One of the world’s leading human rights campaigners has launched a scathing attack on David Cameron – accusing him of sacrficing British values for Chinese cash.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said the Prime Minister is lowering Britain’s standards on human rights and its « essential values » by agreeing billions of pounds worth of trade deals during President Xi Jinping’s state visit.
He warned that the UK would not have a « bright future » if it continued to succumb to the might of China’s economic power, claiming Mr Cameron risked sacrificing Britain’s strong leadership on human rights for the « short term gain » of business deals.
President Xi Jinping’s four-day visit to the UK has heralded in £30bn of business deals, including an investment by China in a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
However Mr Cameron has come under fire from MPs and human rights campaigners who have accused him and George Osborne of ignoring China’s poor record on human rights in its determination to secure investment.
Under President Xi’s leadership more than 250 human rights have been imprisoned and Amnesty International has said he had presided over the biggest crackdown on human rights in a generation.
Mr Weiwei told Sky News: « For British I have to say, if they sacrifice very essential values just for this short-sighted gain in business, this is wrong, this is absolutely lowering their standards and it is not going to have a very bright future. »
Speaking shortly afterwards, President Xi defended his record, saying China « attaches great importance to the protection of human rights » but added: « We know that there is always room for improvement. »
Mr Cameron was challenged about Mr Weiwei’s suggestion in the same press conference. Asked by the BBC whether there was « any price that’s worth paying in order to further our business interests with China, » the Prime Minister replied: « I would completely reject the premise of your question that either you can have an exchange with China about the issue of steel or indeed about human rights; or you can have a strong relationship with China which is good for business, investment and growth.
« My argument and my contention of doing five years of this job is that you can have both, indeed you must have both. The stronger our economic, trading, business and other partnerships, the stronger our relationship the more able we are to have the necessary and frank discussions about other issues. And it’s those discussions and that relationship that leads to that grater understanding that makes that positive, » he added.