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Promoting Democracy and Human Rights

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 6:18 pm on 13th October 2008.

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Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs) 6:18 pm, 13th October 2008

My hon. Friend makes his point eloquently, and he is quite right.

I wish to mention a few other countries. We have heard about the difficulties over the summer involving Russia and Georgia, and there are wide-ranging implications for human rights not just in Georgia but in the other vulnerable states in the region. The deterioration of our relationship with Russia is a great cause for concern, and it will not necessarily be easy to rebuild it and put it right. A strong unified EU response is vital. Mr. Lidington was right to call for strong EU pressure on Asian countries on the subject of Burma—a subject on which I echo many of his comments. We have seen the fabulous work of John Bercow in the all-party group on democracy in Burma. The dreadful situation there was particularly evident in the response to the natural disaster earlier this year.

The lack of democracy in China is well documented. I visited China earlier this year on a Select Committee trip, and in the entire trip we had two hours off to explore Beijing. I went to Tiananmen square and the forbidden garden and tried to engage my guide in a political discussion. I asked her what she thought about Chairman Mao, and it was like coming up against a wall. She had good English, so she understood the question, but she did not understand the concept that one might have an opinion about a political leader, and especially that it might be a critical opinion.