Li Keqiang Feted in UK While Human Rights Ignored

An editorial in The Independent contrasts the banquets that greeted Li Keqiang on his visit to London with the conditions endured by missing human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng during an earlier incarceration:

When the Chancellor, George Osborne, and Michael Bear, the Lord Mayor of the City of London, co-hosted visiting Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang at a cosy dinner at Mansion House on Monday, it is a fair bet that the extra-judicial torture of the man formerly on China’s official list of its 10 best lawyers was not among the topics discussed ….

The brilliant human rights lawyer, who had risen from an orphaned childhood in a cave dwelling to a starring role in Beijing’s courts, defending citizens against land theft, censorship and religious intolerance, was beaten day and night, temporarily blinded and threatened with death.

His head was bound in a wet towel until he felt he was suffocating. He was told his children had suffered nervous breakdowns. During one week of abuse he was handcuffed, his mouth and eyes bound with tape and he was pistol-whipped for hours on end. Other things done to him were so grotesque he refused to divulge them ….

The Coalition’s leaders accept all this without a murmur because we are competing frantically for China’s favours. The only talk out of Whitehall since Monday has been of signatures on new deals – a lowly £2.6bn compared with the $11.3bn (£7.3bn) signed in Germany – and “face time” with Mr Li (where we have supposedly outshone the Continent).

The hospitality, accordingly, continued. From the Financial Times:

At an elaborate banquet in London’s Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday night, Mr Li appeared relaxed, surprising some government and business leaders by engaging in an unscripted question-and-answer session with the audience.

“He’s engaging, very reasonable and has a good sense of humour,” said a senior British government official. “He’s obviously very well grounded in economic issues and has a very strong interest in the development of low carbon technologies.”

Mr Li’s visit was not without controversy. His appearance at the Royal Courts of Justice was accompanied by a demonstration by the Falun Gong spiritual movement and by protesters against human rights abuses in Tibet.

Among the latter group was blogger and activist Dechen Pemba, whose translation of a guide to “drinking tea” with police was recently featured on CDT. A Chinese group was also present to greet Li and, apparently, to taunt the protesters:

I noticed … that the Chinese party seemed to take great pleasure out of blasting Chinese pop songs about Tibet at us! Maybe I just hadn’t really noticed if they had done it before in the past but when the tune started to ring a bell I realised they were playing the official song that commemorated the opening of the railway to Tibet in 2006. The song was called “Tian Lu” and it was sung by Han Hong, I’ve seen Tian Lu translated in different ways, I guess it could be Sky Road or Heavenly Road.

I remember seeing the song performed at official functions in Beijing. My main abiding memory of it though is that one of the security officials involved in my deportation operation had the song as his ringtone!!

Video of the counter-protest can be found on Pemba’s blog; here, from YouTube, is an onstage performance of the song, together with its translated lyrics:

That is a magical Heaven’s Road
Bringing the motherland’s warmth to borderlands
Mountains are no longer high, journeys are no longer long
All ethnic groups unite as one

At dusk, I stand atop the tall mountain peak
I see the railway built to my hometown
A colossal dragon soaring through the mountains
Bringing prosperity to the snowy plateau

That is a magical Heaven Road
Bringing us to paradise on earth
Barley beer and butter tea will taste more sweet
Joyful songs echo in all directions

See also: Behind China’s Charm Offensive in Europe.

January 12, 2011 6:19 PM
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