Nicola Sturgeon to take human rights message to China

SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: PA
SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: PA
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Nicola Sturgeon has spoken of the importance of respecting human rights ahead of a trade mission to China at the end of this week.

The First Minister will promote Scottish business with one of the world’s largest economies when she travels to China and Hong Kong.

I also believe that economic growth and equality are two sides of the same coin. That is why I will be speaking about women’s rights and the benefits equality can bring to the economy

Nicola Sturgeon

She will be following in the footsteps of her predecessor Alex Salmond, who worked to establish business links between Scotland and China when he was First Minister.

Before her visit, Ms Sturgeon said she would be promoting “Scottish innovation”, which was based on achieving a fair society as a way of making Scotland more competitive.

Announcing the trip, Ms Sturgeon said: “Scotland’s innovation isn’t just about technology, we are also promoting a very distinctive approach to creating a more competitive economy –one that is based on a fair society.

“One of the guiding principles of our engagement with China is respect for human rights and the rule of law. I also believe that economic growth and equality are two sides of the same coin. That is why I will be speaking about women’s rights and the benefits equality can bring to the economy – both here in Scotland and for China.”

Before her departure, Ms Sturgeon met with Dr Chen, CEO of Chinese company Omega Travel, just one of the many businesses who are benefiting from the Chinese tourism market – worth £112 million to the Scottish economy in 2012-2014.

The meeting is the first in a series of high-profile business engagements the First Minister will undertake to promote Scottish business in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, including hosting an “innovation showcase” for Scottish companies to meet Chinese investors, as well as undertaking a series of cultural and educational engagements.

The First Minister will also talk about women’s rights in an address to 100 senior women in government, academia and business.

The government’s attitude towards human rights abuses in China has been questioned in the past. Mr Salmond was criticised for failing to meet the Dalai Lama when he visited Scotland a few years ago. At the time of the visit, Mr Salmond’s critics suggested that the First Minister dodged the Dalai Lama in order to preserve his good relations with China, a country with which he has forged trade links.

Critics of Mr Salmond said he should have met the Dalai Lama, who is seen by human rights activists as a symbol of the plight of the Tibetans who have been under Chinese occupation for more than 50 years.

Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott said: “SNP MPs have talked a great deal about protecting the Human Rights Act at home in recent weeks. But our commitment to protecting freedoms should not stop at the UK border. In 2012, Alex Salmond faced a storm of criticism for kowtowing to the Chinese.”