Don't mention rights and keep trading with China?

David Cameron wants a trading relationship with China not spoiled by arguments about human rights; the Dalai Lama issue has been put behind us according to a spokesperson from Downing Street.  Every so often diplomats or ministers can put the case for human rights to the Chinese government but it will be behind closed doors and will not be too embarrassing for the Chinese side.  We have official meetings of dialogue on human rights but what they achieve is very little or nothing as far as I can see.  Just words with no effect, like water off a duck's back.

Talking of the "Dalai Lama issue" makes it sound like a personality clash.  (How could anyone not get on with the Dalai Lama, such a compassionate and reasonable man?) The real issue is Tibet and the way Tibetan people are treated. There is freedom of religion, so say the government of China, but there is no real freedom if the leaders feel that their power is threatened.  (Look at how they persecute Falun Gong, not seen as a threat by any other government in the world as far as I know?)  If people protest peacefully in Tibet or in China then the Chinese security forces come down hard.  There have been recent shootings with deaths and injuries.  News filters out with difficulty because there is not much access to Tibet for journalists, diplomats or foreign observers.  When there are visits (as recently by Australian and United States diplomats) how much can they really find out if they are accompanied by minders and shown what the government wants them to see? Luckily there is an organisation called Tibet Watch and they gather information from inside Tibet so it is not that hard to get some kind of feeling for what is going on, if David Cameron is interested.    

The campaign group Free Tibet has done a survey that found that 70% of people in this country thought that the rights of Tibetans should be more important or as important as trading links with China.   

Cameron says that the UK will be China's biggest advocate in the west and he wants to lead a
"dialogue of mutual respect and understanding".  Maybe he thinks that trade will lead to improvements in human rights or maybe he is just desperate to get more exports to China to help the UK economy and also to keep importing cheap goods to keep people happy here.  

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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