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."

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Robert


    Of course Cameron trod lightly on human rights – find a western leader that has taken a strong line – trade first and foremost; with China as either the saviour or he slayer of the west.

    It is only a week ago that $20bn in trade deals signed were signed between President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and president Hu.

    All Cameron and his large retinue too away was a £750m engine and service contract agreement with Rolls-Royce for just 16 engines (China Southern ordered over 100 Airbus – the demand is 200 engines and spares), a deal to protect the name “scotch” for Scottish whisky which is hoped to raise sales by £80m and a deal to allow the export of live breeding pigs.

    So the deals were sweet and sour at best.....

    And poppy-gate was silly – saved Cameron from the wrath of the Murdoch media – the same Murdoch that has been kowtowing to China for decades....

    Meanwhile Chinese students will be having second thoughts about going to Uni in the UK given this evening's riots !

    Ai WeiWie is correct – but he is also smart enough to have not expected anything else.

    November 10, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Reply
  2. mjsilv

    About British Prime Minister David Cameron's trip to China i think that
    Human Rights is not a true problem in China. Ai Weiwei is wrong.
    Kristie Lu Stout, News Stream give viewers a better understanding of the principal contents in this report
    So , in this report i send my best congratulations to Kristie Lu Stout .
    and the best regards to President of China and the goal of TRADE of Cameron, a good Conservatore of "symbols", like HU.
    "Kristie Lu Stout, News Stream give viewers a better understanding" is true,...and about arts i say much more : is true colors of life that she is giving viewers. No exit pity anywhere.
    ...http://mjsilv.wordpress.com.... is waiting with "pity's" for comments,...

    December 27, 2010 at 3:42 am | Reply
  3. moedbet

    As a result of you – this is exceptionally helpful !

    May 22, 2011 at 4:31 am | Reply

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