Cameron to press Chinese leader on Syria, Hong Kong

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British Prime Minister David Cameron was expected to raise concerns Thursday over the political situations in Syria and Hong Kong in talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, officials said.

Talks at Chequers, the prime minister’s residence outside London, will also cover the global fight against Islamist extremism, Cameron’s spokeswoman said.

“This visit opens a golden era in UK-China relations featuring enduring, inclusive and win-win cooperation,” the two governments said in a joint statement on Xi’s visit.

It was “the culmination of the high-level exchanges this year, [and] provides a historic opportunity for UK-China relations,” they said.

After showpiece meetings with Queen Elizabeth and Cameron on Tuesday and Wednesday, some British media have reported that Xi requested a less formal dinner with Cameron on Thursday, speculating that the two leaders could visit a pub or eat fish and chips.

Critics have accused Cameron of ignoring the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses as he courts trade and investment.

The joint statement briefly mentioned rights, committing the two nations to “continue exchanges on human rights and rule of law.”

Cameron said the two sides signed seven commercial deals Wednesday, including an agreement for the Chinese nuclear power firm CGN to invest about 6 billion pounds (9 billion dollars) in a British nuclear power plant.

“One of the foremost elements of this visit is the huge number of commercial deals that we are signing – totalling almost 40 billion pounds,” he told a bilateral business summit late Wednesday.

China has supported Russia in blocking several resolutions condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime before the UN Security Council.

In a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing last week, al-Assad adviser Bouthaina Shaaban said her government “welcomes China’s positive and important role” in trying to resolve Syria’s political crisis, Chinese state media reported.

Cameron recently called Assad a “butcher” and insisted that he must give up power as part of any political solution to the Syrian civil war while condemning Russia’s support for him.

In Hong Kong, a former British colony that was handed over to China in 1997, critics have accused Beijing of reneging on a commitment to allow democratic elections for the Chinese territory’s leader.

Xi was scheduled to travel to Manchester late Thursday, and Cameron is scheduled to join him on Friday for a visit to Manchester City Football Club.

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