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Brits Accused of Putting Trade Above Rights in China

  • Luis Ramirez

Chinese President Xi Jinping has wrapped up a four-day visit to Britain in which he signed billions of dollars' worth of deals, but critics say Britain's government mostly ignored China's poor human rights record in the interest of boosting trade.

Xi said his visit marked the start of a new era in China’s relations with the West.

''With the rapid flow of goods and the labor force in today's world, whether you are close neighbors or not, whether you are a big country or a small one, whether you're a developed country or less developed, we share the same interests and destinies," he said. "Cold war mentalities and confrontations are no longer suited to today's needs.''

Confrontation was something British leaders sought to avoid as they signed more than $40 billion worth of deals, including substantial Chinese investment in Britain’s first nuclear plant in decades.

On Xi’s last night here, he and Prime Minister David Cameron went to a pub and toasted their new partnership.

But on the streets of London’s financial district and elsewhere, there were protests, as well as concern that Britain’s priorities were shifting away from human rights.

"I think the British prime minister has a record on putting human rights aside, which is a very bad strategy," said Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist and dissident. "Also it's very bad in his tactics, because this really certainly doesn't represent British people."

British leaders sought to steer away from human rights discussions, focusing more on the jobs that new deals with the Chinese will bring.

The Chinese president came to Britain to talk business, not human rights. After a four-day charm offensive, he left with his mission accomplished.

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