Latest Channel 4 News:
Row over Malaysian state's coins
'Four shot at abandoned mine shaft'
Rain fails to stop Moscow wildfires
Cancer blow for identical twins
Need for Afghan progress 'signs'

Interview: China's UK ambassador

By Jon Snow

Updated on 08 May 2008

Fu Ying, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, discusses Burma, the Olympic torch procession and the Free Tibet campaign with Jon Snow.

Fu Ying's government is perhaps closest to the Burmese, and she occupies a crucial position, given the coming Olympics in Beijing this summer and in London in 2012.

This morning the Olympic torch procession reached new heights as a team of mountaineers took a replica of the Olympic flame to the top of Everest.



The event was carried live on Chinese TV and, as ever, there was plenty of political symbolism.

Among the mountaineers was a Tibetan, and the ascent was up the Tibetan side of the mountain. But the flag unfurled up at the top was, of course, Chinese.


There was plenty of symbolism when a replica of the Olympic torch was taken to the top of Everest this morning.

The Everest leg was perhaps the most straightforward of the torch procession. Its visit to London prompted pro-Tibetan demonstrations throughout.

The blue-suited Chinese officials accompanying the torch caused particular upset. Channel 4 News revealed that London Olympics supremo Lord Coe thought they had behaved like thugs. The Chinese say they were Beijing police officers.

The protests that have accompanied the torch were prompted by increased unrest in Tibet. In March there were violent uprisings in the kingdom.

The Chinese have accused the Dalai Lama of instigating the violence and called him "a jackal in monks' robes" and "an evil spirit with a human face and the heart of a beast".


'In China our hearts are with the people, students are leaving donations to the Myanmar embassy in Beijing. '
Fu Ying , Chinese ambassador to Britain

Interview transcript

Can we start with Burma? China has very close relations with Burma. What pressure are you able to bring on the Burmese Junta to allow international aid in?

Thank you very much for having me here. Burma, which we call Myanmar - the UN name, is our very close neighbour and we have a common long border. China has been among the first to offer aid and our aid arrived yesterday.

We have very good relations so it was easier for us to be there. And all the neighbouring countries have been there. It's a tragic situation, for any government I think it's very demanding and challenging.

I think it's time of solidarity, blaming or complaining is not going to help the people - people are suffering. As far as China is concerned we'll certainly do everything we can to help. In China our hearts are with the people, students are leaving donations to the Myanmar embassy in Beijing.

Are you though asking the Burmese government to let some of the other aid in, as clearly there's plenty waiting?

China does not have the culture of telling other governments what to do, but during this time of crisis we'll do everything the way we can.


'But for Lhasa it takes time for them to have all those burned down houses rebuilt and to make sure the supply comes in. The violent rioting has caused so much damage to people's lives and houses and now it's hitting the economy.'

Ambassador, let's then look at the real reason that we wanted to talk to you tonight and you very kindly offered to come.

The torch - it's been a very difficult problem. The Chinese Olympics were supposed to open up to the outside world and yet the consequences seem to have seen a closing.

It's very difficult now for journalists to get to Tibet, it's virtually closed and to some other areas. It's not been a happy situation the last three months.


Today, it's a very important day for the Olympics of Beijing. As you know the torch reached Mount Chomolungma - in China we call it the Tibetan name. I watched the torch this morning, up to two o'clock in the morning, I was very excited. You mentioned the Tibetans - of the five mountaineers, three are Tibetans and there are two Tibetan women, isn't it exciting? And I heard their voices, of peace, of Olympics.

That in a sense is one side of the story. The other side is that if we want to get into Tibet, if we wanted to look at the Tibetan side of the mountain, at the moment, it's very, very difficult for Western journalists to get in. So in that sense it looks as if the response to the Olympics has been to shut down, not to open up.

When the Olympics come, I'm sure lots of people will go to Tibet. I've seen the list lots of people are applying to go to Tibet. At this moment in Lhasa, the domestic tourism has already started; lots of people are already there.

But for Lhasa it takes time for them to have all those burned down houses rebuilt and to make sure the supply comes in. The violent rioting has caused so much damage to people's lives and houses and now it's hitting the economy. But I think the local government is doing everything it can to recover as soon as possible.


'This is a difficult situation for us, is he coming as a religious leader or a political leader?'

There is a process going on now in which you've resumed talks with the representatives of the Dalai Lama.

But it's difficult after somebody who's regarded by some of the Tibetans as a sort of god, if they have to hear language like "he's a jackal", "he's an evil spirit in the heart of the beast". This is strong stuff.


Some angry people may use angry languages, but it's not the position of Beijing...

...but that was used by the Chinese government, by the governor of Tibet.

I think they were angry at that moment, when they saw so many police get wounded and so many people died. But it's certainly not the language used by the central government. Nevertheless the problem we have with the Dalai Lama is he wears so many hats.

He faces China with this political angle, he talks about politics so he's a political figure. And he's regarded here by many people as a religious leader, and he's long been, as you mentioned, god and king in one.

And just like you, you don't like mixing up or blurring of church and state. We don't feel comfortable having this religion and politics mixing up.

Do you feel comfortable with Gordon Brown meeting with the Dalai Lama as he's going to?

I heard that Britain is the only country where there will be a head of government meeting of his international tour recently. From my point of view it's very unfortunate. This is a difficult situation for us, is he coming as a religious leader or a political leader?

Would you rather he didn't meet him?

I think the meeting from our point of view is really unfortunate. It will only make things difficult.


'In China the fundamental human rights concerning China is the interests of the majority of the people, 1.3 billion people.'

Is there any sense in which China feels or recognises that people in Tibet may have legitimate grievances?

I wouldn't have any difficulties discussing specific difficulties. Tibet is now sharing the benefit of the reform.

It's growing at a speed of over 12 per cent, higher than the national average. People used to die at the average age of 35 years in Tibet. Now the lifespan has grown to 67 years. The illiteracy rate in Tibet used to be 95 per cent, it's coming down to five per cent. Schools are opening everywhere in Tibet.

But in many ways though ambassador, and although those are impressive figures, the real dispute with China is about human rights and democracy.

Do you think that somehow western concepts of freedom and democracy are simply different from Chinese concepts of freedom and democracy?


Every country has its own history, its own culture and its own economic state of development. China is definitely at a different state of development compared with you - you have developed your industry for 200 years and China is just starting now. We're just at the primary stage of our industrialisation.

I agree that there is universal understanding of human rights. In China the fundamental human rights concerning China is the interests of the majority of the people, 1.3 billion people.

For the Chinese people imagine for the first time in China people are not hungry any more? I've been through that, I know how it feels when you can only think about the food on the table. But people who are born in the eighties like my daughter; they've never known what is hunger.

This is a great human rights achievement. We're not perfect; there are lots of challenges, lots of difficulties. We're getting there I think.


'The [torch] attendants, they are volunteers. The attendants here are from among the 5,000 volunteers in China, recruited from all over the country. '

Let me just ask you one final question about the torch when it came to London.

Do you regret having the men who looked like athletes, but where in fact police paramilitaries round the torch? Wasn't that a mistake?


No, I disagree. Firstly the torch going all over the world, to the five continents is China's way of saying hello to the world.

...but hello to the world with a whole lot of rather, well, "thugs" as they were described by Lord Coe.

It's unfortunate that so many people are trying to use this opportunity to get on China. But I think it's an educational process. China has learned a lot through this process, and I hope the world has learned too.

But about the attendants, I met Lord Coe after his torch run, he didn't say anything, he didn't complain. The attendants, they are volunteers. The attendants here are from among the 5,000 volunteers in China, recruited from all over the country.

So they're not policeman?

No, not at all. Most of them are university students, PhD students...

...but the conclusion here is that they were policemen.

That's unfortunate.

But that's wrong?

That was the foundation. Some of them got interviewed in Greece. A PhD student was interviewed. By and large, I think they are selected to help the torch relay in accordance with the rules of the IOC. I don't think they did anything outside the rules.


'The Olympics are coming and I'm sure it's going to be the start of a beautiful relationship between China and the world - I'm optimistic. '
Fu Ying , Chinese ambassador to Britain

They're very nice young boys, the boys who ran with me I think they were just 18 or 19, lovely and sunny, bright, very pleasant young people.

It's unfortunate that they're seen in this kind of light in this country. And these are single children in China, they're parents must feel very hurt the way they were treated.

Ambassador, I'm grateful for you coming in. It's been, I think, very interesting to talk to you and it's the first time we've had a Chinese perspective on the matter.

Thank you Jon, just let me add the Olympics are coming and I'm sure it's going to be the start of a beautiful relationship between China and the world - I'm optimistic.

Send this article by email

More on this story

Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.


Watch the Latest Channel 4 News

Watch Channel 4 News when you want

Latest International politics news

More News blogs

View RSS feed

Living with the Taliban

Taliban on the Afghan frontline

A rare film of Taliban fighters on the Afghan frontline.

Pakistan appeal

image

Actor Art Malik on why he is fronting the DEC's flood appeal.

Tackling Taliban IEDs

image

Bomb disposal soldiers on lonely walk to defuse bombs.

Snowmail




Channel 4 © 2010. Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.