Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:43 pm on 20th July 2020.

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Photo of Alyn Smith Alyn Smith Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 3:43 pm, 20th July 2020

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?