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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:26 am on 7th October 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip 10:26 am, 7th October 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone, and to be back in Westminster Hall. I join others in congratulating Sir Iain Duncan Smith on securing the debate and on his incredibly comprehensive opening contribution, which has been followed by equally powerful contributions from Members representing a wide range of parties and the wide range of views within some of those parties. As Mr Carmichael said, we are identifying a new and increasing consensus about the importance of speaking out about the actions of the Chinese state and, particularly in this debate, its treatment of the Tibetan peoples and other minorities.

Tim Loughton is right that my hon. Friend Chris Law would have been here in other circumstances. He has been a passionate campaigner with his colleagues on the all-party parliamentary group on issues affecting Tibet over the years. He has been on visits, and has met some visitors, as I have had the privilege of meeting, including the Sikyong and others, who have come to address the all-party group.

The report that the debate has highlighted and the efforts of Dr Adrian Zenz have given a new level of coverage to, and awareness of, the tragedies that are unfolding. It is important also to recognise the role of journalists who have picked up on the report, in particular Reuters, which, in the face of the restrictions on journalists that Members have spoken about, has produced a comprehensive piece of coverage and analysis, and attempted to seek a response from the Chinese authorities.

The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham is right: for many people, the oppression of Tibet and the exile of the Dalai Lama is a kind of static fact of life. However, the report has brought home the chilling reality of all the different horrors—enforced military-style training and education, environmental degradation and what the report calls a coercive lifestyle change for the Tibetan people from nomadism and farming to wage labour, which is the strongest, most clear and targeted attack on traditional Tibetan livelihoods that we have seen since the cultural revolution. As others have said, it is essentially a form of cultural genocide, or indeed worse.

We know that the Chinese regime denies that and says that everything is voluntary and nothing is forced, but that does not match the reality that has been reported and the experience elsewhere. As we have heard, the United Nations estimates that at least a million people in Xinjiang, mostly from the ethnic Uyghur population, are subjected to similar treatment—detained in camps, subjected to ideological education and forced sterilisation, as Fiona Bruce said, and other horrors—despite Chinese claims that the participants in such camps have “graduated”. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute identified at least 14 detention centres being built this year alone—14 out of 380 that it has identified across the country using its satellite technology and other methods. Speaking up and speaking out has to be an important first step, and global leaders must recognise and respond to the report and other similar analysis.

The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland was right to say that the global attitude towards China is changing. Throughout Members’ contributions to this debate, we have heard the options that are open to Governments, including the UK Government, be it travel bans for identified officials, Magnitsky sanctions, the implementation and monitoring of the Ruggie principles and the business and human rights action plans that Kerry McCarthy spoke of, or questioning the role of specific companies. We have had a lot of debate in the House recently about the role of Huawei and how it is allowed to operate here in the United Kingdom. Most importantly, journalists, academics and international observers should have a right of independent access for monitoring in Tibet and the other regions.

The UK Government have to support all those calls. This is an important moment for the UK. If it wants to emerge now as a new, global Britain, it has to demonstrate that it will have the courage to rise to the challenges. That is why questions around participation in the winter Olympics in 2022 have to be part of that consideration. They have to be part of our use of soft power, how we make our views on these issues felt around the world and how we engage.