With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement updating the House on the latest developments with respect to China, and in particular Hong Kong.
As I told the House on
Let me be clear: we want to work with China. There is enormous scope for positive, constructive engagement. There are wide-ranging opportunities, from increasing trade to co-operation in tackling climate change, particularly with a view to the COP26 summit next year, which the UK will be hosting. However, as we strive for that positive relationship, we are also clear-sighted about the challenges that lie ahead. We will always protect our vital interests, including sensitive infrastructure, and we will not accept any investment that compromises our domestic or national security. We will be clear where we disagree, and I have been clear about our grave concerns regarding the gross human rights abuses being perpetrated against the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
It is precisely because we recognise China’s role in the world as a fellow member of the G20, and fellow permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, that we expect China to live up to the international obligations and responsibilities that come with that stature. That is the positive, constructive, mature and reciprocal relationship that we seek with China, striving for good co-operation, but being honest and clear where we have to disagree. We have been clear about the new national security law that China has imposed on the people of Hong Kong. That is a clear and serious violation of the UK-China joint declaration, and with it a violation of China’s freely assumed international obligations.
Beyond our offer to BNOs, today we are taking two further measures, which are a necessary and proportionate response to the new national security legislation that we have now had the opportunity to assess carefully. First, given the role that China has now assumed for the internal security of Hong Kong, and the authority that it is exerting over law enforcement, the UK will extend to Hong Kong the arms embargo that we have applied to mainland China since 1989. To be clear, the extension of the embargo will mean there will be no exports from the UK to Hong Kong of potentially lethal weapons, their components or ammunition, and it will also meet a ban on the export of any equipment not already banned that might be used for internal repression, such as shackles, intercept equipment, firearms and smoke grenades.
The second measure relates to the fact that the imposition of this new national security legislation has significantly changed key assumptions underpinning our extradition treaty arrangements with Hong Kong. I have to say that I am particularly concerned by articles 55 to 59 of the law, which give mainland Chinese authorities the ability to assume jurisdiction over certain cases and to try those cases in mainland Chinese courts. The national security law does not provide legal or judicial safeguards in such cases, and I am also concerned about the potential reach of the extraterritorial provisions.
I have consulted the Home Secretary, the Justice Secretary and the Attorney General, and the Government have decided to suspend the extradition treaty immediately and indefinitely. I should also tell the House that we will not consider reactivating those arrangements unless and until there are clear and robust safeguards that can prevent extradition from the UK being misused under the new national security legislation.
There remains considerable uncertainty about the way in which the new national security law will be enforced. I just say this: the United Kingdom is watching and the whole world is watching. In the past few weeks, I have been engaged with many of our international partners in a concerted dialogue about how we should best respond to the unfolding events we are seeing in Hong Kong. On
I also discussed the situation with our European partners, including Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs. The UK Government also welcome the EU announcement on
A number of our international partners are also considering what offers they may be willing to make to the people of Hong Kong following the UK’s offer in relation to BNOs. I can reassure the House that we will continue to take a leading role in engaging and in co-ordinating our actions with our international partners, as befits our historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong.
As I said at the outset, we want a positive relationship with China. There is a huge amount to be gained for both countries. There are many areas where we can work productively and constructively to mutual benefit together. For our part, the UK will work hard and in good faith towards that goal, but we will protect our vital interests. We will stand up for our values, and we will hold China to its international obligations. The specific measures I have announced today are a reasonable and proportionate response to China’s failure to live up to those international obligations with respect to Hong Kong, and I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement and for advance sight of it. May I be clear that the Opposition strongly welcome both of the measures he has announced today? He is right to ensure that Britain does not allow our exports to be used against the people of Hong Kong, and I thank him warmly for taking this step forwards.
I am particularly glad that the Government have listened to my right hon. Friend Emily Thornberry, the shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, and suspended the export of surveillance equipment alongside the suspension of the export of crowd control equipment, which was demanded of the Government by the Labour Opposition last year. Will the Foreign Secretary go further and also review the training of the Hong Kong police by the College of Policing and other UK police forces to ensure that we are playing a part in helping to uphold, and not suppress, the rights of the people of Hong Kong?
May I also welcome the indefinite suspension of the extradition treaty and the safeguards that the Foreign Secretary announced today? It affords protection to the Hong Kong diaspora community here in the UK, and particularly to the brave young pro-democracy activists, whom I recently had the pleasure to meet.
We believe it is vital that the world shows a co-ordinated front on this issue. I was heartened to hear that the Foreign Secretary had discussions with our Five Eyes partners. Canada, Australia and the USA have already taken this step. Will he speak to other key allies, including Germany, to ensure that there is a co-ordinated international response? He also made no mention of our Commonwealth partners. Has he reached out to those Commonwealth countries that have extradition treaties with Hong Kong, to ensure that BNO passport holders and pro-democracy activists can travel freely without fear of arrest and extradition?
The Foreign Secretary could take a number of other steps. He made a commitment today that the UK will not accept investment that compromises our national security. Will he confirm that that will extend to the proposed nuclear power project at Bradwell, and will he tell us what assessment the Government have made of the security implications of Sizewell C?
Elections are due to take place in Hong Kong in the autumn, and we are concerned that, just as in the case of Joshua Wong, the Chinese Government may seek to bar candidates from standing. A clear statement from the Foreign Secretary today that candidates selected through the primary process are legitimate and must be allowed to stand in those elections would send the message that, as he says, the world is watching. I also ask him to work internationally to ensure that independent election observers are allowed into Hong Kong to oversee those elections.
The Foreign Secretary was a little irritated by my suggestion yesterday that the UK ought to impose Magnitsky sanctions on Chinese officials involved in persecuting the Uyghur people and undermining basic freedoms in Hong Kong, but I gently say to him that we have known that Uyghurs have been detained in camps since at least 2017. Has any work at all been done on that by the Foreign Office? Given that the USA has already imposed similar sanctions, is he working with our US counterparts to build the case for UK sanctions, and will he discuss this with the US Secretary of State tomorrow when he meets him?
The Foreign Secretary may not have done the groundwork to enable him to impose Magnitsky sanctions now, but his Government have the power right now to take action. He could, as the US has done, bar Communist party of China officials from the UK. Why has he not done that? The Chinese ambassador said yesterday that he reserves the right to take action against British companies. What discussions has the Foreign Secretary had with British companies operating in China to offer advice and assistance? I have asked him a number of times whether he has had discussions with HSBC and Standard Chartered about their stated support for the national security law. He must condemn that support. We should be showing the best of British business to the world, not the worst.
I was pleased to hear that the Foreign Secretary had discussions with Australia and New Zealand about their making a similar offer to BNO passport holders, but we are concerned, after asking a range of parliamentary questions, that there are serious holes in this offer. We have been told by the Government that BNO passport holders and their families will not receive home status for tuition fees, will not have access to most benefits and will have to pay the NHS surcharge. That seems wrong.
We are welcoming BNO passport holders to the UK for similar reasons to refugees, but these measures are completely out of step with that. Without serious action before these proposals are published, we will essentially be offering safe harbour only to the rich and highly skilled. That may benefit the UK, but it lacks the generosity and moral clarity that this situation demands. The Foreign Secretary will also know that many young pro-democracy activists are too young to be eligible for BNO passports. The Home Secretary said last week that she was considering a specific scheme for 18 to 23-year-olds. Will those details be published before the summer, and can he provide more detail today?
Finally, this must mark the start of a more strategic approach to China based on an ethical approach to foreign policy and an end to the naivety of the golden era years. If it does, the Foreign Secretary can be assured that he will have the Opposition’s full support. Like him, our quarrel is not with the people of China, but the erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong, the actions of the Chinese Government in the South China sea and the appalling treatment of the Uyghur people are reasons to act now. We will not be able to say in future years that we did not know. I urge him to work with colleagues across government to ensure that this marks the start of a strategic approach to China and the start of a new era.
I thank the hon. Lady for her response and in particular for her support for the two measures that we are taking today: suspending the extradition treaty arrangements and extending the arms embargo. I note that there is a drastically different tone being taken by Opposition Front Benchers from that taken even a few weeks ago, but we welcome her support, and do so in a spirit of cross-party endeavour and the importance of sending a very clear signal to Beijing, and indeed to our international partners, about where we stand.
The hon. Lady asks about the review of policing. Of course she is right about that: it is a question of balance. We will keep that under constant review. She mentions a range of details on BNOs, and they will be set forward by the Home Secretary shortly in the way that I have described. I urge the hon. Lady to wait for the detail before critiquing it. The Home Secretary and the Home Office have been doing a huge amount of work since September last year on all that, and of course we also need to bear in mind the offers that other countries quite rightly and usefully will be making.
I welcome what the hon. Lady says on international co-ordination. She is right about the importance of working with my German opposite number. I am seeing him this week, and it is something that is squarely on the agenda. We have also, through the Five Eyes membership, already touched base with a number our Commonwealth colleagues, but I will continue to do that. She is right that it needs to be more than just the Europeans and the UK with the North Americans—the traditional Five Eyes and Europeans—because there is a whole range of non-aligned countries out there that are very much influenced by what China is doing and saying. We want them to support us in upholding the international rule of law, which in all areas, including, as she mentioned, the South China sea, will be very important.
We rigorously review not just all investments into this country from a security point of view but whether our powers are sufficient. That is something that we will keep under review, and I know that the Secretary of State for Business is looking at it very carefully.
The hon. Lady is right as well about the September LegCo elections. I have made it clear that we want to see them allowed to take place in the way that is recognised in not just the joint declaration but the Basic Law. I agree with her point about the disqualification of candidates. We also need to be realistic, if I am honest with her, about the likelihood of China, or the Hong Kong authorities, accepting international observers.
The hon. Lady asks about the Magnitsky sanctions. She is simply wrong to say that we have not done our homework on them; we have done our homework since August of last year, which is why we could introduce those sanctions for the situation with Jamal Khashoggi, Sergei Magnitsky and North Korea. Of course, the national security legislation, which we are responding to, has only just been enacted, let alone started to be enforced. We will patiently gather the evidence, which takes months. It is not, as the hon. Lady has previously suggested, just something that can be done on a political whim; indeed, it would be improper if that were the case. Of course, if we introduce those targeted sanctions in this field, and indeed any other, without having done our factual evidential due diligence, not only are they likely to be challenged but we are at risk of giving a propaganda coup to the very people that we are seeking to target.
The hon. Lady mentions HSBC. She may or may not have already heard the comments I have made about that. Certainly, we will not allow the rights and the autonomy of the people of Hong Kong to be sacrificed on the altar of bankers’ bonuses. We urge all businesses to look very carefully at how they respond. They are, of course, going to be nervous about any potential retaliatory measures that may be taken by Beijing. In any event, we are very clear on the path that we are taking.
As I have said before, we want a good relationship with China. It is very important that we have a balanced, open debate about this in the House, recognise the opportunities of a good relationship with China, but be clear-eyed, as this Government are, about the risks and what we do to protect against them.
I thank again—I am getting into a bad habit here—my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary for an extremely good policy change. This makes the fifth, by my count, that he has backed the Foreign Affairs Committee on, following the strategic alignment of the Department, the BNOs, the Magnitsky protocols generally, and foreign ownership control overseas. This is actually claiming credit slightly for his work, because he was so instrumental in many of those things during his time on the Back Benches.
Given my right hon. Friend’s time before even entering the House as a human rights lawyer, may I ask why he has not yet made an announcement on the abuse of the Uyghur Muslim population in western China—action that his opposite number in the United States, or rather the US Treasury, has already taken, and that has been campaigned on so forcefully by my hon. Friend Alicia Kearns and my right hon. Friend Sir Iain Duncan Smith?
May I also ask what my right hon. Friend’s view is of article 38 and the extraterritoriality of the jurisdiction of the security law, the implications for British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand judges sitting on the Court of Final Appeal, and whether he has discussed that with his opposite numbers? Of course, the application of Chinese law to a common law jurisdiction could make the position of those judges untenable, and it is really for him to advise them on how to act.
I thank my hon. Friend, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, for his and Select Committee’s full support for the action the Government have taken; there is plenty of credit to go around. The reality is that we have taken, I think, a proportionate approach and one that recognises the severity of what is happening in Hong Kong, but also, in the way I have described, seeks to have a balanced—and to telegraph a balanced—message to the Government in Beijing that our relationship is there, with good will and with respect for international obligations, to be a positive one.
My hon. Friend asks about Xinjiang. We have made very clear our position. Indeed, we led, for the first time in the United Nations Human Rights Council, on a statement on the situation on human rights in both Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Twenty-seven countries in total signed the statement, and it was the first time that has been done.
My hon. Friend asks about judges on the Supreme Court in Hong Kong. That is something we obviously keep under careful review, given the need—and, indeed, the commitment in the joint declaration and the Basic Law—for the autonomy of the judiciary as well as the autonomy of the legislators to be respected, so we will discuss that with our international partners.
Finally, my hon. Friend asks about extraterritoriality. It is not entirely clear, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, quite how that will work in practice—whether it would just apply to Hong Kong residents when they are outside the country or whether, indeed, it is intended to apply to non-Chinese and non-Hong Kong nationals. That is one of the factors, among others, that informed our approach to the suspension of extradition.
I also thank the Foreign Secretary for advance sight of his statement, and I commend him for its tone and the content. He picks up on the Opposition’s change of tone, and there has been something of a change in the Government’s position as well of late. I think we should all recognise that this is evolving fast.
I associate the SNP with supporting both the measures in the statement, which I think is proportionate and fair. We also want a positive relationship with China—it is a key partner in renewable energy, as the Foreign Secretary rightly says—but it is making things increasingly difficult with its actions particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and with one belt, one road; over Hong Kong, the South China sea, the situation in Taiwan, of course, and Xinjiang; and with commercial piracy and industrial espionage. There is lots of cause for concern about the actions of the Chinese state, so we do support these measures.
I will, however, press the Foreign Secretary on three further points. First, on the Magnitsky sanctions, I accept fully that this has to be done properly, but it could be done properly faster. I think there is a need to accelerate, particularly in the case of the Uyghur situation, proportionate sanctions there.
On the suspension of the extradition treaty, this is not something to be celebrated. The breakdown of criminal and judicial co-operation will make the fight against organised crime, which is prevalent in Hong Kong and London, harder, so what comes next? Will this be done on a case-by-case basis, or are we looking to evolve some new arrangement to deal with that pressing problem, because it is and will remain a pressing problem?
On students, which is where this debate will get to quite quickly, Stirling University in my constituency and universities up and down the UK, including in Scotland, welcome thousands of Chinese students. We value academic freedom and we are glad to see them here, but that is precisely the academic freedom that the state of China is looking to take advantage of. Could guidance be provided to universities about the implications of having so many Chinese students in their institutions from both a security and a financial perspective, and is any analysis under way of the Confucius institutes, which I believe do need a bit more attention than they have had today?
I thank the hon. Gentleman and welcome his support on the two measures that we have announced today.
The hon. Gentleman asks about the Magnitsky sanctions. I made this point to Lisa Nandy. I welcome the full and eager support for the regime that the Government have just introduced, but with cross-party support, which we welcome. I just call for a note of caution on speed. It is very important that these targeted sanctions are done right, not quick. If we do them too quickly, they will be legally challenged. Not only would they then be ineffective, but we would risk, as I said to the hon. Lady, giving a propaganda coup to the very individuals whom we are seeking to hold to account.
On extradition, the approach we have taken, and I set it out quite deliberately, was that we are suspending—not just wholesale terminating, but suspending—the extradition treaty arrangements, so that it is clear that they could be resuscitated in the future. As I also made clear, we would need to have clear, adequate and robust safeguards to protect against the potential abuses that we see in the national security legislation before that could even be contemplated. That is the approach that we would consider.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to my comment about there being a different tone on the Opposition Benches. I hope he does not mind my noting that it was not that long ago that the Scottish Government’s China engagement strategy called for Scotland to be seen as the “preferred” trade and investment partner in China. I sense that there is a slight nuance in position in 2020.
I unreservedly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement; he has taken the right decision. We have had good cause to suspend the extradition treaty, and I will now withdraw my amendments to the Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill, although I suspect that that has not been keeping him awake at night.
I associate myself with the comments made by my hon. Friend Tom Tugendhat on the Uyghurs. The Foreign Secretary is right that he has to be careful on the legal elements of what he does with regard to sanctions on individuals, now that we have the Magnitsky changes. The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China published a report on the forced sterilisation of the Uyghur women a few weeks ago, and there is lots of evidence of the officials who are involved in that. May I, along with many of my hon. Friends and Opposition Members, encourage him to do what he can to get officials to look at that urgently, so that we may force sanctions on those responsible for what is happening to the Uyghur, and on Hong Kong—people such as Carrie Lam and her predecessor, Mr Leung?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his support for these measures and for withdrawing his amendments; I appreciate his magnanimity in that regard. On the Magnitsky sanctions, he raises two different issues: their potential application in relation to, first, Hong Kong and, secondly, Xinjiang. We, of course, have a process for gathering all the evidence on those potential cases. The national security legislation is newly enacted, so that will take some time, but he is right to point to that. I have been reading over the weekend reports by Amnesty International in 2019 and 2020 on the range of abuses in Xinjiang, reports by Human Rights Watch between 2018 and 2020 on the mass detention and political indoctrination, and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination report in 2018 on the massive internment camps with no rights. We are looking at this carefully. As he rightly notes, it is important to assess this carefully, and it is a question of not only whether the abuses took place but whether individual responsibility can be ascribed to someone on whom we wish to impose a visa ban or asset freeze.
It seems wrong to be welcoming a suspension of extradition and exports, but backward steps though these may be, they are necessary, and my party will support them. Never mind the restrictions on exports—when will the Government start looking at the materials that we are importing from China, in particular those manufactured by Hikvision? It is some of the most intrusive surveillance technology to be found anywhere in the world, it is used widely in Xinjiang province, and it is now being purchased and installed by public and private authorities up and down this country. Will the Government look at that in a joined-up way?
On the subject of Xinjiang province, the world is watching, and what we are seeing is horrific. There was the drone footage at the weekend. Last week there was the interception of a shipment of human hair. I know that “genocide” is a term of art in law, and the Foreign Secretary is right to be cautious about its use, but it would make an enormous difference to tackling the issues in Xinjiang province if he would admit from the Dispatch Box that there are a growing number of adminicles of evidence that that is absolutely what is happening.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his typically focused and well considered remarks, and for his support. In relation to UK regulation and the regime that applies to imports, we have a strong and rigorous scheme in place, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will of course look at any individual cases that he wishes to raise. We are joined up—he asked about this—via the National Security Council and the other structures in a more closely integrated way, and covid-19 has encouraged that more broadly across the board.
On the definition of genocide, I have worked on war crimes since well before becoming a Member of this House, and the real challenge of it is the question of deliberate intention that is ascribed to it. As important as that is—it does bring with it legal implications that help in respect of accountability—the reality is that it can also distract from the fact that we are increasingly confident that there is a strong case to answer, as the Chinese ambassador was unable to do yesterday on “The Andrew Marr Show”, in respect of systematic human rights abuses. Frankly, the legal label on it is to me secondary to the plight of the victims who are suffering under it.
I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s statement, as we develop a new relationship with China. He mentioned Uyghurs just once in his statement, but he knows that the whole House is concerned about the human rights abuses taking place in Xinjiang. If there is enough evidence for the Americans to apply sanctions on officials in Xinjiang, can the Foreign Secretary have sight of that evidence to see whether we can do the same here? He of course repeatedly states that “genocide” is a legal term and we need international courts to apply it, but when it comes to the UN and China, the UN is a busted flush. Will the Foreign Secretary consider convening an independent inquiry so that we can collect evidence to see whether genocide is taking place in Xinjiang?
I thank my hon. Friend for the points that she has made. Of course, one of the points about the Magnitsky regime that we have introduced is that we have already put in place a co-ordination mechanism so that we can more regularly and generically co-ordinate with our Five Eyes partners and share information. There was quite a significant overlap—although not exclusively; it is the UK regime—in the designations that we have already made. We are putting in place that co-ordination. It is a reasonable point to make.
On genocide, I can only repeat the points that I have made before, but I have been clear that this is a gross violation of human rights and China does need to be answerable to and accountable for it. My hon. Friend talked about setting up an inquiry to examine the evidence and to glean it; we have to be realistic about what China would allow into Xinjiang. In the absence of that access, it is very difficult to see how we could do that. It is of course available to all the Select Committees in this House—as well as to the Government in their efforts to assess the evidence—to look at that independently of Government and, indeed, the United Nations.
Anyone who saw the footage on “The Andrew Marr Show” yesterday would have found it chilling. In the light of that footage, when the Foreign Secretary meets Secretary of State Pompeo tomorrow, will he raise the implementation of the Magnitsky sanctions on Chinese officials implicated in the persecution of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang? Does the Foreign Secretary agree that imposing sanctions on the individuals involved should be an absolute priority?
I have already raised with Mike Pompeo, as well as with my other Five Eyes partners, not just the Magnitsky sanctions regime that we have put in place but the designations. We have also given due consideration to co-operation on future evidence. It is important that there is an evidence-based approach, although there is of course political accountability, and we will carefully gather and assess the evidence.
In answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question about priorities, we have set out, through a policy note published in the Library of the House, the criteria that we will apply and the policy approach. That stresses the nature of the violations, their severity and our ability to hold to account the individuals at the right levels—sufficiently senior—so that we send the right message.
I agree with so much of what the Secretary of State is saying about the need for balance, about the criticality of China and about respect for what it has achieved, but the signal truth is that the China we hoped for is not the China that we are now getting. We need a much more significant reset in our relationship in respect of not only Hong Kong but foreign lobbying, foreign investment, espionage—industrial or otherwise—human rights and our alliances and defence posture. Will the Secretary State confirm whether we are approaching all these issues piecemeal or whether there is a wider reset? If there is a wider reset, will he explain how the Government are interacting with parliamentarians and outside experts, and how that more comprehensive reset is going to be presented to Parliament so that we can all get to debate it and contribute to it?
My hon. Friend is an assiduous follower of China; I know that he takes a very close interest in it. On what the right balance is, he has mentioned all the areas of challenge. We could talk about universities, freedom of expression—there are many—but, for balance, it is important to say that there are also areas of co-operation. China is one of the biggest investors—the biggest investor, I think—in renewable technology. If we are to shift the dial significantly on climate change, China will to have to be a constructive and, indeed, positive partner, with which to engage.
More strategically, my hon. Friend asked how the measures that we take fit a broader strategy. We are considering that all the time not just through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office channels, but through the National Security Council. With the integrated review, of course, he and other hon. Members will get precisely the opportunity to scrutinise the more strategic, big picture.
I very much welcome both the tone and the content of what my right hon. Friend has said today. He is surely right to emphasise the importance of co-operation wherever we can and not of confrontation wherever possible. After all, we have more in common with China when it comes to climate change negotiations than we do currently with the United States. Will he emphasise to the Chinese authorities that the Magnitsky legislation and the human rights measures that he has so ably and rightly introduced are not aimed at the Chinese per se, but at human rights abusers, corrupt officials and business people wheresoever they may be?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. I welcome and thank him for his support. When the Magnitsky sanctions were originally debated, the Russian Government said that the measure was solely aimed at Russia and when it was originally debated, discussed and enacted in the US, there were different Bills in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. We were very clear in the model that we adopted that this would be a universal mechanism, that it would allow us to target the individuals, whether they were state or non-state actors, and that it did not involve us, as a wider economic embargo or sanctions would do, in punishing the individual people of the country. This is a very bespoke, forensic tool, but it gives effect to exactly what he describes.
History teaches us that we cannot stay silent in the face of what is happening to China’s Uyghur community. That warning would be stark from anyone, but coming from the Holocaust Educational Trust, it should send a chill through all of us. Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that the Government will miss no opportunity to remind the Chinese Government that wholesale abuses of human rights are not an internal matter for China any more than they are an internal matter for anyone and that, where there is evidence, as there clearly now is, of large-scale breaches of human rights conditions in China, then the rest of the world has not only a right, but an absolute duty, to step in to protect the citizens of China, as we would protect the citizens of any other country on earth?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. As I have said, we respect China as a leading member of the international community and as a permanent member of the Security Council, with not just rights but the obligations that go with that, The commitment to international human rights law reflected under the UN charter of customary international law is incredibly important. We raised this issue with the Chinese Government—I raised it with my Chinese opposite number in Beijing. We have also raised, for the first time, the issue in relation to Xinjiang and Hong Kong in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
When the Communist party of China decided to breach the Sino-British Joint Declaration, it knew that it put at risk extradition treaties from countries that value the rule of law. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while we continue to welcome China’s development as a leading economic power, the rules-based international system protects us all and must be defended?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The UK has a strong reputation as a promoter and guardian of the international rule of law, and that is a good guide or lodestar for our relationship with China. That is why not only has the UK grounded our response to China in relation to Hong Kong in the obligations freely assumed by the Chinese Government reflected in the joint declaration, but other countries are doing the same.
The measures the Foreign Secretary has announced in the Commons today are supported by all parts of the House, I am sure, but I thought his preamble was a little optimistic. It is clear that in international organisations China has the objective of subverting those organisations, rather than either trying to change the rules or obeying them. Will he be more explicit about how he intends to work with China, given its attitude of undermining the World Health Organisation, the World Trade Organisation and other international bodies?
I make no apology for being stubbornly optimistic about global Britain, including in our relations with China, but of course it requires China to live up to its international obligations. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about not allowing a vacuum to appear in multilateral institutions. We are discussing that with our US partners, our European partners and across the board. He gave a few examples; the most obvious recent example of concern is intellectual property theft, where there was a Chinese candidate to lead the World Intellectual Property Organisation, and there was a groundswell of diplomatic activity to support the Singaporean candidate for precisely that reason. We need not only to uphold the rule of international law, but to work closely with all like-minded partners to support the multilateral institutions.
I strongly support the measures announced today. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that when the inevitable pressure, both public and private, comes from China, we will stand behind the measures for as long as the national security law remains in its current form?
Absolutely. In taking these measures, we recognise that China will respond. That is why I was clear that we are taking well reasoned, focused and proportionate measures in response to China’s actions in Hong Kong. We are clear that, in relation to Hong Kong and more generally, we will not buck and bow. We will look for the positive, but prepare in terms of the resilience of our economy, our security and, indeed, our values.
I welcome strong action over Hong Kong and the Uyghurs and to secure our critical national infrastructure, but I am concerned by reports over the weekend that the Government told Huawei that the exclusion from our 5G network was at the behest of the United States. Does the Secretary of State agree that when we take such action to defend our national security, we should say so clearly, and that it can never be in our interests to be seen to be hiding behind President Trump, particularly as we leave the European Union and seek new partnerships?
I thank the hon. Lady for her support for the measures we are taking today. It was clear in the original decision on Huawei that we wanted to reduce reliance on high-risk vendors; it is equally clear—we have to be honest about it—that we had to take the measures that we took based on technical necessity, following US sanctions and their impact on the supply chain. We have been clear and honest about that, but there is a much broader challenge for us and our international partners, which is diversifying supply chains and telecoms providers so that we can build up greater diversity of high-trust vendors in the field, and that is what we have focused on.
If we are for human rights, we must be for human rights everywhere. If we are for the rule of law, we need to be for the rule of law everywhere. In welcoming today’s decisive actions in relation to Hong Kong, may I ask my right hon. Friend for an assurance that our commitment to pro-democracy campaigners and oppressed minorities across China does not end here?
Of course, freedom of religion and freedom of expression are not only under threat in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. There is a broader issue, which we continue to raise with China and international partners in the relevant multilateral forums.
I hope the Foreign Secretary has noted that almost every hon. Member has touched on the persecution of Uyghurs, which is pointing towards a demographic genocide. Well over 1 million Uyghurs are detained in camps and they have been subjected to some of the most atrocious forms of torture. The Chinese Government are now taking draconian measures with the aim of curbing this Muslim population. So will he agree to meet the civil society groups that have evidence of human rights abuses in China against the Uyghurs ahead of the next round of designations under the Magnitsky sanctions, and will he raise this issue with Secretary of State Pompeo tomorrow?
The hon. Gentleman is right to join others in expressing concerns. I made it clear that we regard what is happening in Xinjiang as a gross violation of human rights. I have already referred to the reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. A report by 11 UN special rapporteurs in November 2019 also raised the issues of not only arbitrary detention, but enforced disappearance and torture. We will look very carefully at all that evidence.
I strongly welcome this statement. Whether it is the pictures of Uyghur Muslim children who have been separated from their parents, the horrifying footage of Uyghurs in chains being herded off the trains and into the camps, or the news that the Chinese Government are selling the hair of Uyghurs on the internet, I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will feel deeply that many of these things are reminiscent of the darkest moments of 20th century history. Does he agree that as we work across Whitehall to think about all our different points of leverage on the Government in Beijing, we must recognise, first, that they are on a path of increasing aggression externally and increasing repression internally? Does he agree that we must also recognise that some things we do to have the most leverage over them may also be in our economic interest, be that restricting takeovers of companies in this country or restricting their ability to extract technology from our universities? Does he agree that the only way to stand up to a regime that is becoming more and more bullying is to confront it now?
My hon. Friend makes a range of good points, and we will, of course, continue to look at all of them in the round. I share his concern about what we are hearing in some of those reports and the harrowing echoes of what we have seen in the past. He is right to say that we need to use every potential lever we have to try to positively moderate or change the behaviour of China. We also need to be realistic about the size and scale of China, and, whatever the debate in this House, about the likely appetite and disposition of not just Europeans and north Americans, but the non-aligned countries in the UN. We will be at our strongest when we unite people together.
China stands condemned in the world court of rights for its abuse of Christians and Uyghur Muslims, and this week is the 21st anniversary of China’s persecution of the Falun Gong, whose followers have been subjected to commercial organ harvesting with the knowledge of the state of China—there is a strong World Health Organisation evidential base on this. So will the Foreign Secretary consider imposing travel bans and asset freezes against those involved in serious human rights violations in China against the Falun Gong?
As I mentioned, the challenge will be evidential, in terms of establishing not just the abuses, but the individuals responsible. We are deeply concerned about the persecution of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners and others on the grounds of religion or belief in China, including, given the new national security legislation, the risk that that grip gets only tighter.
For as long as China’s gross abuses go largely uncensored by the UN Human Rights Council, will my right hon. Friend ensure that the UK will continue to oppose resolutions made under item 7 at the UN Human Rights Council? That item seems grossly disproportionate, given that it singles out Israel for special attention, against its undeniably poor record, while China continues systemic, appalling institutional abuse against the Uyghur people and nobody at the UN Human Rights Council has anything to say about it.
I remember well from my right hon. Friend’s time as a Minister what a champion of human rights he was. The approach we will take is to hold the countries and the Governments to account for the worst human rights abuses and so far as we can—he will remember this from his time dealing with the UN—mitigate and avoid the politicisation of those by Governments and others who wish to subvert human rights more generally.
The decision to suspend extradition arrangements is a necessary step in protecting human rights, given the serious curtailing of freedom that has taken place as a result of the imposition of the new national security law in Hong Kong. Can the Foreign Secretary update the House on the FCO’s recent engagement with civil society organisations in Hong Kong? What steps will he take under the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 to designate sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in both Hong Kong and China?
I think I have already answered the question about Magnitsky sanctions. We will assess the evidence; I do not want to prejudge any future designations, but we will look at that very carefully. We also are engaged and in touch with various civil society movements in relation to both Hong Kong and more broadly, and the Minister for Asia is meeting Nathan Law later today. That is one illustration of the engagement we have had.
By taking this welcome step to suspend extradition to Hong Kong, we are saying clearly that we have little confidence in the judicial processes of China. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that he will be looking at other extradition treaties that this country has to make sure that there are no halfway house routes that China might exploit to get citizens with whom it disagrees back to Hong Kong or China to face questionable charges?
Certainly, all the recent extradition treaty arrangements that we have already have an inbuilt safeguard to mitigate against that potential risk. I hope that gives my hon. Friend the reassurance he needs.
I very much welcome the announcement made by the Foreign Secretary today. I was alarmed, like many others, to hear the Chinese ambassador to the UK this weekend, when asked about forced mass sterilisations, say that he
“cannot rule out single cases”.
The Foreign Secretary has already said that he will be looking to work with international partners on further establishing that evidence base of human rights abuses against the Uyghur people in particular. Can he go further and explain exactly what conversations he has had so that we can further inform our decision making and further actions?
I agree with the hon. Lady; I think the whole House—every individual—will share the disgust and the horror at the idea that, anywhere, there is any number of cases of forced sterilisation. The testimony that we saw on “The Andrew Marr Show” yesterday was truly harrowing—I had certainly not seen anything of that nature before.
The hon. Lady asks, quite rightly, about how we are trying to assess the evidence base. We need to bear in mind two factors: first, the evidential points that I have already mentioned and, secondly, the balance of international opinion. We can work with our traditional partners, which is really important, but we also need to build up a groundswell of wider support among like-minded partners and countries—particularly those that share our values, but maybe in the region or more broadly—that feel vulnerable to pressure from China. That is a challenge. The way the debate is viewed in some of those countries and by some of those Governments is different from the way it is seen here, so we need to be smart about the way we approach this so we gain consensus and build up a groundswell of support for the measures we have taken. I believe that in the approach we have taken on Hong Kong, grounded in the joint declaration and the very specific obligations that have been violated, we are in the best position to do that.
May I very much welcome the much more robust attitude that we are seeing from the Front Bench? My right hon. Friend speaks about China’s economic rise, but I believe that that has coincided with a demise in a collective sense of duty and responsibility of the west. For decades, we have turned a blind eye to China’s democratic deficit and its human rights violations in the hope that it would mature into a globally responsible citizen, but that clearly has not happened. So, given its actions in the South China sea and given its veto, which it constantly uses at the United Nations, as well as the fact that it ignores WTO advice and is ensnaring so many poorer countries into debt, is this now the turning point where we drop the pretence that China shares our values? I very much welcome the statement today, but it is tactical. Can we have a strategic overhaul of our foreign policy in relation to China?
I couldn’t possibly comment, but he makes a reasonable strategic point and of course the integrated review is an opportune moment to address it.
I am going to run this for another five minutes and Members are going to make others miss out.
The catalogue of human rights abuses by the Chinese authorities is nothing new, and the extension of the national security law in Hong Kong is just the next step. While the suspension of extradition and export controls is necessary, why has it taken so long to reach this point, and how will the UK Government act more swiftly in formulating a strategic plan with international counterparts to make sure all those who are experiencing human rights abuses in Hong Kong and across mainland China are protected?
The national security legislation was only introduced on
I strongly welcome today’s announcement and thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. Does he agree that China must adhere to international law if it wishes to be treated as a leading member of the international community?
My hon. Friend is right. That is the relationship and the way we want to calibrate the relationship—looking for positives, militating against risk and guided by international obligations, multilateral but also directly bilateral, which, in the case of Hong Kong, China freely assumed and is now in clear and serious violation of.
The Secretary of State will be aware of the important financial contribution that Chinese students make to our universities and research sector in particular. What plans do the Government have should those numbers fall? Perhaps more importantly, what can he do to reassure Chinese students and those of Chinese origin in this country that they are safe and welcome here and what can he do to tackle Sinophobic racism?
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this point. I made it clear in my statement that we value the contribution that travelling Chinese make, both touristically and in terms of universities. This is also a timely opportunity to tell the British-Chinese community here, who are among the most hard-working, productive and socially engaged members of our communities, how welcome they are and that we will have no truck in this House—certainly not on the Government Benches—with this descending into jingoism or any racism against them. They are incredibly important members of our community and society.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his robust statement. Does he agree that the national security law is not only to the detriment of the people of Hong Kong but doing great damage to China itself, and that that needs to be pointed out to China?
My hon. Friend is right. In relation to Hong Kong, it is proving how counterproductive this step is, not just for the residents there, but for the broader people of China, given the economic, financial and reputational issues at stake.
I welcome the Government’s new measures on Hong Kong, but I want to press the Foreign Secretary on the gross human rights abuses in Xinjiang. We said that never again would the world stand by while a state set out to eliminate an entire culture, yet it is happening again. As well as accelerating the Magnitsky sanctions on Chinese officials, will he accept that giving out investment opportunities in new nuclear to the state-owned CGN is giving out the wrong signal and that, if he wants to be able to demonstrate real seriousness about gross human rights abuses, he could start by reviewing that policy?
I share the hon. Lady’s horror and shock at the appalling human rights abuses in Xinjiang and more broadly. Of course, we carefully assess not just individual investment decisions but the integrity and resilience of the processes, and we keep that under constant review.
Could we make a study of essential technologies where dependence on China would leave us very vulnerable and then have a strategy for developing those at home or with our allies?
My right hon. Friend is right, particularly in relation to 5G, but there are the other areas, and that is exactly what we are doing.
The Government rejected an amendment to the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill that was designed to stop human tissue involuntarily harvested in China entering the UK market. I have since met the Minister for Asia, and I am pleased by his commitment to this. In the light of what the Foreign Secretary has said today, will he make a commitment that, if those amendments are reintroduced in the other place, the Government will look at them seriously anew?
In suspending our extradition treaty with Hong Kong, has the Foreign Secretary decided that one country, two systems in Hong Kong is dead, in which case it would be wrong for UK and Commonwealth judges to play such an important role in the Court of Final Appeal, or has he decided to wait to see how China implements the security law while working to preserve other aspects of the joint declaration—particularly Hong Kong’s independent rule of law, under which our judges have played such an important role in the CFA?
My hon. Friend raises an excellent point. We will watch very carefully to see whether and the extent to which the new national security legislation impinges on the judicial autonomy that, under the Basic Law and joint declaration, should be afforded to Hong Kong. We will consult widely across Government but also with the judiciary about what further steps we take in the light of that.
In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I suspend the House for four minutes.