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Asia

Cameron in China with largest-ever delegation

British Prime Minister David Cameron is on a major trade mission to China. While there he has been urged to raise human rights with Beijing.

David Cameron and Wen Jiabao at a signing ceremony in Beijing

David Cameron and Wen Jiabao at a signing ceremony in Beijing

Prime Minister David Cameron, who is being accompanied by four cabinet ministers and about 50 business leaders, met Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. As Wen noted, Cameron had brought "the largest delegation ever" seen to accompany a British prime minister.

Cameron told Wen at the start of their meeting that his new government "does highly value the relationship between Britain and China". He described bilateral ties as "very strong".

Cameron and Wen attend a meeting with British industrial and commercial business delegates at the Great Hall of the People

Cameron and Wen attend a meeting with British industrial and commercial business delegates at the Great Hall of the People

The two leaders signed contracts worth 2.7 billion dollars. Before his visit Cameron said that he was aiming to double bilateral trade with China to more than 100 billion dollars a year by 2015.

In the first eight months of this year, British exports to China rose by 44 percent. Key sectors include pharmaceuticals, financial services, luxury goods, telecommunications and aviation.

"Now the British are coming"

Meanwhile, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, whose exhibition of ceramic replicas of sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern Art Gallery in London has attracted a great deal of attention, has urged Cameron to raise human rights during his talks in Beijing.

Ai Weiwei, who was put into house arrest in his home in Beijing last weekend, was released on Monday and wrote an article for the British newspaper The Guardian.

In his article he said Cameron "should understand that China is a nation that still has very limited freedom of speech and access to information". He warned that western leaders "cannot simply give up fundamental beliefs in human rights for a short-term gain", because "this kind of thinking will cause tragedy in the future".

The art installation 'Sunflower Seeds' by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in London

The art installation 'Sunflower Seeds' by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in London

Ai Weiwei criticized Obama who visited China last year for being "probably the only President of the United States never to mention the words 'human rights' ". He also pointed out that during the visit of the Chinese president Hu Jintao to France last week, the French leader also kept silent on this precarious topic.

"Now the British are coming", wrote Ai Weiwei. "Cameron should ask the Chinese government not to make people 'disappear' or to jail them mere because they have different opinions.

Cameron will stay in Beijing for two days before heading to South Korea for the G20 summit.

Author: Miao Tian (AFP, AP, DPA)

Editor: Grahame Lucas

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