The foreign secretary took a stronger stand on human rights when he met the spouses of rights lawyers – but there is a long way to go
Jeremy Hunt has been buying flowers for his wife, having described her as Japanese rather than Chinese on his first overseas trip as foreign secretary. But his homecoming is only the second most important wifely meeting this week. In Beijing he met the spouses of rights lawyers Wang Quanzhang, Li Heping and Yu Wensheng, who are or have been detained, as well as a released lawyer. This attracted less attention than his slip of the tongue, but is one of the strongest expressions of human rights concerns made by a senior British government figure in China in recent years.
It follows unusually direct Foreign Office criticism of Hong Kong’s attempt to ban the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party on the grounds that it poses a risk to national security. The move is unprecedented as the first attempt to outlaw a political organisation since the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule in 1997 – police are relying on laws designed to tackle Triads – but is merely the latest step in the steady tightening of the political grip in the region. Even those with little sympathy for the party fear this paves the way for a much broader crackdown on political expression.
Link : The Guardian view on Jeremy Hunt in China: why wives matter | Editorial