UK Politics

David Cameron joins Chinese social site Weibo

David Cameron on Weibo
Image caption David Cameron announced himself to Weibo users ahead of his trip to China

David Cameron has joined the Chinese social networking site Weibo, gathering more than 150,000 followers in just a few days.

The UK prime minister, currently on a trade visit to the country, initially confused users as his account had not been verified by officials.

But the embassy in Beijing later confirmed its authenticity, stating: "Big boss has come to Weibo!"

One user asked if China's President Xi Jinping would also open an account.

Mr Cameron is visiting the country with more than 100 UK business leaders and is hoping to help smooth the way towards a free trade agreement between China and the European Union.

'Take me away'

He launched his own microblog account on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, which has more than 300 million users, last Friday, according to BBC Monitoring.

By 12:00 GMT on Monday his offerings, written in Mandarin, had gathered almost 159,000 followers.

Image caption David Cameron met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing

However, soon after the account started, users doubted whether it was real until the British embassy re-tweeted the prime minister's opening message, along with the "big boss" moniker.

This appeared to excite many Chinese, who sent in their questions.

Some wondered why China's own political leaders had so far chosen to stay away from social media platforms, with one asking: "When will President Xi open a Weibo account?"

Several inquired about whether the visa application for entry to the UK could be simplified.

Many users asked Mr Cameron, who must return to London by Thursday for Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement on the economy, to let them on the plane with him.

"I beg you to take me away. We don't have universal free medical care here," said Quanqiuremen.

Mr Cameron's visit has also brought back some bitter memories of British imperialism from the past two centuries.

Human rights

"Mr prime minister, are you bringing opium with you?" asked "Yongmian", referring to the Opium Wars in the 19th Century.

"When will you compensate us for the Old Summer Palace?" asked Glorious Ming, in a rebuke to British and French forces for burning down the Chinese imperial garden in 1860.

The more contemporary clash between the two countries over China's human rights record, particularly in Tibet, has also featured prominently in the online discussions.

Cameron's meeting with the Dalai Lama a year ago, which angered Chinese leaders and led to a freeze in top-level contacts, was mentioned.

"Dalai's friend has come to China for our silver," said Wuyanliuju.

But some users accused Mr Cameron of not doing enough to promote human rights. One, West Sea Fisherman, urged him to "go back" if he did not mention the issue at high-level intergovernmental meetings.

"We do not welcome foreign leaders who care nothing about human rights in our country," he added.

Mr Cameron's UK Twitter account has more than 500,000 followers.

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