Cameron treads lightly in China

By Ian Dunt

David Cameron went out of his way not to offend his Chinese hosts today, promising not to “hector” the country on its human rights record.

The prime minister was desperate to prevent human rights issues overshadow what is predominantly a trade visit, with a huge phalanx of business leaders and government minister accompanying him to Beijing.

Speaking to journalists, he said: “Of course we have a really high level dialogue with China on all sorts of issues ranging from the economy and trade and business and of course human rights.

“That is how it should be. Of course we shouldn’t be lecturing and hectoring but it is right we have a dialogue on these things.”

Mr Cameron is under additional pressure following China’s refusal to allow to human rights activists to fly to London yesterday, including jailed Nobel peace prize winner Lui Xiaobo’s lawyer.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Mr Cameron said: “Our relationship should be strong enough to address not only those issues on which we agree, but those on which we take a different view.

“We should do so with respect and mutual understanding, acknowledging our different histories. This visit offers an opportunity to discuss some of the areas where we have differences and how we might narrow them, for example through our continuing human-rights dialogue.”

The prime minister also made a passing mention of events in North Korea and Burma, where the recent elections – condemned by the international community as laughable – prompted some 20,000 Burmese villagers to flee to Thailand to escape violence.

“We hope we can work closely together to prevent conflagration in North Korea and to improve the situation for the Burmese people,” Mr Cameron said.

Michael Gove, George Osborne and Chris Huhne stood earlier as Mr Cameron inspected a military guard of honour.