London — As President Xi Jinping begins a five day state visit to the UK, a YouGov poll has revealed that the UK public largely agrees with His Holiness the Dalai Lama's comment that UK policy towards China is primarily about "money, money, money".
The poll was commissioned by campaign group Free Tibet on the eve of the state visit and found that 69% of respondents agree with the Dalai Lama's explanation of the UK's China policy. Just 8% disagreed with the Tibetan spiritual leader who in an interview in September described the relationship between the two countries as: "Money, money, money. That's what this is about. Where is morality?"
The poll also showed that seven in ten people believe that protecting human rights in Tibet is more important than or as important as maintaining good trade relations with China. Only 14% considered human rights in Tibet to be less important than trade relations.
Commenting on the results Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said: "Just last week in a meeting at the Foreign Office, Free Tibet was told that commercial interests do not drive UK policy on China. Our poll confirms just how few people outside Whitehall find that claim credible. The UK has sunk so low in its desperation to curry favour with Beijing that David Cameron isn't so much rolling out the red carpet as lying under it.
"British policy on Tibet and human rights in China is shameful. Human rights defenders in Tibet and China are paying with their lives and freedom for standing up to China's government while this government is unwilling to stand up to Beijing at all. The Dalai Lama asked 'where is morality?'. Right now, it isn't found in Downing St and the British people know it."
The state visit has highlighted widespread concern within the UK that David Cameron is not willing to risk provoking Beijing by showing public support for Tibet or human rights. The Prime Minister has been pushing to improve relations with China since he angered the Chinese government by meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Following the demands of Beijing Cameron later publicly apologised for the meeting and said that he had 'no plans' to meet the Tibetan leader again.
Cameron's trade-first foreign policy meant that no members of the UK government met the Dalai Lama on his trip to the UK this September and during a visit to Xinjiang, Chancellor George Osborne was praised by Chinese state media for putting business ahead of human rights.
However, President Xi's visit has been hailed by officials from both countries as the start of a "golden era" of relations, reported by the BBC on Tuesday, one of its top news headlines as "UK 'acting like a panting puppy' to China."
"Alongside the pomp and ceremony, there is a push for greater business links between the countries, with the UK Treasury hoping to make China Britain's second biggest trading partner within 10 years," the report said.
But speaking on the Tuesday programme James McGregor, chairman of consultancy APCO Worldwide, Greater China, and an expert on the region, said the UK had supplicated itself to China.
"If you act like panting puppy the object of your attention is going to think they've got you on a leash. China does not respect people who suck up to them," he told presenter John Humphrys.
Hundreds of Tibetans and Tibet supporters rallied outside Parliament Square against Xi's trade visit to the UK to demand freedom for Tibetans and an end to human rights abuses.
The UK based Tibet Society also urges the British Prime Minister David Cameron and his government to speak out on Tibet during Xi's State Visit. "David Cameron and the British government have an opportunity to show the world there is more to UK-China relations than just trade and money," the group said in a statement.
It stressed that "the Prime Minister should take a principled stand and speak up for those that the Chinese Communist Party continues to silence in Tibet and across China. Cameron - it is time to show your morals!"