Yet Wen caused a shock in London on Monday by sharply admonishing the Tory government of Prime Minister David Cameron for raising dissident cases, saying that 5,000 years of history “has taught the Chinese never to talk to others in a lecturing way.” In Berlin, he repeated his government’s desire not to be upbraided by moral or legal representations.
Ahead of the trip and to set a good tone, China released artist Ai Weiwei and activist Hu Jia, two dissidents widely admired in Europe. Yet Cameron raised four prominent cases of dissidents detained under extrajudicial circumstances; Ai Weiwei and Hu Jia were among those noted. In Berlin, Wen said that Chinese leaders "expect from the EU respect of our sovereignty, our territorial integrity, and the autonomous choices of the Chinese people."
Kerry Brown, head of the Chatham House Asia Program in London, says that Chinese leaders view dissidents as criminals pure and simple and that both Wen and Cameron have “constituencies they must please ... the hard-liners are in control in Beijing right now."
“But it is still frustrating for the Chinese that have worked hard and put much effort into trying to understand the West and Europe, and then to be asked only about human rights. The phrase ‘human rights’ has become ideological," he says.
It has been a difficult year for China’s image abroad as Beijing continues to pursue a more assertive or even hard-line policy in its neighborhood and abroad.