David Cameron’s first day of his Asian trip was marred a touch by the Chinese government’s decision to bar Bloomberg News journalist Robert Hutton from a press conference with Cameron and Chinese president Xi Jinping.
David Cameron on human rights issues
While David Cameron maintains that he has no issues with bringing up China’s deplorable human rights record, he chose not to do so at today’s press conference.
Mr. Hutton was barred, not unlike his employer, following revelations that Bloomberg was investigating the finances of president Xi Jinping.
In a bit of a cop out, David Cameron had these choice words for reporters following the press conference.
“We spoke about all those issues as I always do. Whenever I come to China, I always raise human rights issues and I continue to do that on this visit.”
While that may or may not be the case, these are issues that China never responds well to in a public forum.
British policy towards Tibet
“The British policy towards Tibet is unchanged. I have met the Dalai Lama as Leader of the Opposition, I have met him as Prime Minister, I don’t have plans to meet him again. But my diary (schedule) is for me to decide.”
Unfortunately, these obviously canned responses brought additional questions from the British press to which Cameron added more simple sound bites.
“I think I’m totally consistent. I come to China and I don’t believe there’s a choice between raising growth and investment issues and raising human rights issues. I raise them both.
“That’s what a policy of engagement is all about. There are some huge opportunities here in China for British jobs, British growth and British investment.
“I want to make the most of them and that’s right for our country to compete and succeed in the global race.
“But I also raised concerns about human rights and we have agreed on this visit to restart the China/Britain human rights dialogue.
“We will start again next year, so that is an important achievement.”
When China and its enormous economy have something to offer, it’s always next year, isn’t it?
Mr. Hutton’s exclusion
It’s important to note that Mr. Hutton’s exclusion didn’t come as a shock to the British delegation. It appears that it was well expected as early as Sunday given the response from a #10 (Downing Street) spokesperson.
“As soon as this issue [the threat of a ban] became apparent on Sunday, we raised our concerns at senior levels and made clear it would be completely inappropriate to exclude journalists from the press statements.
“When we heard what had happened today we expressed our deep concern to senior Chinese officials about journalists being blocked.”
End of the day, it’s difficult to imagine Mr. Hutton reporting from inside China. As the trip moves to other parts of Asia, it may well pan out that Mr. Hutton has plenty to say.