[Christina Rees in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 3:45 pm ar 15 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa) 3:45, 15 Mai 2024

I thank the hon. Lady for giving me the option; I will either come on to those issues, or I will write.

By imposing the national security law in 2020, China has stifled opposition in Hong Kong and criminalised dissent. Mr Jimmy Lai and others are being deliberately targeted to silence criticism under the guise of national security. The new Safeguarding National Security Ordinance will further damage the rights and freedoms enjoyed in the city. We took swift and decisive action, including suspending our extradition treaty indefinitely and extending the arms embargo applied to mainland China since 1989 to include Hong Kong. We also introduced a British National (Overseas) immigration path, granting over 191,000 visas to date.

During her recent visit to mainland China and Hong Kong, the Minister for the Indo-Pacific, my right hon. Friend Anne-Marie Trevelyan, met Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Deng Li in Beijing and Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui in Hong Kong. She made clear the Government’s deep concerns about the situation in Hong Kong.

I would say more about Xinjiang if I had more time, but the point was made by the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute. We consistently raise human rights concerns with the Chinese authorities at the highest level.

I will turn briefly to the engagement aspect of our approach, since no global issue can be solved without China. As I have mentioned, the Minister for the Indo-Pacific visited China and Hong Kong last month. She encouraged China to use its influence to avert further escalation in the middle east and urged Russia to end its illegal invasion of Ukraine. The Ministers discussed areas of mutual co-operation, including AI safety and trade. My right hon. Friend underscored our concerns about China’s human rights record and interference in our democratic institutions. She also urged China to lift sanctions on UK parliamentarians and British nationals—something about which the House has been rightly outraged.

In February, my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary met his Chinese counterpart at the Munich security conference. He urged China to use its influence on Iran to pressure the Houthis over their actions in the Red sea. He further stressed that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine threatens the rules-based international system, which is designed to keep us all safe.

The Foreign Secretary set out the UK’s position on human rights and particularly mentioned Xinjiang and Hong Kong. He also raised the case of British parliamentarians sanctioned by China and reiterated his call for the release of the British national, Jimmy Lai.

I am glad of the opportunity to outline our position today. I thank my hon. Friends for their thoughtful contributions and all those who have contributed to the debate in what has been an engaging, wide-ranging and thoughtful discussion. It is clear that the challenges posed by China are complex and evolving. We will continue to respond with an approach that protects our national security, aligns with our allies and partners and engages with China where it is in the UK’s interests to do so.

The hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green, who speaks for the Opposition, asked me specifically about Thames Water and other Chinese investment. As time is short, I will, if I may, write to her in detail on that as soon as I can.