FIRST Minister Alex Salmond has said he raised the contentious issue of China’s human rights record in a “friendly” way during his diplomatic trip to the country.
Mr Salmond said he brought up the subject of China’s use of the death penalty and allegations about the treatment of political prisoners during talks with ministers and officials from the Beijing government as part of the Scottish Government’s week-long trade mission.
He insisted his approach was better than choosing to “jump up and down from a distance”.
Scottish Labour MSP Jenny Marra, a leading human rights campaigner at Holyrood, said that Mr Salmond should make the issue a “priority” and that promoting business opportunities in China should not override human rights abuses in the country.
Shabnum Mustapha, programme director at Amnesty International Scotland, which briefed Mr Salmond about China’s record on capital punishment and the regime’s treatment of political prisoners, said that she had “confidence” that the First Minister had made an impact on the issues during the visit.
Mr Salmond, speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, insisted that he had regularly raised the issue of human rights through the ideas of Scottish 18th-century economist Adam Smith, as he suggested that his approach over the issue was “improving the situation”.
He said: “Isn’t it more sensible to proceed in the way that I have been doing: not claiming that Scotland has the extraordinary political clout to instruct the Chinese how to conduct their affairs but taking the words of the Chinese leadership and their interest in the words of the Scottish Enlightenment, and raising that in a way that is both friendly but also has the objective of actually improving the situation, as opposed to jumping up and down from a distance and having no effect whatsoever?”
The First Minister also used a keynote speech to the party school of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Beijing to talk about the need to protect developing countries from climate change caused by heavily industrialised nations.
Mr Salmond, who presented the school with a bronze of a sculpture of Adam Smith, said: “Climate justice is what is required – linking human rights and development, putting people at the heart of our economic system, and allowing all to share the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution, and to do so in an equitable and fair way.”
The First Minister added: “People in developing countries must have access to opportunities to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and not be told to ‘do as I say, not as I did’ by the rich and powerful developed countries.”
HUMAN rights group Amnesty International has documented widespread violations in China, with an estimated 500,000 people in detention without charge or trial and millions unable to access the legal system.
China is the world’s leading executioner, imposing death sentences for what are sometimes non-violent crimes.
The death sentence is used after what Amnesty claims have been unfair trials. Two years ago, Briton Akmal Shaikh was killed by lethal injection after being convicted of drug smuggling. Other abuses highlighted include the repression of Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians.