Don't lecture China about human rights, premier warns Cameron

Prime Minister raises issue of imprisoned dissidents as Britain signs £1.4bn trade deals at end of visit. Nigel Morris reports

The Chinese Premier warned Britain against "finger-pointing" and "lecturing" the world's most populous nation about human rights abuses yesterday as he signed trade agreements worth £1.4bn with David Cameron.

The carefully-orchestrated three-day visit by Wen Jiabao had included a visit to William Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, a tour of a Birmingham car factory and a show of pomp in London, away from demonstrators.

But the key moment came yesterday when the two leaders witnessed 24 trade agreements and memorandums of understanding between the two countries, covering banking, mining, oil and gas, alcohol and even supply of 800 pigs to China.

The deals came as a welcome boost for Mr Cameron, who is anxious to close the huge trade gap with China and to tap more effectively into a burgeoning consumer market.

But the Prime Minister faces a tricky balancing act in winning new business for British exporters at the same time as highlighting the Beijing government's lamentable human rights record. Mr Cameron insisted yesterday that "nothing is off limits" in the discussions between the governments – and privately raised the imprisonment of prominent dissidents, who include the Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo.

In a joint press conference at the Foreign Office, he attempted to reconcile the two issues by arguing that better human rights helped to foster economic growth. Beijing had removed a potential stumbling block to the talks by releasing the artist Ai Wei Wei and the environmentalist Hu Jia on bail days before Mr Wen landed in Britain.

However, the Chinese leader issued two diplomatically phrased, but unmistakable, rebukes to his British hosts – both in government and in the media – for their continuing focus on the issue. He said the countries should "respect each other, respect the facts, treat each other as equals, engage in more co-operation than finger-pointing and resolve our differences through dialogue".

Later he suggested that critical Western nations often knew little about Chinese society and history, adding that the country had learnt over 5,000 years "never to talk to others in a lecturing way, rather to respect others on the basis of equality".

Mr Wen insisted there was "no big strategic conflict between us", and added: "Our common interests outweigh our differences." He said it was a mark of this relationship that China would be sending two giant pandas – Tian Tian and Yangguang – to Edinburgh Zoo by the end of the year. Only seven months ago, Mr Cameron led a delegation of four Cabinet ministers and more than 40 business leaders to Beijing as he seeks to narrow a huge trade gap with China, whose economy is growing at a pace unimaginable in the West.

That visit produced relatively slim pickings in terms of trade deals. But London believes it helped to establish contacts that will lead to firm business deals and Mr Cameron said yesterday that exports to China had leapt by more than a fifth in recent months.

Yesterday's agreements were the fruit of prolonged negotiations between Britain and China with the two leaders on hand to confirm them. But the Prime Minister hopes they will be a stepping-stone towards achieving his target of expanding bilateral trade between the nations to $100bn (£62.5bn) by 2015.

To date, Britain has failed to make substantial inroads into the massive Chinese market which has a fast-growing middle class, keen to splash out on designer items. Imports of Chinese products are worth three times more than British goods going in the opposite direction, with the UK trailing Germany, France and Italy in sales in China.

As Premier Wen left Britain last night for talks in Germany, Mr Cameron was accused of pulling his punches over his guest's human rights record.

"The Prime Minister abandoned the British people's values for the promise of more Chinese investment," said a spokesman for the Free Tibet campaign. "In his eagerness to build trade with China, he failed utterly to take a firm, public position on human rights concerns."



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee