PM urged to pressure China over abuses
• Pressure mounts on Blair to confront Chinese government over human rights
• Former Blairite MP Stephen Twigg leads voices of concern during state visit
• China has been accused of executing 10,000 people a year
"We do not live in the age of Westphalia any more. The Chinese government cannot defend its support for tyrannical regimes on the grounds that the abuse of human rights is an internal matter." - STEPHEN TWIGG
Story in full TONY Blair came under renewed pressure last night to press China over its appalling human rights record on the first day of the president Hu Jintao's state visit.
The Chinese leader was greeted with pomp and protests yesterday, as he made his way to Buckingham Palace in a carriage for a formal greeting from the Queen.
Hundreds of Free Tibet campaigners and members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement jockeyed for position on central London streets with Mr Hu's supporters.
China has been condemned by human rights campaigners for executing up to 10,000 people every year and for the unaccounted-for disappearances of supporters of the Dalai Lama.
But a more surprising voice of dissent came from Stephen Twigg, a former Blairite minister who now runs the Foreign Policy Centre.
The think-tank argued that human rights should be integral and "not an afterthought" to greater ties with China.
Mr Twigg, who lost his seat at the general election, highlighted China's relationship with repressive regimes such as Sudan, Iran and Zimbabwe as a "worrying example of a government putting the national interest of obtaining oil ahead of the protection of human rights and the non-proliferation of WMD".
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has been blamed for blocking the United Nations from intervening in the genocide in Darfur, out of fear that this would jeopardise its oil supply and slow its flourishing economy.
China also abstained from a joint EU-US resolution which sought to refer Iran's nuclear case to the UN Security Council. In a diplomatic faux pas, Wu Bangguo, China's deputy leader, agreed to meet the Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, in Zimbabwe in July.
Mr Twigg said China's continued support for these countries showed that it was "on very weak ground in its support for such regimes". "We do not live in the age of Westphalia any more. The Chinese government cannot defend its support for tyrannical regimes on the grounds that the abuse of human rights is an internal matter."
Mr Twigg called for the EU to encourage China to use its "its diplomatic and economic leverage to bring about change amongst its allies".
Dalha Tsering, of the Tibetan community in Britain, also urged Mr Blair to raise the issue of human rights with the Chinese president, saying: "Hu still has the blood of my Tibetan countrymen on his hands, and yet world politicians are unwilling to seek justice on our behalf."
While both Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and Mr Blair's official spokesman have said they would raise human rights with Mr Hu, the details of the conversations are likely to remain private.
Downing Street yesterday said the leaders would discuss "the economy, climate change and trade", as well as human rights. Mr Blair's official spokesman added, however, that in the government's experience, this issue was better dealt with privately rather than through "public grandstanding".
Asked whether human rights would be a precursor to deeper trade links, the spokesman said: "Is it more likely that human rights will be respected in an economy that's growing, or an economy that is not growing?"
But the assertion that human rights will follow on from economic prosperity will be challenged by campaigners.
Mr Hu will depart for Germany, Spain and South Korea later this week. When his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, visited Britain six years ago, police were accused of being heavy-handed with protesters, but yesterday's demonstrations were largely low-key.
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