China provided instructions to the British government ahead of President Xi Jinping's state visit to London Oct. 20-23, advising leaders to refrain from raising the issue of human rights.
China's ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, pointed out that good relations hang in the balance, and that Xi's visit is expected to "herald a golden era for the relationship," The Guardian reported.
"We don't shy away from talking about human rights. What we are against is to use human rights to interfere with other countries' internal affairs and to try to impose your own system on to others," Liu said at a press conference Thursday. The ambassador said Xi would feel offended if human rights were raised as a topic of discussion.
Liu's remarks come after three years of efforts at Downing Street to improve relations with Beijing. In 2012, relations hit a new low when Prime Minister David Cameron met with the Dalai Lama in London, but since then has "come up from behind," by placing a priority on "political mutual trust," according to the Chinese ambassador.
British contractors are keen to win key deals in China, especially in the infrastructure, energy and banking sectors. Investors in London are leaning toward greater involvement in China's construction as Asia's largest economy expands major cities. Urban populations in China have skyrocketed, quadrupling in the last 35 years to more than 700 million. Another 240 million are expected to move to cities in the next 35 years.
Britain's economic interests have become a priority in its dealings with China, but British critics have refused to back down on political issues that highlight China's authoritarian rule.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labor leader, has vowed to raise human rights as an issue, possibly at a state banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II, and the Prince of Wales, a friend of the Dalai Lama, reportedly is boycotting the banquet. South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Amnesty International UK and Free Tibet groups are expected to hold protests in London during Xi's visit.