China Says Li Visit Is Chance for U.K. to Improve Ties

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to the U.K. next week is a chance for Britain to improve diplomatic relations after a three-year freeze caused by arguments over human rights and Tibet, China’s ambassador in London said.

“Before I came here, we used to say when we talk about Europe: Britain, France and Germany,” Liu Xiaoming told reporters in London today. “But unfortunately many opportunities were missed in the past year or so -- and we all know the reason behind it -- so people now start talking about Germany, France and Britain.” He said he wants to “set this order to its original setting.”

In the course of an hour-long briefing, Liu, who’s been the ambassador since 2009, set out a series of areas in which China would like Britain to do more, including building a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport and easing visa restrictions, which he said threaten Chinese investment.

Liu said that at least $30 billion of deals in industries including energy and finance will be signed during the three-day visit, which starts June 16. Li will be joined by more than 200 Chinese business leaders, including the chairmen of most of the country’s biggest banks.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron visited China in December for the first time in three years, and was greeted with an editorial in the state-run Global Times newspaper stating that Britain “is just an old European country apt for travel and study.” In 2012, he was told he had “seriously damaged” relations by meeting the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Human Rights

Liu attacked the U.K government for “so-called human-rights reports” that have criticized China. “We think these reports are biased against China,” he said. “The British have some complaints about human rights in China. We also have some complaints about human rights here.” He declined to elaborate.

The ambassador also criticized visa rules, which Cameron’s government has tightened as it tries to cut immigration. While Chinese travelers can visit most European Union countries on a single visa, they need a separate one to enter the U.K.

“I receive complaints from businesses based here,” Liu said. “They have difficulties to rotate their senior executives because of visa restrictions. So that made their operations more difficult than they are in other European countries. Visa issues really erode British strength in terms of attracting more foreign businesses.”

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