Brown accused of ignoring human rights on visit to China

Gordon Brown arrived in China last night on a visit designed to boost business links, but was accused of soft-pedalling over the world's concerns about human rights in the country.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said that Mr Brown would raise human rights in a general sense during two days of talks with Chinese leaders.

But British officials admitted the issue would not be central to his discussions.

They insisted that human rights would be debated fully in an annual session involving officials from the two countries on 28 January. But Mr Brown's stance drew criticism from Tory politicians. Edward McMillan-Scott, a Tory MEP, accused Mr Brown of "humbug" because he wanted to stop Zimbabwe's forthcoming cricket tour to England but would not back calls for a boycott of this summer's Beijing Olympics.

"You can't cherry-pick sports boycotts", said Mr McMillan-Scott.

He said the Olympics should be boycotted because of China's crackdown against political dissidents.

"It is time for the civilised world to wake up to what is really happening in the hidden China, a terror state like no other, which has killed some 80 million of its own people since 1949," he said.

His officials said the Prime Minister recognised that democracy took different forms and what mattered was "accountable government". They stressed that he would push China – who like Britain holds veto power on the UN Security Council – to use its close links with Sudan to press for a solution to the Darfur crisis and for the success of stalled peace talks.

China also has influence in Burma, and Mr Brown will use his visit to renew pressure on the Burmese regime over human rights there. The Burmese regime, according to Britain's ambassador in Rangoon, Mark Canning, said the junta was "playing a canny game" when it came to reform and liberalisation and the international community needed to focus on the lack of progress. Many of the monks, who had been in the vanguard of the pro-democracy protests last year, "have been disrobed and sent packing to rural villages", Mr Canning said yesterday. Only a fraction of the country's 400,000 Buddhist clerics can now be seen on the streets.

Up to 1,000 people, those the regime consider to be leaders of the resistance, are still being held in prison, often under appalling conditions, said Mr Canning. And arrests have continued while the regime professes to be willing to hold dialogue with the opposition.

In what is regarded as a blatant attempt to prevent people from gaining access to independent reporting, the military government is threatening to raise the licence fee for satellite TVs from the equivalent of £2.50 to £400 a year, said Mr Canning. The proposed figure is three times the Burmese national salary, and the measure if implemented, will, in effect, mean the vast majority of the population will be left dependent on the censored domestic media.

Mr Brown's main focus on his first trip to China as Prime Minister will be to forge closer links that will increase Britain's trade in goods and services with China from £20bn to £30bn by 2010.

With the Chinese economy expected to grow by 10 per cent this year, British officials believe that as it moves on from specialising in manufacturing, it will open up big opportunities for British firms in areas such as financial, legal and professional services.

Mr Brown will press the Chinese to extend what he believes is a natural partnership between two nations with complementary strengths by opening their markets to Britain's services industries.

He will acknowledge China's strength on the global political stage, calling for it to tackle climate change while recognising that the measures required should not shackle its growth.

He is accompanied on his trip by 25 prominent businessmen including the Virgin boss, Sir Richard Branson, and the director general of the Confederation of British industry (CBI), Richard Lambert.

John Hutton, the Secretary of State for Business, and the Trade Promotion minister, Lord Jones of Birmingham, will also be present. The British delegation will then move on to India, where Mr Brown hopes to sign business deals worth about £2.25bn and will announce plans to train 750,000 English teachers there over the next five years. Mr Brown will use his visit to both countries to promote English as "the world's language".

He announced yesterday that British Council, which promotes British culture abroad, is to set up a website to provide internet-based studies for both teachers and students.

The initial focus will be on China, with the aim of securing one million hits a month on the website.

Mr Brown said: "I believe that, with the right help, we will have a situation by 2025 where the number of English speakers in China exceeds the number of speakers of English as a first language in all of the rest of the world. English does not make us all the same – nor should it, for we honour who we distinctly are.

"But language makes it possible for us to speak to each other, to better understand each other. And so it is a powerful force not just for economics, business and trade, but for mutual respect and progress."

How Merkel confronted Beijing

She isn't called Germany's "Iron Lady" for nothing. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor born and raised in former Communist East Germany, gave Vladimir Putin a public handbagging at a Russia-EU summit for suppressing a demonstration. She incurred China's wrath by scheduling the first meeting of a German leader with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, against the advice of her officials; and was photographed welcoming him to her office in September. Two official meetings between German and Chinese government officials were cancelled by China in response. Nobody was fooled when China cited "technical reasons". China also lodged a protest with the German ambassador to Beijing, saying relations had been "seriously damaged". On her first visit to China as Chancellor, in May 2006, she raised China's human rights record – and let everyone know she had done so. Before her second visit she made it clear that she would not avoid awkward issues. She spoke out then about what China could do to help curb the "terrible human rights abuses" in Darfur through its contacts with Sudan. That trip – just one month before her meeting with the Dalai Lama – was overshadowed by reports that China had launched a cyberattack on the Chancellery and three German ministries.

Anne Penketh

Tibet

Gordon Brown is being urged by the Free Tibet Campaign to condemn China's "systemic repression" of human rights in Tibet and to defy the Chinese by meeting the Dalai Lama. In October, monasteries were surrounded by Chinese troops, and monks and nuns forced to denounce the Buddhist spiritual leader.

Media freedom

Human Rights Watch wants China to implement fully new regulations giving accredited foreign journalists expanded freedom to report. Should China not do so by April, the group says senior British officials should boycott the opening or closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.

Forced abortion

Although a Chinese woman is suing the authorities for being forced to abort her baby girl when nine months pregnant, China's one-child policy is enforced. Hundreds of people in Hubei, central China, were expelled from the Communist Party for violating the policy.

Religious freedom

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Chinese constitution, yet Christians and Muslim individuals and groups are silenced. Followers of the Falun Gong still face arrest and torture. Turkic Muslim Uighurs in north-west China are repressed in the name of the "war on terror".

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 year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore