George Osborne has been praised by Chinese state media for focussing on business rather than human rights. The Global Times hailed the Chancellor as “the first Western official in recent years who focused on business potential rather than raising a magnifying glass to the ‘human rights issue'”.
Amnesty International’s latest report into China describes wide-ranging use of arbirtrary detention of activists, with “torture and other ill-treatment” remaining endemic. In March of 2014, four lawyers investigating conditions in a “Legal Education Centre” – in practice, according to Amnesty, the centres operate as detention centres – were themselves detained and tortured. “One of them, Tang Jitian, said that he was strapped to an iron chair, slapped in the face, kicked, and hit so hard over the head with a plastic bottle filled with water that he passed out,” the report reveals.
Osborne’s warm reception in the Chinese press came as he became the first British minister to visit the Xinjiang province. Campaigners had called for the Chancellor to condemn the heavy-handed treatment of the province’s Muslim Uighur minority.
Under David Cameron, Britain has quietly sidelined attempts to encourage greater freedom within China, a policy direction that was condemned by the Dalai Lama this week in an interview with the Spectator. “Money, money, money. That’s what this is about. Where is morality?” the Dalai Lama said when asked what he would say to the Prime Minister, who has ruled out another meeting with the Tibetan monk in order to avoid angering the Chinese government.