British PM rejects China request to remove poppy

10th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday wore a poppy in his lapel to honour British war dead, despite China's request he remove it because officials said it reminded them of the Opium Wars.

Cameron and members of his delegation have all worn poppies during their two-day visit to China ahead of Armistice Day on Thursday, the 92nd anniversary of the end of World War I.

Poppies however have a different meaning for Chinese officials who asked the delegation to remove the paper flowers because they were reminders of the two 19th century Opium Wars that China lost to Britain, a British official said.

"The Chinese informed us it would be inappropriate to wear poppies because of the Opium Wars," an official from the prime minister's office said on condition of anonymity.

"We informed them that they mean a great deal to us and we would be wearing them all the same," the official said.

Poppies became a symbol for the war dead because they grew on the battlefields of Western Europe. They now are sold each November in Britain and several other countries to raise money for veterans' charities.

Chinese school children are taught as part of their patriotic education that the Opium Wars were a symbol of national humiliation.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the second Opium War, which Britain fought to force China to open up to trade, including the narcotic made from the poppy.

The first Opium War, which ended in 1842, ended with China ceding Hong Kong to Queen Victoria. Britain returned the territory to China in 1997.

© 2010 AFP

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