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Should David Cameron speak to the Chinese about human rights abuses?

(9 Posts)
grannieonabike Thu 11-Nov-10 18:31:23

I really don't know how I feel about this. Do we have the right to criticise other countries' justice systems when we also stand accused of human rights abuses (eg torturing terrorist suspects)?

On the other hand, there are some well-publicised cases in China that we should clearly protest about.

We can't let these abuses go unnoticed but is DC the best person to do this? Surely if DC was actually able to convince some Chinese politicians of the errors of their ways, they still wouldn't be willing to change anything because then it would look as if they were just allowing Britain to interfere in their internal affairs.

Wouldn't it be better left to organisations like Amnesty International to campaign against these abuses, whoever commits them? Or does DC carry enough clout actually to have some effect on the Chinese government?

grannieonabike Thu 11-Nov-10 18:35:12

And, how would we feel if the Chinese Premier came over here, as our guest, and started telling us off?

Or are these human rights issues so enormous that we just have to speak out against them at any opportunity?

Chil1234 Thu 11-Nov-10 18:44:14

If our government embarked on a trade mission to China, bowing and scraping to their hosts in the effort to secure deals and didn't once encourage them to move towards democracy, human rights and so forth, we would (rightly) accuse them of selling out. If our government waded into China with fists flying, refusing to have anything to do with them until they released all their political prisoners, we would (rightly) accuse them of excluding Britain from lucrative trading opportunities. Getting the balance right between exerting political pressure and retaining healthy trading relations is, and always has been, a tricky matter of diplomacy...

grannieonabike Thu 11-Nov-10 18:57:40

Yes, I think you're right about how the government always has to think about how its actions are perceived by the electorate.

But is DC actually going to manage to free any political prisoners? Is his intervention going to be effective, or will it just look (to people overseas) as if the UK is, yet again, trying to tell other governments how to run their countries?

Chil1234 Thu 11-Nov-10 19:18:35

I don't think a coach and wild horses would get the Chinese government to release a political prisoner, quite honestly. However, you've only to look back 25 years to see that China has changed hugely, albeit at glacial speed by Western standards. They need to trade with Europe, the US and the rest of the world. They have a population that is increasingly well-off and less accepting of the old ways. And if they make just a few little concessions here and there each time we put them on the spot then who knows what China will look like 20 years hence?

The only people I know that try to accuse the UK of telling them how to run their country are the likes of Robert Mugabe... and, in his case, we have nothing to lose by being less diplomatic. Elsewhere in the world, British diplomats are highly regarded for their skills of tact.

Fortheverylasttime Thu 11-Nov-10 20:27:12

He is treading a fine path. He corrected a student who referred to his 'lecture'. Cameron corrected him. It was a speech, not a lecture.

He also said that he mentioned human rights because that is what the UK electorate wants. Fair point.

With the UK's expenses scandals, etc, we are hardly in a good place to judge.

And obviously, we need to trade with China for the sake of our own economy and tax take.

grannieonabike Thu 11-Nov-10 20:28:28

'They need to trade with Europe, the US and the rest of the world.' Is that right? I thought we needed them more than they need us. Otherwise, why would DC be there?

'Elsewhere in the world, British diplomats are highly regarded for their skills of tact.' Not in Iraq or the Middle East, I'm afraid, and Mugabe isn't alone in Africa, either. Why do you think this? Do you have any evidence - other than hearsay? Most of the attitudes I am aware of are mostly deeply sceptical, dismissive or distrustful of British diplomacy, and some are even contemptuous.

I think Britain should tread very carefully at the moment, and stop comfortably assuming that we are so well-regarded internationally. We are hated passionately by a lot of people, and we can't just dismiss them as unimportant.

grannieonabike Thu 11-Nov-10 20:29:39

And why would Westerners be spat upon in China - as happened to my aunt and uncle - if we were so popular there?

Chil1234 Fri 12-Nov-10 06:41:07

The trade delegation is there to convince China to buy British goods and services. The Chinese, in turn, need overseas markets to sell their goods to.

I have no idea why your relatives would be spat on in China... perhaps they offended people in some way.

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