(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: