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

It is a pleasure to give way to the right hon. Gentleman, who came early to this issue. He has been calling it out for some time, and I congratulate him on that. I agree with him. We have to look at the starting point. People took their eyes off Tibet, but we can see now what is happening. People did not want to talk about the Uyghurs, but we have advanced. Repression is happening everywhere.

My point about the Christians is that it has been going on for a long time. There are threats, for example, to withhold state support from low-income Christian families who do not give up their religious belief, and there is a similar experience among Catholic churches. It is not only about churches that the Government do not consider to be registered; it is also even churches that they might consider to be registered.

The Falun Gong has experienced the most appalling behaviour. The 610 Office is the security agency charged with solely persecuting the Falun Gong. If detainees do not renounce Falun Gong beliefs, they are subject to re-education through labour. There are reports of beatings, solitary confinement, 24-hour monitoring, rack torture, tiger bench torture, water torture, stress position torture, forced feeding for those on hunger strike and forced injections of unknown drugs, and now, most shockingly of all, there are confirmed stories of organ harvesting from those who have been incarcerated.

Liu Guifu, a Falun Gong practitioner from Beijing, was twice sent to RTL camps—retraining camps—in Beijing. She reports being deprived of sleep, not allowed to use a bathroom or drink water. She was forced to consume faeces and toilet water, and was given unidentifiable drugs to make her lose consciousness. I urge the Government to call that out.

I also urge the Government to do a series of things so that the UK becomes a lead advocate in all of this. First, we need to look at mandatory sanctions with regard to global human rights abuses: sanctions such as travel bans or asset freezes. The officials responsible should have Magnitsky arrangements applied to them for the use of forced compulsory labour in Tibet and in other areas, too. The Government should also open a way for similar judgments to be issued on cases regarding abuses against Xinjiang’s Uyghurs and other minorities in China that I have touched on.

I urge the Government to support amendment 68 to the Trade Bill in the Lords to nullify trade arrangements past and future if the High Court makes a preliminary determination that a proposed trade partner has perpetrated genocide. I can tell the Government now that, should such a new clause come to the Commons, I will absolutely support it. I also urge the Government to consider that, to meet GDP targets. China’s economy needs to grow by some 7.5% a year. Under the cover of that, China is being given the capacity to behave in the way it does by western companies and Governments, which are turning a blind eye.

It is worth reminding ourselves that, beyond even the human rights abuses, China is now in breach of World Trade Organisation rules endlessly across the piece. It incentivises companies through illegal discounts, tax breaks and subsidies. Even Volkswagen reported that it had to buy a quota of components from local Chinese suppliers or pay more than double the standard import tax on such parts, which violates the WTO rules that everybody else is meant to obey. China favours exporting finished products, which means that it basically forces companies to manufacture and produce.

The supply chain risk profiles are all in the report, and they are there for us as well. The supply chains in Tibet, Xinjiang and other regions are linked to forced labour, and the Government have to make it clear to British business that it is unacceptable to be in the slightest bit involved with those chains. I also ask the Government to demand reciprocal access to Tibet and other regions, such as Xinjiang, in order to allow for independent international investigation into the reports of forced labour, and to call for a UN special rapporteur on Tibet.

The peculiarity of the situation is that if China were any other country in the world, every Government would call it out. They would demand change. Imagine if it were a country in Europe, Africa or anywhere else—there would immediately be demands and debates in the UN. That does not happen. Far too much of what we think and do about China is now influenced massively by the concern about getting goods, manufacturers, investment and so on organised.

China is involved in occupying the South China sea. The UN has said that China has no right to it at all, yet it is demanding and controlling whole areas. It has been involved in border disputes—aggressive behaviour—recently with India, in which Indian soldiers have been killed.

Then there is the situation in Hong Kong. How much more can we say about Hong Kong? China is abusing what is going on and has dismissed an international agreement with regards to the legalities, leading to the incarceration of many peaceful protestors and their shipment to China for prosecution, where they will certainly not get a fair trial. By the way, I asked the Government what they think of British judges being employed still on the bench in Hong Kong. Surely it is time that we said, “Enough!” They can no longer give cover to what is going on in Hong Kong. It has to stop, for goodness’ sake.

There is one other action that the Government can take. The winter Olympics are planned to be in China. Many of us believe that, if it were any other country, there would now be calls for the Olympics to be moved. I simply say to the Government that they will have to take a stance on this issue pretty soon.

Overall, we are dealing now with a country that appears to have bullied and threatened its way through all of this. It is imposing the most dreadful and terrible things on many of its people, it is abusing human rights, and many people now believe that it might even be guilty of a form of genocide. I simply say to my Government that it is time for them to stand up. It is time for this Government to lead, and it is time for this Government to act.