Cameron confronts the biggest society
PM may raise case of dissident Nobel laureate at Chinese banquet
Wednesday 10 November 2010
David Cameron will risk antagonising his Chinese hosts today by criticising their political system and their disregard for basic human freedoms.
In a provocative message to the Beijing government, coming amid worldwide condemnation of the imprisonment of the Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, Mr Cameron will insist that democratic elections, independent courts and uncensored media are essential in a modern economy.
The Prime Minister's comments will anger the Chinese government, which is in the middle of an energetic crackdown against its critics. Beijing has not been shown the speech in advance, and Mr Cameron's words will not be shown on the country's heavily controlled television network.
Mr Cameron did not discuss Mr Liu's case directly in talks yesterday with Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier. But protests mounted last night after the Nobel prize-winner's lawyer was stopped at Beijing airport and banned from travelling to the UK, and Mr Cameron was considering raising the imprisonment at a banquet in his honour at Beijing's Great Hall. Mr Liu is serving an 11-year prison sentence after co-authoring a manifesto promoting political reform in China.
Mr Cameron provoked an angry backlash in China three years ago when he made milder comments about the country during a visit as Leader of the Opposition. The dilemma for London is whether the Prime Minister's candour could undermine efforts to double British trade with China over the next five years.
British officials denied last night that he wanted to "lecture or hector" his hosts, but he will leave them in little doubt of outside dismay over their failure to ease their grip on China's 1.3 billion population. Mr Cameron will pointedly contrast multi-party democracies in the West with China's one-party regime.
And in a coded reference to the numbers of opponents of the Chinese regime behind bars, he will say: "All the time the [British] government is subject to the rule of law. These are constraints on the [British] government, and at times they can be frustrating when the courts take a view with which the Government differs. But ultimately we believe that they make our Government better and our country stronger."
He will add: "If I were not in Beijing this Wednesday afternoon, I would be preparing for my weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, where MPs question me freely about the whole range of government policy."
He will also take a swipe at the constraints on Chinese newspapers, the control of state television and the censorship of foreign websites. "Through the media, the public get to hear directly from people who hold different views from the Government. That can be difficult at times, too. But we believe that the better informed the British public is, the easier it is for the British government to come to sensible decisions and to develop robust policies that command the confidence of our people."
He will conclude: "The rise in economic freedom in China in recent years has been hugely beneficial to China and to the world. I hope that in time this will lead to a greater political opening because I am convinced that the best guarantor of prosperity and stability is for economic and political progress to go in step together."
Mr Cameron was accused by the Communist Party of being "arrogant" when he uttered similar sentiments during a visit to China in 2007.
One of Mr Cameron's travelling companions also upset the Chinese last year. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, who is in Beijing, denounced China as a "police state, with thousands executed by government fiat every year".
How the two leaders compare
School Nankai High School, "China's Eton"
Student days Studied Geomechanics at the Beijing Institute of Geology
Other half Zhang Peili, director of China's National Centre of Jewellery
Before politics Geomechanics Surveyor in Gansu Province
Big break General Secretary fast-tracked him straight into Communist Party's Central Committee and then Politburo from Gansu Provincial Geological Bureau
School Eton College, Berkshire
Student days Studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Brasenose College, Oxford. Joined the infamous Bullingdon Club
Other half Samantha, handbag pioneer
Before politics PR man for Carlton TV, and some advising for Norman Lamont
Big break Buckingham Palace called Conservative Party HQ to say the young David Cameron they were to interview was an "exceptional young man"
When teaching the meaning of Christmas backfires
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...