• Fri
  • Oct 24, 2014
  • Updated: 8:11pm

British award for Chen Guangcheng set to worsen UK-China relations

Lawmakers honour exiled blind activist as David Cameron’s government is accused of ‘caving in’ to Beijing’s pressure over economic interests

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 5:47am

Britain's relationship with Beijing was set to chill further last night when the British Parliament gave a human rights award to blind activist Chen Guangcheng.

Chen - who escaped extra-legal house arrest in Shandong last year before seeking refuge at the US embassy in Beijing and finally making it to New York - was handed the Westminster Award for his contribution to "human rights, human life and human dignity".

Today, Chen plans to deliver to Downing Street a list of 44 senior Chinese officials he accuses of human rights abuses against him, his family and fellow activists, or who forced women to have abortions under the one-child policy.

"I will call on British Prime Minister David Cameron to slap these officials with a UK travel ban," he said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.

He added: "David Cameron has to remember the words of [US president Franklin Roosevelt] - that he has nothing to fear but fear itself. He should not be afraid of Beijing and any threats against trade."

Those he alleges are guilty of human rights abuse, and who are on the list he intends to hand to Cameron include former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang , who oversaw China's security forces and law enforcement authorities, Executive Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli , and National People's Congress vice-chairman Li Jianguo , who was formerly the Communist Party chief in Shandong.

The award was presented by MPs and peers from the governing Conservative Party to the self-taught lawyer.

It comes amid diplomatic tensions between London and Beijing since Cameron met the Dalai Lama 12 months ago.

Cameron was forced to abandon a trip to Beijing last month because he was refused top-level meetings with senior officials.

Diplomatic snubs are regularly used by China to protest against countries whose leaders meet the Tibetan spiritual leader.

The British government is worried about the possible impact on Sino-British trade, which it is hoping to boost to help end the country's economic slump.

Cameron and his senior ministers - including foreign secretary William Hague - were last night accused of capitulating to China by refusing to meet Chen.

Chris Whitehouse of the Right To Life Charitable Trust said: "So far all the government ministers invited to meet with Mr Chen have said they are too busy. This points to them caving in and sends out an appalling message to the brutal regime of Chinese government."

Chen said Cameron should refuse to be cowed by a perceived economic threat and instead "represent the values and concerns of the people who voted for him. He should stop the fruitless human rights dialogue with Beijing and keep to the democratic and traditional British values which the world admires."

Chen is also due to meet members of Britain's opposition Labour Party.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Hi, the poor speller and willfully ignorant (aka. johnrai7),
IN FACT I do know how people live now in China and how people lived before in China, and the improvement people have enjoyed in the last 3 decades, they have their government to thank for, it is not perfect but by and large it is trying to do the right things for the people, and successfully.
Some 'western democracies' can't even manage a country with a population less than 100 millions (yes, I am looking at you, David Cameron, and yes I am thinking about the London raid a couple of years ago). In a fast changing world where they are diminishing by the day, they have nothing to grasp onto but a bit of 'human right' high ground. Pathetic and desperate really!
Hope someone can do something to stop this poor guys family being brutalised. His crime: sticking up for for farmers who lost land to corrupt local officials and helping those forced to abort healthy babies. Come on President Xi, sort this out & lets move on to something more important ($$$$$$).
this is like you always find cops writing traffic tix but none to fight crime. giving out lame awards is cheap, effortless, lip service but to most british voters, that's an "achievement", anything against China is "achievement". compared to cutting taxes, increasing gov. spending, job creation... that's hard.
Not sure where you're living. In Hong Kong we have very little serious crime but an utterly chaotic traffic/parking situation thanks to lax enforcement.
I'll take a chaotic parking situation over high crime any day. I'm glad the HK police of their priorities straight.
Kind of ironic that China again feels compelled to interfere with other nation's internal politics. Time and time again China feels that it alone can comment and issue objections when other nations undertake domestic activities but when anyone comments on Chinese violations of human rights and the like, the Communists immediately tell other nations to mind their own business and not interfere with Chinese internal matters. Unbelievable.

Can you give me one instance where China has interfered with other nation’s internal politics? My take is that they are mostly reacting to a provocation. If China offered a similar award to Abu Qatada you really think Cameron or the British people will take this lying down? And lastly, how come you do not find it “unbelievable” that the west not only have the propensity to interfere but also invade & slaughter other country’s citizens - be they men, women & children?
Why anyone care what chinese gov think? Its time for Japan, India, Western nations, and ASEAN to do what rights base on their consciences by denouncing chinese aggression and illegal occupation of Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Manchuria.
Many Chinese so-called dissidents, seems to me, exploit Chinese people for their own advantages. Chinese dissidents need to promote themselves and western governments or media need said a tool to manipulate or to promote the Chinese Government and social instability. Thus, the conditions can or may lead to a perfect storm. Such as Brittan, Mr. David Cameron used award for Chen Guangcheng to get what Mr. Cameron wants or to retaliate for his last China visit cancellation.
Chinese dissident behavior is not conducive to the promotion of democracy in China, but pushed China into a chaotic society. China's current social system is still not perfect. but a size of China just can not be changed overnight.
Jennie PC Chiang/江佩珍 05/21/13
Or perhaps the dissidents disagree with the Communist Party's one size fits all (or else) policies and seek to speak to their fellow citizens against such policy. Perhaps one can not always be harmonious when the Party wants to silence dissent even where listening to such dissent might allow the Party to implement more inclusive policies. I find it sad that you do not believe Chinese people are capable of making their own decisions and must be told what to do by the Communist Party. I find Chinese people seem quite capable of making their own decisions.




SCMP.com Account