Relations with China: Xi Jinping Presidency — [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 1:30 pm on 16th March 2023.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 1:30 pm, 16th March 2023

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The information I have suggested that the Chinese Communist party was going to try to use its influence to ensure that any choice would be the choice of the Chinese Communist party, but if, as the hon. Gentleman said, there is some control over that, that would be one of the good things that could come out of this.

The issue of forced organ transplantation from members of the Falun Gong has been in my heart in this House for some 10 years now. It is being done on a commercial scale, and people have lost their lives. We must never forget the impact of that on the Falun Gong.

There is also the persecution of Christians. Churches have been destroyed, with secret police sitting in church services, taking notes of those who are there, and recording car numbers and which houses people return to. We have also had the rise of cyber-surveillance in China, which is another indication of those being imprisoned, beaten and injured all because they happen to have a different religious opinion. Today, we had some good news: the Government indicated that they would suspend their agreement with TikTok. That is good news when it comes to security issues, and we must welcome it.

In my time as an MP, I have seen the UK move from the “golden era” espoused by David Cameron and George Osborne to the confusion and lack of cohesion on China under this Government. In each case, the policies were driven by economics. Economics is of course relevant, but our policies must encompass other important factors such as our human rights obligations, and take into account our moral compass and what we believe. There is a real fear that focusing solely on money would mean that the UK’s fundamental beliefs in human rights and the rule of law are subjugated for the purpose of trade deals. Mr Carmichael referred to that; it is one of the key issues, and I seek clarification and encouragement from the Minister on it. That would be great for China and other authoritarian states, but terrible for the UK’s standing in the world. I urge extreme caution and recommend change.

We are watching in real time the reduction of democratic states and the rise of authoritarian regimes. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, 23 countries out of 167 monitored in 2020 could be called democracies. Fifty were considered authoritarian, and the others attained some form of flawed democracy or hybrid system, more likely than not under the control of one person.

China and Russia are leading the global rise in authoritarian states. They are seeking to build their own alliances, disrupt democratic processes in other countries, interfere in elections, and create their own channels for communication and cyber-control away from the norms and standards expected by international treaties. They support each other at institutions such as the United Nations, where the evil axis gathers together to defend each other’s interests and provide financial and political support for one another. The unfortunate thing for us is that democracies seem incapable of working together to fight back against that in a single-minded, focused manner, so I have great concerns.

The Chinese Government have committed a series of ongoing human rights abuses against the Uyghurs since 2014. I and others, including Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who is in the Chamber, have raised that issue. Abuse is also perpetrated against other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang province. This is the largest scale detention of ethnic and religious minorities since world war two. It is of that size; it is almost impossible to take in the number.

The United States has declared China’s human rights abuses a genocide, as have legislators in several other countries, including Canada, the Netherlands, Lithuania and France. We have even done so in this House of Commons in a debate led by the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green. The Parliaments of New Zealand, Belgium and the Czech Republic condemned the Chinese Government’s treatment of the Uyghurs as severe human rights abuses or crimes against humanity, which they truly are.

China continues to deny any wrongdoing and threatens politicians and even entire countries with retaliation simply for daring to raise and debate these issues. Diplomats are deployed to berate senior Government officials and speak at news stations to explain that everyone is wrong and at this is all just Sinophobia and anti-China rhetoric. No, it is not; it is much more than that.

Atrocities in Tibet have been going on since 1950—so much so that we barely react any more. Tim Loughton has spoken about Tibet for as long as I have been in this House, and long before that, I believe. He has highlighted it on many occasions. We cannot forget about it. We need to focus on what is happening there, which is hard to take in, with regularity and ferocity. Children are forced into re-education boarding schools as a way of eradicating their language and religion, with the hope that they will reject their own families and culture. Such policies have left a trail of family destruction and have cut cultural and historical memory.

China plans to choose the next Dalai Lama, but I am very pleased that the hon. Gentleman said that those of the Dalai Lama’s religion will make that choice. I hope that will be the case and that China does not influence it in any way. We wait to see what happens.

Hong Kong wants to be a peaceful and prosperous city, a thriving economic and social hub in Asia, and truly global in its influence, but it has been brought to its knees in just three years since the introduction of the national security law.