So is this "appeasement" or not?
Hu Jintao is here in London and once again the British government is falling head over heels to accommodate a tyrant. China has been the world leader in the number of executions carried out over the last few years, and its undemocratic rule crushes any dissent.
On Newsnight yesterday I had the pleasure to watch two opposing points of view on this visit. Mike Gapes MP, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Commitee was in favour of the visit, despite the, ahem, baggage. At one point he adequately summed up what the Blair government was saying, and simultaeneously what it should have been thinking, when he spluttered that it was important to have good "democrati- err, diplomatic relations". "Oh shit" he must have been thinking, "I'm a one-man Chinese whisper".
One the other side of the fence (I suppose Great Wall is better, but lets stick with dissing the government) was Liu Hongbin, who participated in the Tianammen Square demonstration, and still suffers under the Chinese government pressure aimed at him and his family. He graciously conceeded that Hu Jintao was a "human being", which is apparently more than Hu Jintao can bring himself to do when he sizez up his Falun Gong, Tibetan and Uighur opponents. But he also strongly criticised the UK for snuggling up to the world's fastest growing economy. Most importantly, he stated that Labour's "ethical foreign poicy was a joke". These are the people we want on our side, not some cruel tyranny which, no matter how rapidly it develops economically, is still in its democratic infancy. Blair and his cabinet should be pressing the Chinese government to develop peacefully in the direction of democracy, and more importantly, to form a strong human rights framework that stamps out torture, the death penalty and the confetti-burst of prison sentences dished out for the most insignificant trangressions. While in the past they have claimed to be doing this, the public are actually in the dark over what is going on here.
"Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere." - George W. Bush (March 24, 2004)