David Cameron travels to China in a bid to boost trade relations

David Cameron flies to China to boost Britain's trade relations. Photo: PA

Just days after promising to "shine a global spotlight" on human rights abuses while at a Commonwealth government summit in Sri Lanka, David Cameron is on his way to China, which the Foreign Office lists as a country of concern in its annual human rights report.

The Prime Minister hoping his trip will go a long way towards mending relations with the Chinese leadership.

Last year he met the Dalai Lama, to discuss allegation of human rights abuses in Tibet. A meeting which infuriated the Chinese leaders who view the Tibetan spiritual leader as a threat.

Downing Street handout photo of the Dalai Lama meeting Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Credit: Downing Street/PA Wire

The Prime Minister is due to meet the new Chinese Premier, who's government has overseen a crack down on dissidents and political opposition this year. Hundreds of bloggers, lawyers and activists have been harassed and detained as the ruling Communist Party asserts control over the country.

The question is can David Cameron raise the issue of Chinese Human rights abuses again, or by doing so, will he risk British trade and the record levels of investment flowing from China into the UK.

Prime Minister David Cameron talks to senior official of the Chinese Communist Party, Politburo member Li Changchun at No 10 Credit: PA

I meet one of China's most prominent pro-democracy campaigners behind bars, he's been imprisoned before, and tortured he claims.

Hua Jia is pacing up and down in an iron cage, in the courtyard of a compound on the outskirts of the Capital, a one man staged protest, in support of jailed dissidents, just days before David Cameron arrives."Today I'm wearing prison uniform, because that's the reality, this country is like a big prison" he says.

Hua Jai, a pro-democracy campaigner who has been imprisoned and tortured, he says. Credit: ITV News

He'd spent the night in the cage, enduring sub zero temperatures, in solidarity with his fellow campaigners who've been locked up this year.

He had a personal message for the Prime Minister.

David Cameron needs to understand that if he stays silent on human rights, then he's trading British values for Chinese investment.

Commuters at Beijing Southern Railway Station Credit: PA

China's rapid growth, has seen enormous economic expansion. The booming Chinese middle classes are the world's newest consumers. British firms are being encouraged to try to tap into the massive spending power of around 300 Million people who make up the emerging wealthier class in China.

In Beijing, new middle class houses are often built on land where poorer families once lived.Video filmed by these being evicted shows ranks of hired security guards forcing people from their homes. They claim they have been given no compensation. One woman, Han Ying, tells me:

The government, developers and the police all work together, we have no human rights.

There's a human cost to doing business with the Chinese one party state, where there is no freedom of speech, no freedom of expression and no tolerance of opposition.

British politicians, who espouse democracy and basic human rights, have to increasingly tread carefully when criticising Chinese state sponsored oppression.

I know of two occasions when UK politicians and officials have raised the issue of human rights only to have their Chinese counterparts shout at them, telling them they they have no right to interfere in domestic Chinese affairs.

In one case the Chinese ministry official said to a British diplomat: "...we don't have to impress you".

London Mayor Boris Johnson arrives at the Star Ferry terminal in Hong Kong as part of his China trip. Credit: PA

However, polls show that the British public are in favour of the UK continuing to raise human rights concerns, however diplomatically sensitive the subject is seen by the Chinese.

In so many ways our economy is now benefitting from Chinese state investment, from large scale construction projects in London and Manchester, to massive deals on Nuclear power and North Sea Oil.

Billions are pouring in from Beijing, a government that controls a vast security state, which raises the question; do British politicians have a moral duty to make sure that money is not allowed into the UK unless human rights concerns are addressed by the Chinese leaders they meet?

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne addresses staff and students at Peking University in Beijing. Credit: PA

A few weeks ago both Boris Johnson and the Chancellor were in Beijing overseeing deals worth billions, in public neither raised human rights abuses.

There are many who are hoping David Cameron will have the courage to speak out.

More on this story