Over the last month there has been a greater focus on Britain’s relationship with China. This is mainly due to China’s substantial investment in this country and the closer bonds that now exist between the two countries. However the greater prominence China has received in the media has also led to questions about human rights abuses and how much we know about the country that we are dealing with.
China is still a one party state and the government censors and controls the information that is given to citizens. The government continues to crack down hard on any political opponents and there is no sign of a transition to a truly democratic state anytime soon. Their policies towards Tibet are also highly controversial and are very repressive.
It is easy to see why China is considered an attractive ally though for this government and for Britain as a whole. They are the second largest economy in the world, soon to be the first and can bring with them significant investment. This is important to any country and must not be downplayed. Despite these numerous benefits, China still must not be given a free hand on human rights and Britain must not allow China’s considerable economic force to stop valid concerns being raised.
Human rights are universal. We have made great progress across the world in this regard but we still have a long way to go. Regardless of where you are born and what you believe you should be treated equally and with dignity. This is still not the case everywhere in the world. There are many who still face persecution because of what they believe and what they stand for or even where they were born. If we truly care about our fellow human then it can never be acceptable to ignore these abuses regardless of who commits them.
The government has insisted that human rights discussions are very much on the table and that a closer relationship with China gives them more scope to discuss these issues. It is imperative that this is not simply a soundbite but becomes reality. Too many people in China still suffer from great human right tragedies and it will always be our duty to make sure their voices are heard. Quite simply this is something we cannot run from.