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China Explains Decision to Cancel Human Rights Dialogue with Britain

  • Shannon Van Sant

FILE - China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, Oct. 22, 2013.

FILE - China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, Oct. 22, 2013.

China is explaining its decision this week to cancel a human rights dialogue with Britain, citing objections to a recent British report about the human rights situation in China.

The talks scheduled for Wednesday between China and Great Britain were expected to be a high-profile exchange about a sensitive topic for Beijing.

British Prime Minister David Cameron had highlighted the talks as one of the most important achievements of his visit to China last December.

But on Monday, British officials said that Beijing had abruptly cancelled the meeting.

In a news conference at the Beijing Foreign Ministry Tuesday, spokeswoman Hua Chunying blamed Britain’s annual human rights report, which was released last week and listed China as a country of concern.

She said Britain’s report made irresponsible remarks and slandered China. She said this behavior by Britain harms dialogue between the two countries. She urged Britain to stop interfering with China’s internal affairs.

The resumption of British-Chinese dialogue and David Cameron’s December trip to Beijing followed a diplomatic freeze because of his meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2012.

In Britain’s recent human rights report it cited an increase in curbs of freedom of expression, association and assembly in China and the forcible suppression of ethnic unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Nicholas Bequelin, a senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, says China’s cancellation of talks may be due to Britain’s role in a call for silence to commemorate activist Cao Shunli at a recent U.N. Human Rights Concil meeting. The rights activist died while in custody of Chinese authorities on March 14.

“It is trying to intimidate and punish the UK for its role in supporting NGOs to observe a minute of silence at the human rights council over the death of this activist,” said Bequelin.

Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement they are “disappointed that the Chinese government last week unilaterally postponed the Dialogue, which was due to take place on the 16th of April.”

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