Human rights? It's not "black and white".

18th October 2013

UK’s Chancellor dazzled by the money on China trip

The man second only to the Prime Minister in the UK’s government has been at pains to avoid any embarrassing references to human rights on his visit to China.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne – the minister responsible for Britain's economy – ends his five day trade visit to the country today.

He has announced many – sometimes controversial – business deals but when questioned by journalists on human rights, his comments have clearly been designed to please his wealthy hosts.

“Black and white”

In response to questions about human rights in a broadcast interview, Mr Osborne said:

“It’s an ancient civilisation, and I think it’s important that we don't have a sort of black and white attitude, but understand the complexity of this enormous society you see behind me"

In another interview, he explained how the Chinese approach to human rights - such as, presumably, the use of torture, shooting of protesters and sending people to jail for sending emails - is just another way of doing things:

“We have to respect the fact that it is a deep and ancient civilisation that is tackling its own problems and going about it in the way it thinks is appropriate. We can point out where we would do things differently, but I think we do need to show some respect for that.”

Dalai Lama

China objected strongly to a private meeting between Prime Minister David Cameron and the Dalai Lama in 2012 and the visit is seen as a mark of friendly relationships being resumed.

Mr Osborne has announced that the Prime Minister has “no further plans” to meet the Dalai Lama.

Two government ministers in 2012 sent a letter to Mr Cameron after being instructed not to meet the Dalai Lama on a subsequent visit to the UK. In it they said that the policy was “tantamount to saying that British foreign policy on Tibet is whatever China wants it to be”.

The Prime Minister is expected to visit the country later this year.

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