Are Lib Dems downplaying human rights in China?

There are some things in life you expect as a given. Night follows day, rain on Bonfire Night, and the Liberal Democrats supporting human rights.But wait a minute, what was this on the Today programme this morning, none other than esteemed Lib Dem Grandee and Business Secretary Vince Cable stating that his delegation to China this week would not “lecture China about human rights”.Now it doesn’t taken a genius to work out that the Chinese authorities have got a few issues to deal with when it comes to human rights. There’s the long-standing issues of torture, forced labour, internet repression, unfair trials, and of course the death penalty. But then there is also their attitude to dissent which is bordering increasingly on the ludicrous.On Friday there was the news that Chinese artist Ai Weiwei – he of the sunflower seed installation at London’s Tate Modern fame – was under house arrest for describing the proposed demolition of his studio in Shanghai as ‘ridiculous’. And there has been the controversy over the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo – a prominent critic of the Chinese government and human rights activist.And not forgetting the influence the Chinese authorities have over their neighbour Burma – which itself has a list of human rights abuses against its name.So all in all there are quite a few things Mr Cable could raise.Let’s just hope it’s all a slip of the tongue and that the Liberal Democrats do still see human rights as more important than the bottom line. After all if not it will signal a remarkable turnaround from a party whose leader only last month posed for a picture backing Amnesty’s human rights campaign in Burma.

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