Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sought to brush aside criticism of his country’s human-rights record during a visit to London by arguing that he was showing respect for the issue by calling on women journalists to ask questions.
At a joint news conference with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, Li appeared impressed when the first question from the British side was asked, in Mandarin, by the BBC’s China Editor, Carrie Gracie.
“It is prescribed in China’s constitution that human rights must be respected and protected,” Li replied, speaking through a translator, before turning to the side of the room where Chinese reporters were. “To show respect for women, and also to show respect for human rights, I would also like to give this opportunity to raise questions to a female journalist.” He later gave a second female Chinese reporter the chance to put a question.
U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told reporters yesterday that Britain “can’t ignore the large-scale and systematic human-rights abuses that still continue in China to this day.” Li said in reply today that there were “diverse dimensions to the issue of human rights.”
According to Human Rights Watch, China leads the world in executions and places “arbitrary curbs on expression, association, assembly and religion.” When it comes to women’s rights, the country’s restrictions on having children include forced abortions.
China’s ambassador to the U.K., Liu Xiaoming, told reporters last week that while “the British have some complaints about human rights in China, we also have some complaints about human rights here.” He declined to elaborate.
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