Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, accuses British Olympic chiefs of a "real abdication of our moral responsibility" over moves to restrict British athletes from raising concerns about human rights in China.
"It's extremely disappointing," he said "it's part of a pattern of us kow-towing to the Chinese communist authorities.
"We have to be very clear with the Chinese - they now play a significant role
in the world economy and international affairs.
"That brings certain domestic responsibilities with it and I think for us to sort of gag ourselves is a real abdication of our moral responsibility to push for human rights wherever they are being abused."
Referring to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown's recent visit to China, he castigated him for not saying anything about the Chinese human rights issue.
"Unlike Tony Blair," he said, "and certainly unlike President Sarkozy from France, Chancellor Merkel from Germany and even President Bush from the United States, he said nothing publicly on China's appalling human rights record."
Commenting on the row sparked by the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments over Sharia law last week, Mr Clegg said that he should not be considering his position, but had created a "needless controversy".
"The last thing I'm going to do as a politician is start saying whether he should consider his position, whether he should resign and so on.
"I think he's clearly got himself in to a serious controversy, which in my view is a needless controversy."
Wills: a diplomatic stance
In reaction to moves by the British Olympic Association to restrict British athletes from raising concerns about human rights in China, Michael Wills, Minister of State for Justice, indicated that the government was continuing with its dialogue with the Chinese about human rights issues.
"As a nation, this government believes that human rights are very important, we continue to make representations to the Chinese about them and we shall go on doing so.
"I think what is very important about this is to understand the role of the government and the role of the Olympic Authorities.
"We have said to the Chinese Government on many occasions, the importance we attach to human rights.
"Tessa Jowell, the Olympics Minister, went to China and secured agreement from the Chinese authority for much freer movement of journalists for example. And this sort of process will continue."
The Politics Show, with Jon Sopel on Sunday 10 February 2008 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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