David Cameron has taken a trade delegation to see the People’s Republic of China. The hope is obviously to stir up trade for Britain. Nothing wrong with that.
Except that when Mr Cameron was in Sri Lanka the other week he chose to lecture the Sri Lankan government over the manner in which they put down their Tamil separatist problem a few years back. This must have been galling to more than a few Sri Lankans since much of the funding for the Tamil Tigers over the years came from open fundraising in the UK.
However, you may recall that relations between London and Beijing turned very frosty after David Cameron met with the Dalai Lama. Indeed, an earlier trade delegation was cancelled by Beijing. But now we are told that Britain has ‘turned a page’ with China. Downing Street has no plans to raise the Tibetan issue and the government wants to ‘shift UK-China relations up a gear’. The Chinese Communist Party leadership will not have to sit through any Sri Lankan style lectures because Mr Cameron wants a lot of cash out of them.
Whatever your stance on this, it is worth keeping in mind what the Chinese Communist Party actually gets up to. To that end, perhaps I could point readers to the interview I did earlier this year with the blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. Of course, when Chen was in London neither Mr Cameron nor William Hague would meet with him, so fearful were they of the reaction of the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership.
Which would appear to suggest that while this government is not unbothered by human rights abuses it does regard them as a luxury. If there is a cost to highlighting such abuses then they are negotiable. The Sri Lankans fall below the bar, the Chinese Communist Party soar above it. But then I suppose everyone has their price.