Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown (R) and his wife Sarah leave Erskine Church. (REUTERS/David Moir)
ON BOARD FLIGHT TO BEIJING - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged China on Wednesday to make more progress on human rights, saying the issue needed to be addressed not only during the Olympic Games.
Brown, who will attend the Olympics closing ceremony, said he would raise the matter with China's leaders when he meets them in Beijing.
"I want to say that human rights matters to us every year, not just in the Olympic year," Brown told reporters on his plane on the way to Beijing.
London will host the 2012 Olympic Games.
In a public letter to opposition Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who questioned Brown's attendance at the Olympics on human rights grounds, Brown said supporting China's "re-engagement" in the world was in Britain's national interest.
"Support for the Games and engagement with China is not at the expense of human rights. It is integral to their promotion. China has made enormous social and economic progress over the last three decades, but much more remains to be done," he wrote.
"I firmly believe that allowing China's citizens to enjoy freedom of expression and association; to worship how and where they wish; and to live in confidence that the rule of law will be applied consistently and impartially is not only the right thing to do but will also benefit China's future stability and prosperity, which is in all our interests," he wrote.
Brown also gave an interview to Xinhua News Agency in which he urged China to continue with press and other freedoms after the Olympics, including in terms of its relationship with Tibet.
"The human rights of all those in Tibet should be fully respected," he said. "Our consistent position is that the way to resolve the issues highlighted by the disturbances in March is through dialogue, not violence."