and we do need to have very stable conditions for any kind of development, but this kind of development only can come from respecting the truth, respecting the history, and having strong values ... those values can make China have a better future.”

The artist said he felt sorry for China's ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, who described his work as “not my taste” and said he was only famous because of his critical view of Chinese authorities.

Mr Ai, who expressed hope of one day returning to his home country, also dismissed Mr Liu's claims that he was not put behind bars for 81 days, and was merely under investigation.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman insisted that no issues were “off the table”, meaning Mr Cameron would be able to “talk face-to-face through a whole range of issues including human rights and cyber security.”

Mr Xi’s four-day visit started on Tuesday and will continue tomorrow with a visit to a Buckinghamshire pub for fish and chips with the Prime Minister, before talks at Chequers and dinner with the Camerons.

On Friday, the two leaders will watch Chinese player Sun Jihai inducted into the National Football Museum.

Additional reporting by PA