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November 10th, 2010
03:57 PM ET

Ai Weiwei on UK PM's human rights speech: "It's a pity"

Artist Ai Weiwei is not afraid to destroy potent symbols of Chinese power.

So when the British Prime Minister swept into Beijing - a first visit by a Western leader since jailed activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize - Ai Weiwei made his move. 

He called on David Cameron to take a firm stance on human rights... just days after he was put under temporary house arrest to stop him from attending a Shanghai gathering.

Mr. Cameron was in China to lead a massive trade mission, but in the end he did address political freedom and human rights.

Speaking to students at Peking University, the British Prime Minister said: "There is no secret that we disagree on some issues, especially around human rights. We don’t raise these issues to make to us look good, or to flaunt publicly that we have done so. We raise them because the British people expect us to, and because we have sincere and deeply held concerns."

Was it enough?

No, says Ai Weiwei. "It’s far from enough. I think it’s very soft. He is so shy from addressing the basic concept. It’s a pity."

David Cameron has left China with a slew of big export deals for his home country, including a $1.4 billion contract for Rolls-Royce. But those deals come at a very human cost, according to Ai Weiwei.

"I think every deal made in China is based on the sacrifice of a lot of people’s rights. All those profits come from a nation that sacrifices the freedom of speech and the right of a free press."

November 10th, 2010
03:16 AM ET