China rights issue 'not off limits'
David Cameron has insisted human rights issues were not "off limits" with China after holding talks with Premier Wen Jiabao.
As the two leaders announced a package of trade deals worth £1.4 billion, the Prime Minister said he would always raise difficult questions about political freedom and the justice system alongside seeking closer economic ties.
Meanwhile, Mr Wen, who is in the country on a three-day visit, said Britain and Beijing had to treat each other as "equals" on human rights. He stressed that China was pursuing "political structural reform and improvement of democracy and the rule of law" as well as economic growth.
Asked during a press conference in London whether he had raised human rights during the talks, Mr Cameron said: "There is no trade-off in our relationship. It is not about either discussing trade or human rights. Britain and China have such a strong and developed relationship. We have a dialogue that covers all these issues, and nothing is off limits in the discussions that we have."
Mr Wen said: "On human rights, China and the UK should respect each other, respect the facts, treat each other as equals, engage in more co-operation than finger-pointing and resolve our differences through dialogue."
In a possible sign of irritation at being asked questions about human rights by British reporters, Mr Wen said China believed states should not address one another "in a lecturing way" on the issue. "I am confident that tomorrow's China will enjoy not only economic prosperity but improved democracy and legal systems. It will be a country based on the rule of law," he added.
Mr Cameron welcomed Premier Wen's comments about the need for China to rebalance its own economy.
But he was challenged by a Chinese reporter who said the UK had fallen to third place in Europe in terms of trade with the Far Eastern giant and to fifth in terms of trade in technology. The UK was overtaken by Germany last year in its investment in China, he said.
The PM responded: "If you look at the figures, British exports to China grew by 40% last year and since November, when I visited Beijing, have gone up by 20%, so I don't accept that Britain isn't exporting more to China and isn't on target to meet the very challenging target of 100 billion dollars in bilateral trade by 2015.
"I think the performance is good, but I want it to be better."