Why Nicola Sturgeon has little reason to protest China’s human rights record


(c) Photo: Arthur Edwards

The First Minister has been briefed by Amnesty International prior to her trip to China to boost trade links. She has, of course, listened carefully and commented:

‘We condemn human rights abuses wherever and whenever they occur. I’m a great believer that as a leader of a country wanting to do business and wanting to expand business, we’ve got to be very firm about the values and principles we hold dear and not compromise on that. As I did on my last visit in China, both in one-to-one but also on public platforms, I will raise the issue of human rights. The last visit, I chose to do that by focusing on women’s rights in a speech that was praised by Amnesty International. I’ll make a speech in this visit about children’s rights to a Unicef event.’

That sounds pretty good to me. I’m happy she will do this, but it needs to be kept in perspective and proportion.

The most obvious guide to perspective, for Nicola, was the Queen of England (😉) praising an ‘everlasting friendship between Britain and China’ at a royal reception as part of a state visit to her UK, by the Chinese premier in October 2015

Further, we have seen our Prime Minister visit and praise the leadership in Saudi Arabia with no hint of questioning that country’s unique disregard for human rights, misogyny and brutal foreign policies including civilian bombing in Yemen and the support of Jihadi groups across the globe. We have seen British politicians support the illegal use of targeted assassinations using drones, in countries such as Pakistan, Syria and Iraq, with which we are not formally at war. We know that the RAF has been bombing towns and villages in Syria and Iraq while ludicrously claiming no civilian casualties, yet UK politicians are largely silent on this abuse of human rights. We maintain cordial relations with the USA which uses a lucrative, privatised, prison system to incarcerate the highest percentage of any population in the world and, in particular, African Americans at five times the rate of the white population.

China is, by Western and Northern European countries’ standards, very repressive, but compares well with many others we trade with happily and, in terms of foreign affairs by military intervention, puts the UK to shame.

When the FM visited China in 2015, Tibet was the issue most commonly raised then. I answered those concerns in this:

Why Nicola Sturgeon has no reason to protest to China about Tibet


8 thoughts on “Why Nicola Sturgeon has little reason to protest China’s human rights record

  1. DBGdotSCOT April 7, 2018 / 9:56 am

    I don’t agree with sanitisation of abhorrent evil practices against Tibet, East Turkistan and Southern Mongolia.

    People are frequently murdered or *disappeared*, organs are harvested and sold.

    The UK and USA betrayed agreements and promises they made which allowed the Chinese Communist Party to invade and occupy Tibet.

    China is not *quite* repressive, China is *extremely* repressive. Tibet is to this day an independent country, where China murders people and crushes culture.

    The Tibetan language is increasingly being prohibited. Doesn’t that sound like familiar suppression? Ask Gaelic speakers…

    Trying to sanitize to promote trade is sick!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alasdair Macdonald April 7, 2018 / 12:52 pm


      I find your use of the word ‘sanitisation/sanitize’ interesting.

      Firstly, I agree that there have been and still are some *extremely* (to accept your adverb) nasty practices which are deployed by regimes across the world – communist and capitalist, authoritarian, and democratic. These have to be identified, publicised, condemned. However, the regimes (including Westminster) under whose auspices these nasty practices take place, exist and to various degrees affect the societies in which we live and conduct our day-to-dayaffairs.

      So, we all, to some extent, can be considered to be ‘complicit’.

      However, as a result of this complicity, some changes for the better have taken place. Of course, there are still horrific practices.

      I would be interested to hear your views on the kinds of implementable things we can do.

      Too often our media and politicians display the hypocrisy that Ms Sturgeon is ‘sanitising’, but Mrs May is ‘building bridges’.


      • DBGdotSCOT April 8, 2018 / 1:47 pm

        Dear Alisdair MacDonald,

        choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others;
        (OR) involved with others in a reprehensible or illegal activity y complicit through

        You may plead your own feeling of guilt of course, but cannot accuse all other individuals.

        Collective responsibilities are of course different, which is one of the reasons I’d prefer Scotland to be independent of joint responsibility with the rUK.

        I equally don’t approve of Scotland being equally guilty through ‘dirty’ capitalistic practices of its own construction.

        Conversation and cooperation are good, ignoring evil and becoming deliberately complicit are not.

        Capitalism is meant to be an aid to society, not an ultimate aim inspired by greed, defying all decency.

        Yours etc,
        David Barrie Grieve

        (P.S.: anglophone language variations exist and might not always be mistakes – your interest is healthy though.)


  2. johnrobertson834 April 7, 2018 / 10:28 am

    Thanks for your comments. I’d still argue that taking foreign wars into account, China is less oppressive than Saudi, USA and UK. The mass slaughter of innocents in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, I think, far exceeds the evil done by the admittedly repressive actions of China in Tibet. If you agree they are ‘extremely repressive’, then China is less so. Perhaps I should not have used ‘quite’. I’ll change that.

    Regarding Tibet, I’d be interested in your thoughts on the argument presented in ‘Why Nicola Sturgeon has no reason to protest to China about Tibet’. Click on the link above to read it.


  3. Alasdair Macdonald. April 8, 2018 / 6:39 pm

    Mr Grieve,

    Thank for the reply. I think any ‘distance’ between our positions might not be too great.

    When I used the word ‘complicit’, I was using it in the ‘collective responsibility’ sense to which you refer. Like you, I, too, would like Scotland to be independent and for those of us who live here to make our own decisions. I hope that a Scottish foreign policy would have a moral dimension. I hope that it would entail ‘conversation and co-operation’ with other countries such as China, but that the policy would not ignore infamous conduct or wilful complicity in it.

    There is a large number of students from China, studying in Scotland, with many living close by me in Glasgow. I hope that by our conduct that we demonstrate to them that there are decent ways of conducting our business and engagements with others. I hope that the good examples which these students encounter her does influence them and that they, when they return home can influence their Government’s policies. Equally, I hope that we here can learn from these young people and understand things from a Chinese perspective. I do not think we have a monopoly on decency and knowledge.

    Finally, I do not understand your PS.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s