[Christina Rees in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 3:22 pm ar 15 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 3:22, 15 Mai 2024

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, and I thank Bob Seely for securing it. Mark Logan referred to how it would be great if China became more westernised—I must say it, but my goodness. I will explain why it is not more westernised, and why China does not fit into that category and never will. Its human rights abuses and persecution of those with religious views are enormous, and in the short time that I have I will categorise them.

Countless human rights violations have been committed by China. Religious freedom for Tibetan Buddhists is a special concern of mine, and I continue to raise my voice on those issues. My efforts to call out China for its deplorable actions, which threaten the basic rights of those within its borders and across the world, have led the Chinese Communist party to sanction me as it has sanctioned others. As the hon. Member for Bolton North East said, China could become more westernised. Well, I will tell them what: start thinking like we do in the western world, where we understand human rights and the right to religious belief. We understand the right to be friends of others and not to suppress people. That is what British values are, and the Deputy Foreign Secretary will respond to that. No threats will deter me or others from speaking up about human rights in China and elsewhere.

The relationship between China and the UK is in a precarious state. Our Government seek to mend relations with China to increase trade and investment between the two countries. I know that the Deputy Foreign Secretary will summarise some of those things, but we need to collaborate on common goals, be it economic prosperity, global security or environmental protection. However, China must accept the issue of the right for us and other people to have human rights, and we must not allow our economic interests to overrule our moral obligation to protect the rule of law and human rights. It is widely recognised that China’s aggressive actions violate the human rights of Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Christians and Falun Gong and threaten the status of Hong Kong and Taiwan. A western country! My goodness. It has a long way to go to catch up.

I must note that those of us in the UK are not removed from the threat of Chinese influence. The Prime Minister remarked that China poses a

“particular threat to our open and democratic way of life”.

Let us start listening to the evidential base. China’s influence warrants our engagement with this growing power, but our security and that of our allies, along with the protection of human rights, must be cornerstones of our foreign policy on China.

Recent threats to Taiwan’s status from China have significantly escalated tensions in the Taiwan strait and the South China sea. Taiwan’s democracy and freedom are in danger, as well as the stability of the wider region. The UK and Taiwan share a thriving £8 billion trade and investment relationship. Taiwan’s economy is vital for the success of the technology supply chain that drives our global digital economy. Protecting Taiwan and our relationship with them is in the UK’s and the world’s economic interests. Hong Kong has experienced a severe escalation of restrictions on people’s freedoms imposed by China within the last decade. Earlier this year, a new security law took effect in Hong Kong—a law that severely restricts freedom of expression and other human rights of those in Hong Kong.

We know that freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief are inextricably intertwined. While religious communities supposedly have the right to conduct religious activities in Hong Kong, we know that it will not be too long before freedom of religion or belief will fall alongside the rest of human rights in Hong Kong, as China has shown that it is not interested in being a western power or even in being influenced by western moral standards. Benedict Rogers, the CEO of Hong Kong Watch, is in the Gallery today, and his work in promoting freedom in the country is quite commendable. He remarked that

“repression in Hong Kong would be dangerous to us all”

—and so it would.

China’s activities extend far beyond the borders of south-east Asia; China has recently increased its influence in Africa and other parts of the world. I want to be very clear on this point: China suppresses human rights to such an extent that, should its influence continue to expand, the freedom and security of billions of people across the world would be in peril, and their human rights and right to religious belief would be severely affected. Why is that? China has an insatiable appetite for anything else that anybody has. When it is going across Africa, it is marking down where it can get minerals, have influence and take and use whatever that country has.

Appeasing or ignoring actions by authoritarian states for the sake of trade and investment will only lead to the escalation of these actions. It is indisputable that China regularly violates article 18 of the universal declaration of human rights, which it has signed. We must stand firm in our values and our morals that guide our actions in creating a world where international law is upheld and human rights are protected. The hostility and aggression of Chinese actions call for us to stand together with greater courage, strength and determination to protect human rights and religious freedom.

I ask the Minister and the Government. along with the SNP spokesperson, Brendan O’Hara, and the shadow Minister, Catherine West, to pay particular heed to China’s violations of human rights and religious persecution not only within its borders, but across the world as they consider their foreign policy on China.