Chinese state media praises 'pragmatic' Theresa May for not mentioning their atrocious human rights while visiting them

Dan Kitwood/GettyUK Prime Minister Theresa May performs a Chinese New Year ritual in Beijing, China, in January 2018.
  • Human rights activists called on Theresa May to address China’s poor human rights record during her trade trip to the country this week.
  • The British Prime Minister did not.
  • Chinese state media applauded May for sidestepping the topic.

China has praised UK Prime Minister Theresa May for sidestepping the thorny topic of human rights during her three-day trade trip to the country.

In a Thursday night editorial, Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times praised May’s attempt to seek “pragmatic collaboration” with China, noting that she ignored calls for her to address China’s human rights record while in the country.

Activists have criticised China for imprisoning and abducting political dissidents, as well as censoring hostile opinions in the country.

The editorial praised May as she wrapped up her three-day trip to the Chinese cities of Wuhan, Beijing, and Shanghai, where she expects to sign £9 billion ($US12.8 billion) worth of trade deals.

The Global Times said:

“British Prime Minister Theresa May is visiting China, seeking to expand pragmatic collaboration with the country so as to pave the way for future trade and investment deals.

“However, some Western media outlets keep pestering May to criticise Beijing in an attempt to showcase that the UK has withstood pressure from China and the West has consolidated its commanding position over the country in politics. […]

“May will definitely not make any comment contrary to the goals of her China trip… For the prime minister, the losses outweigh the gains if she appeases the British media at the cost of the visit’s friendly atmosphere.”

May xi china visitDan Kitwood/Pool/GettyMay drinks tea with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

Activists called on the Prime Minister earlier this week to address China’s human rights record during her trip, where she held bilateral meetings with Xi and Li Keqiang, the country’s premier.

Joshua Wong, a Hong Kong student who led pro-democracy protests against China in 2013, asked May in an open letter to address Beijing’s “ever-tightening grip” over the former British colony.

The Global Times dismissed Wong’s letter, which was published in The Guardian, as “a long-term illusion of the radical Hong Kong opposition.”

A Downing Street statement said on Thursday that May and Xi “discussed Hong Kong,” but gave no further detail.

Human Rights Watch also called on May to “not remain silent when rights are being trampled underfoot by the Chinese government.”

It cited China’s censoring, surveilling, imprisoning, and abducting people unsavoury to the regime.

Britain’s response to China’s human rights record has so far been “weak and pusillanimous,” Human Rights Watch added.

The Global Times didn’t see it this way, saying: “This shows that the Sino-European relationship has, to a large degree, extricated itself from the impact of radical public opinion.”

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