China: Labour Programme in Tibet — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 7th October 2020.

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Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green 9:30 am, 7th October 2020

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered reports of China’s rapid expansion of the labour programme in Tibet co-published by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.

It is a great pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Hollobone. Having wiped my microphone, I feel like I am ready to go. Today’s debate is about the recent report on China’s rapid expansion of mass labour programmes in Tibet. This paper was co-published by a leading human rights adviser and scholar, Adrian Zenz, with a group that I am a member of called IPAC—the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China—and there are others in the room who are also part of that group. It includes both left and right parliamentarians in 17 countries who are concerned about the behaviour of China across a range of issues. As I say, Adrian Zenz is a scholar in this area, and he has previously published a paper with IPAC on the forced sterilisation of Uyghur women, and I will touch on that issue shortly.

Adrian Zenz has uncovered this material through existing Government papers. That is the interesting thing: none of this is secret. In a sense, it is quite open, and these Government papers spell out exactly what has been going on. The findings are shocking, although it is important to note that, with all the other debates about China, which I will touch on in my conclusion, Tibet has, funnily enough, been rather forgotten. It has been an issue for a while, and then it has disappeared, and nobody seems to talk about it. What this paper has done is reminded us that, over a longer period than for anything else, the Chinese authorities have been bearing down on the human rights of the indigenous population in Tibet.

The findings of the report are particularly interesting, because they show that there has been mandatory—I use this term advisedly—vocational training, which basically means driving out the sense of identity of the people in Tibet. Alongside these programmes, there are forcible labour transfer schemes. Those are slightly gentle words, but what they mean is that people are being taken from one place and put into camps, a bit like—well, a lot like—the Uyghurs we uncovered, who are forced to do hard labour in all sorts of areas and without proper pay or support.

Over half a million labourers were collected together into these camps in the first seven months of 2020. Local government officials are required by the Government to meet quotas for what they term recruitment to the scheme—it is nothing like any concept of recruitment that we might understand. It basically means that they have to get people in certain categories into those camps as quickly as they can. This process is overseen by strict military management, which includes enforced indoctrination and intrusive surveillance of participants. Labourers may also be forcibly transferred from their homes to work all over China. In other words, this is not just about camps in Tibet; people are being moved around to fulfil requirements elsewhere. Of course, this process has close similarities with the training and labour transfer in the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region, which I will touch on.

The Government’s attempts to dilute Tibetan identity are really critical. That is being done through forced cultural assimilation, and the same pattern is going on in a number of areas. Interestingly, the Government documents state that these programmes aim to reform Tibetan cultural “backwardness”. That is an interesting concept and a relative concept, and of course its relativity is defined by those in power, which is to say the Communist party of China. That aim is achieved by the Government enforcing the learning of Mandarin and weakening, however they can, the religious influence that exists among those who claim to be indigenously Tibetan.

This is not an isolated incident. We have seen this pattern of eradication—or attempted eradication—of ethnicity across China. We know from the parallel report that was published a little earlier on the Uyghurs that at least 1 million Uyghurs are in mass arbitrary detention in Xinjiang. There are almost 400 prison camps in the region, with more still under development. It is disgraceful, but we understand that western fashion brands use supply chains where forced labour is prevalent. I am sure that will apply in due course, if not already, in Tibet. The Government-sponsored forced sterilisation and birth suppression in the Uyghur populations, which we believe do exist, would meet the genocide criteria—we have yet to get the UN to even look at that, but it is the key. Civil servants are also placed in Uyghur homes to monitor behaviour, and children whose parents are detained are being taken from their families and placed in state facilities.

But it is not just the Tibetans and the Uyghurs; it is now also the Christians. Party members who profess a faith are now subject to disciplinary procedures, with the arrest and detention of Christian leaders such as Pastor Wang Yi of the Early Rain Church, who was detained in December 2018 and sentenced to nine years in prison for

“incitement to subvert state power”.