Xi Jinping's UK state visit

Britain vows not to shy away from talking human rights with Xi after warning from Chinese ambassador not to interfere

British ambassador Barbara Woodward says UK wants frank exchanges with Chinese president during his visit, which is expected to see HK$300 billion in deals signed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 October, 2015, 11:54pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 3:12pm

Britain is “certainly not lecturing” President Xi Jinping on human rights, although it will not avoid discussing such issues during his state visit next week, the British ambassador to China Barbara Woodward said on Friday. 

Woodward’s remarks followed comments from her counterpart, ambassador Liu Xiaoming, a day ago that Xi would feel offended if he were dictated to about China’s human rights record.

Britain did not plan “public lectures”, Woodward told a press conference in Beijing prior to Xi’s five-day visit, which begins on Monday.  

“But on all subjects, we do want to make sure that we and the president of China and his officials can have open and frank exchanges on areas we agree, and on areas we perhaps don’t agree,” she said.

Liu said China did not shy away from discussing human rights but said they could not be used as a vehicle by others to interfere in Chinese affairs, Reuters reported.

British media reported the opposition leader, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, has promised to raise human rights issues during their meeting. Britain is trying to secure a package of massive deals during Xi’s visit, such as China’s £25 billion (HK$299.82 billion) investment in the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant.

About 150 political and business announcements are due to be showcased on the visit. Other eye-drawing deals will include the launch of China’s first renminbi-denominated government bond in London.

“We are looking forward to a golden visit in a golden year that launches a golden decade,” Woodward said.

Across London 103 cannon salutes will be fired. Music by brass bands and the best of Britain’s historical tradition would be on display, said Woodward.

Nobel-winning scientists and movie stars were also looking forward to Xi’s visit, as the hosts wanted to show him the full range of contemporary British life, the ambassador said.

Xi, a well-known soccer enthusiast, is scheduled to visit Manchester City Football Club, the former home of Sun Jihai, one of the few Chinese soccer stars to make it big overseas.

The queen will host a state banquet at the Buckingham Palace on October 20.