British Prime Minister David Cameron brought up the issue of Hong Kong’s political autonomy with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his state visit, reports the Guardian.

During an hour-long talk, Cameron sought assurances from Xi that his government will not prescreen candidates for chief executive elections in the former British colony, the report said.

xi jinping uk visit
Xi and Cameron meet reporters. Photo: Now TV news screencap.

The BBC also said that Cameron had been “expected to raise concerns over Hong Kong directly” with the Chinese president, but no official details of this have been released.

The conversation happened at Chequers Court, Cameron’s country retreat, on Thursday.

Hong Kong was also not mentioned in a joint UK-China statement issued on Thursday.

The statement said Xi’s visit, the first of a Chinese president to the UK in a decade, “provides a historic opportunity for UK-China relations.”

The two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in economic development, protecting intellectual properties and climate change.

xi jinping uk visit
Xi and Cameron having a beer at a pub near Chequers Court. Photo: screencap.

Human rights was however mentioned briefly. “The two sides will enhance mutual respect and understanding, and continue exchanges on human rights and rule of law,” the statement said.

When asked about China’s human rights conditions in a press conference on Thursday, Xi said Beijing has “found a path of human rights development suited to China’s conditions.”

“With regard to the protection of human rights, looking around the world we note there is always room for improvement,” the Chinese president said.

The British prime minister said they could discuss business and have a conversation about human rights at the same time.

“So I totally reject the idea you either have a conversation about human rights and steel, or you have a strong relationship with China. I want both and we are delivering both and it’s when you have that strong relationship, with a strong partnership we have, you are able to discuss all of these issues,” Cameron said.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.