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Freedom of Religion or Belief — [Ms Karen Buck in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 1:30 pm on 12th March 2020.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 1:30 pm, 12th March 2020

Yes, I think the media have a lot to answer for, on not just this but many subjects. They influence opinion and focus attention unfairly.

Of course, it is not only the non-religious who are suffering. Just under two weeks ago, on 1 March, the Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice, QC, released its full judgment. Its interim judgement, released in 2018, declared that forced organ harvesting from religious prisoners of conscience was taking place. The final judgment confirms that view and declares:

“Forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale and that Falun Gong practitioners have been one—and probably the main—source of organ supply. The concerted persecution and medical testing of the Uyghurs is more recent and it may be that evidence of forced organ harvesting of this group may emerge in due course.”

After yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate on that very issue, I am aware that it is emerging. The judgment continues:

The Tribunal has had no evidence that the significant infrastructure associated with China’s transplantation industry has been dismantled”,

which is disappointing,

“and absent a satisfactory explanation as to the source of readily available organs concludes that forced organ harvesting continues till today.”

I have a nephew back home who had to wait five or six years for a kidney transplant. I understand that the wait it is partly about age and getting older, but it is also about availability. Someone could go to China almost any day, any week, and receive an organ. How can that happen? Even though it is a bigger nation, it poses a question.

Thousands of miles away in Westminster, it is sometimes hard to appreciate the horror of that statement—forced organ harvesting on a commercial scale. It is hard not to wonder how anyone could treat their fellow humans so cruelly. I also wonder how many more will suffer that fate before the UK Government—my Government—take action. I wonder how long the Government will refuse to acknowledge the evidence, which includes admissions from doctors in leading Chinese transplant hospitals. I wonder how history will remember those who ignored what Lord Alton of Liverpool described as a practice comparable with,

“‘the worst atrocities committed in conflicts of the 20th century’, including the gassing of Jews by the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge massacres in Cambodia”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 2 March 2020;
Vol. 802, c. 390.]

The Government say that the World Health Organisation has found China’s transplant system to be legitimate. I find that incredible. It is a system in which it takes two to three weeks to get an organ donation, compared with two to three years in the UK. If the system is legitimate, it is the envy of the world and it is a matter of the utmost priority that the NHS should learn from China to save British lives. If it is legitimate, it is an absolute dereliction of responsibility by the UK Government that they have not done everything in their power to understand how China’s system works, so we can replicate its efficiency in the UK.

Indeed, last year, 34 parliamentarians from both Houses wrote a letter to the WHO director general to request that information, but despite chasing it several times with his office, the WHO did not respond. Surely, if the Chinese system is legitimate, the WHO should be begging the Chinese Government to share their medical marvel with the world, but we all know the real reason why organ transplants are available. The Government are not doing that, and the evidence tells us why.

Beyond Falun Gong practitioners, Uighur Muslims are also suffering in China, as we discussed in yesterday’s debate with the same Minister present. I spoke then as well—in this room, probably from this seat—about China’s treatment of its Uighur population. We learned that “hundreds of thousands”, in fact probably between 1 million and 3 million, are imprisoned in China and that many have experienced acts of torture.

Muslims are not just being persecuted in China, however. Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have suffered what has been described by the United Nations as a

“textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

The Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship in 1982 and suffered systematic persecution by Buddhist nationalists. That culminated in a brutal military offensive in August 2017 that killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands more, who were forced into neighbouring Bangladesh. We thank Bangladesh for stepping up and reaching out.

In a worrying parallel, at the end of July 2018, in Assam, the Indian Government effectively stripped 4 million people, mostly Muslims, of their citizenship, and branded them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh amid an atmosphere of rising Hindu nationalism. Muslims in India also claim that they are being persecuted by the Citizenship (Amendment) Act passed by the Indian Parliament in December, which provides a fast track to Indian citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from India’s neighbours. Protests erupted across India in response to the law, which is seen by many as discriminatory against Muslims.