A state-run Chinese newspaper praised Theresa May this morning for “sidestepping” questioning Beijing on Hong Kong and human rights.

In a Global Times editorial , the newspaper applauded the British prime minster for seeking “pragmatic collaboration” between the two states and not feeding “radical public opinion”.

Friday marks the end of May’s three-day, three-city visit to China. Business and trade have been central to the talks, as May looks to soften the impact of Brexit through new trade deals.

China offers a huge opportunity for British businesses, with its fast-rising economy and vast number of investment opportunities. According to Downing Street, investments worth £9bn were going to be signed during the visit.

While trade deals have been at the centre of the visit, May also vowed to raise other issues with the president Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders.

In a speech in Downing Street before her departure, the PM stated that she would not fear raising “politically sensitive issues”. Central to these issues is the political uproar in former British colony Hong Kong, and an authoritarian clamp down on human rights activists in China.

However, people were unsure whether May actually intended to uphold her promise, and predicted human rights would not be prioritised.

Last October President Xi Jinping’s power was raised to a level not seen in the country since the reign of the infamous leader Mao Zedong, as his name and ideology was manifested in the Chinese constitution.

Cries of human rights violations in the communist dictatorship have been growing over the past years, as crackdowns on pro-democracy activists have been more frequent.

Joshua Wong, Hong Kong’s prominent youth pro-democracy leader cried for May to address the “relentless crackdown” on the former British colony when she landed in China this Tuesday. However, at May’s press conference with Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday, she remained silent on the issues.

The 21-year-old pro-democracy young activist Joshua Wong called for May to raise Hong Kong issues. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
The pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, 21, called for May to raise Hong Kong issues. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

The Chinese state-run Global Times applauded the British prime minister, saying she avoided raising thorny issues that could harm an Anglo-Chinese relationship.

But Downing Street said that the Global Times’ report was inaccurate and that the PM had raised issues of human rights, although not publicly.

Other issues discussed by the two leaders were technology, plastic waste, air pollution and agriculture. She gave the Chinese leader a Blue Planet II box set, and stressed the importance of upholding the Paris climate agreement.

May returns to Britain today to continue the entangled Brexit negotiations, and to deal with a divided Tory party questioning her leadership.

Financial cooperation and a potential ‘Golden Era’ with China – the world’s second largest economy – could be a crucial element for the prime minster in her attempts to steer Britain out of the EU.

However, at the end of her China visit, May insisted the UK would not have to choose between striking a deal with the EU and the rest of the world.