Britain chided for allowing China to dictate its policy on World Human Rights Day

The British embassy in Beijing. (Photo courtesy:
The British embassy in Beijing. (Photo courtesy:

(, Dec15, 2015) – The British Embassy in Beijing has been criticized for claiming the Chinese government has been making efforts to improve its human rights record only a day after the UN Committee against Torture in Geneva condemned it for its abysmal record on the treatment of detainees in an unusually long and detailed 16-page report. In a statement commemorating the World Human Rights Day on Dec 10, the embassy praised China for what it said were its attempts to better protect the civil and political rights of its citizens.

The British pronouncement stood in stark contrast to criticism that the embassies of US, Germany and Canada levelled at Beijing this week over its human rights record, reported The Guardian Dec 11. For example it noted that Canada’s ambassador in Beijing, Guy Saint-Jacques, had said he had “witnessed a worrisome increase in the number of Chinese citizens jailed merely for peacefully expressing their views, as well as attempts to silence critics outside of China”.

Also, the US ambassador to Beijing, Max Baucus, has accused Beijing of treating peaceful activists and human rights lawyers as “enemies” and questioned its commitment to its claimed respect for rule of law in its statement for the occasion. “We remain concerned over the crackdown on human rights lawyers and others who seek peacefully to contribute their views to the public discourse on the future of China. In some cases, these Chinese citizens have been detained in secret locations without access to their families or their lawyers. This is deeply troubling and calls into question China’s commitment to the rule of law.”

On the hand, the British embassy statement claimed: “China has taken strides to better protect civil and political rights by abolishing re-education through labour [camps]. Current reforms aim to produce a more transparent and professional justice system.” But critics have long pointed out that the abolishing of re-education through labour camps had made no difference at all; that the same facilities are continuing to operate in different names while the illegal “black jail” detention centres continue to flourish with impunity.

Hu Jia, one of the most outspoken human rights activists still living in mainland China, has said he was stunned by the embassy’s “unacceptable” statement, adding it felt like a Global Times report.

Sophie Richardson, the China director for Human Rights Watch.
Sophie Richardson, the China director for Human Rights Watch.

Sophie Richardson, the China director for Human Rights Watch, has also criticized the UK for apparently allowing China to dictate its human rights policy. “Apparently the UK has achieved both austerity and clarity on its human rights policy towards China by simply allowing the latter to pen the UK’s human rights day statements.”


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