25/09/2015 11:53 BST | Updated 25/09/2015 12:59 BST

George Osborne Praised For Not Mentioning Chinese Human Rights Abuses During China Visit

George Osborne has been praised by Chinese state media for not mentioning human rights during his visit, which one campaigner called "an appalling new low" in unwillingness to confront the issue.

The chancellor was praised by government-run The Global Times, which said he was "The first Western official in recent years who focused on business potential rather than raising a magnifying glass to the 'human rights issue," according to the BBC.

During his visit, Osborne suggested Chinese firms could bid for the construction of the HS2 line and downplayed the political differences between the UK and China, saying the communist country and our parliamentary democracy were "two completely different systems".

george osborne china

George Osborne urged Chinese businesses to bid for a share of £11.8 billion worth of HS2 contracts

Osborne has said he raised concerns over China's human rights abuses in private.

Amnesty International has said China's human rights campaigners "risked harassment and arbitrary detention" by authorities which "severely restrict the right to freedom of expression".

Its latest report on the country noted "torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread and access to justice was elusive for many".

Ethnic minorities, including the Muslim Uighur population in the country's west, have been subjected to "security clampdowns" and campaigners had urged Osborne to raise this.

The Global Times said foreign politicians visiting China should be "modest" and not emphasise these things.

"Keeping a modest manner is the correct attitude for a foreign minister visiting China to seek business opportunities," the paper said of Osborne's visit.

"Some Westerners believe their officials should behave like a master of human rights to show their superiority over China and the East."

Human Rights Watch's Andrew Stroehlein said being praised by state media was "like receiving a gold medal in kowtowing".

He told HuffPost UK: "It's an appalling new low in the world's unwillingness to address China's very serious human rights abuses. To go to China amid a worsening crackdown on human rights defenders and lawyers and be praised by the state media for 'not stressing human rights' is like receiving a gold medal in kowtowing.

"Adding to the insult is that Osborne is apparently the first UK minister to visit Xinjiang province, where rights abuses have been particularly harsh in recent years."

On his visit, Osborne said: "In Britain, there is a hunger to learn more and understand more about this great civilisation. I see it at home in Downing Street every night as my twelve year old daughter does her Mandarin homework.

"We have different political systems. We’re a multi-party democracy. So, of course we will disagree on issues. But let’s conduct our discussion on the basis of the mutual respect of our two great nations."

He also said: "We raise human rights, but we do it in the context of also talking about issues like economic development."

Kate Allen, Amnesty International's UK Director, said: “Mr Osborne might have won praise from Chinese state media for his ‘modest manner’ over his criticism of human rights in the country, but what of the victims of China’s human rights crackdown? I am sure they won’t be so quick to praise how restrained he has been.

“What of the 245 lawyers and activists targeted in an unprecedented nationwide campaign to silence criticism this year?

“At least 30 of the lawyers rounded up, remain ‘missing’ or are in police custody facing lengthy sentences.

“Those lawyers were targeted because they dared to challenge the state, the least they can expect is for senior visiting politicians to do the same, on their behalf.”