End the British Kowtow; the Alleged Snub Given to Chinese Leaders by Prince Charles Is in Sharp Contrast to the 'Craven' Attitude Shown by British Politicians, Says One Expert on Asia

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 23, 2006 | Go to article overview

End the British Kowtow; the Alleged Snub Given to Chinese Leaders by Prince Charles Is in Sharp Contrast to the 'Craven' Attitude Shown by British Politicians, Says One Expert on Asia


Byline: JONATHAN MIRSKY

IMAGINE the rumours in 1999 when Prince Charles failed to attend the state banquet his mother gave for the then Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

Those rumours turned into fact when the Prince's staff "let it be known" that Charles, who is friends with the Dalai Lama, had snubbed Mr Jiang because of how China behaves in Tibet.

Now Charles is under attack for that snub and for his disdainful remarks about China's leaders during the Hong Kong handover ceremonies in July 1997.

On that occasion, too, his office "let it be known" that the Prince was unhappy.

But even such cautiously delivered snubs are a broadside compared to the normal British attitude when dealing with China's dictatorial regime.

Last November another Chinese president, Hu Jintao, came to dinner and this time there were no slip-ups.

Mr Hu was seated in the royal carriage on the way down the Mall on the side that kept Tibetan demonstrators out of his sight. That night much of central London was floodlit red, the Communist Party's favourite colour.

A few days later the Royal Academy was closed while the Queen briefly showed Mr Hu over an exhibition of Manchu art to mark what the RoyalAcademy called "an extraordinary moment in Britain's continuing relationship with China."

The entire Academy was closed for the day to ensure no pesky demonstrators, especially Tibetans, could spring out and shout "Free Tibet" at Mr Hu.

That's what the Foreign Office wants. No trouble. No Chinese frowns. The Prime Minister, who claims to be supporting democracy all over the planet, had already played his part. In early September, as he was leaving China, Tony Blair stated: "The whole basis of the discussion I have had in a country that is developing very fast is that there is an unstoppable momentum toward greater political freedom."

That deserves attention. Everyone despises David Irving for denying the Holocaust. But consider China.

Hundreds were shot dead in Tiananmen Square: I saw this on Saturday night and Sunday morning, 3-4 June 1989.

Thousands more were executed and tortured all over the country for supporting what Beijing terms "the counterrevolutionary incident."

Nor is that the worst. Amnesty International estimates that China leads the world in "extra-judicial" executions, perhaps 10,000 annually.

No one knows the population of the Chinese gulag, and torture in Chinese prisons is so common that even the government admits it.

Meanwhile, under Mao, tens of millions died before their time. His huge portrait, below which many were murdered in 1989, still hangs over Tiananmen and the current regime proudly asserts it is his heir.

Children are taught that the Chairman was a great man. Yet no portraits of Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot hang in the centre of the capitals of Germany, Russia, or Cambodia, and when small groups of their loyalists occasionally crawl out into daylight we condemn them.

But China is different. British officials mute their criticism. …

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