Blair censored by China over Human Rights during Premier Wen's visit to London
[LONDON] Despite mounting criticism of China's human rights record, Tony Blair failed again to address the concerns of human rights groups, parliamentary committees and inter-governmental organisations during his meeting with China's Premier, Wen Jiabao. In a transcript of the press conference following the discussions, Tony Blair made a perfunctory reference to human rights, claiming this had been discussed in a "frank and open way", and yet, in a manner eerily reminiscent of China, no details of the substance of the conversation were given. His refusal yesterday to make any public statement of concern over China's dire human rights record and Tibet is particularly negligent, coming at a time when repression is on the increase in China.
"Blair has followed the sad example of Google (1) and allowed himself to be censored by China. He positively drooled over the expansion of trade with China in his press conference with Premier Wen but cravenly refused to discuss rights issues at all, fearful of China's reaction," said Matt Whitticase of Free Tibet Campaign. "This is yet another reminder of how single-minded pursuit of profit in China does not lead to inexorable political change in China, but rather to the censoring of all those attempting to do business there. Blair has made a Faustian Pact, seizing economic opportunity in China whilst refusing to acknowledge the political implications for our democratic norms and freedoms that come through increasing engagement with China."
After his annual meeting with Premier Wen last year, Blair talked of an "unstoppable momentum" towards political reform in China. Such a misleading statement conceals a hardening trend in Chinese policy towards fundamental rights. In March of this year the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture reported that torture remained "widespread" in China; China has re-launched its "patriotic re-education programme" in Tibetan monasteries and nunneries, aimed at breaking the allegiance of monks and nuns to the Dalai Lama, as well as strictly controlling religious activity in Tibet; and on the eve of Wen's visit to London, Xinhua announced the toughening up of already extremely harsh laws forbidding any news deemed to be contrary to "state security", further restricting domestic and foreign media's ability to report news in China (2). Such developments led to the recommendation in a recent House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Report (13 Aug 2006) that the Government "raise human rights at the highest level with Chinese counterparts" and "not flinch from making public statements". A separate report, adopted overwhelmingly by the European Parliament on the eve of last week's EU-China Summit, highlighted the use of "torture, arbitrary detention and patriotic education programmes in Tibet to silence dissenting voices".
Contact: 020 7324 4605 , Matt Whitticase (07904 063 746) Ya'el Weisz-Rind (07733 393 773)
Notes to editor:
Earlier this year Google caved into pressure from the Chinese Government, agreeing to censor its searches of politically sensitive information on its site in China, Google.cn.
Last Sunday China announced through Xinhua, the official state media outlet, tough new restrictions on the distribution of foreign news inside China. Western companies like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco have all facilitated such restrictions.