Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con) [V]
Another day, another debate on the industrial scale of human rights abuses by the Chinese regime. Here we are again, and I am delighted that we are; I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani), who has so championed the cause, and wholeheartedly endorse everything she said. Together with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) and the rest of the magnificent seven parliamentarians, she and I wear our sanctioning with a badge of honour.
I hope that the message has now got through that the productivity of the seven of us has increased sharply since that inept act by the Chinese regime of putting us on the arbitrary and ridiculous sanctions list. Let me tell the Chinese Government: they ain’t seen nothing yet, because this will go on every day of every week that we can possibly raise it in this place and on the platforms afforded to us as parliamentarians. They have really fired us up to make sure that that is a promise we will deliver.
I wholeheartedly support the motion, to which I have added my signature. Although Tibet is not within its strict scope, everything that has been said so far applies to Tibet and its people, who have been oppressed with similar tactics for the last 62 years, since the occupation of that peace-loving people in the Tibetan region of China back in 1959.
I absolutely take up the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green made about the environment. China is guilty of abusing not just its own people, but the planet, more than any other nation on this earth. Neither is acceptable; one is not a trade-off against the other, if that is the attitude that it wants to take when it comes to COP26. Both need to be called out, and on both it needs to mend its ways—they go hand in hand.
It is a shocking reality that genocides have never properly been called out and thwarted at the time that they happen—genocides against the Jews, genocides against the Muslims in Srebrenica, genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia and Darfur, and the many other genocides that go unnamed and are not properly detected, as the hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi) mentioned. I include in that list the Armenian genocide of 1915 and 1916, when 1 million to 1.5 million men, women and children died at the hands of the Ottomans. On Saturday, in Yerevan and around the world, tributes will be paid and flowers laid; I will do so on behalf of the all-party parliamentary group on Armenia at the Cenotaph tomorrow in commemoration of that terrible genocide, which this country needs to recognise, more than 100 years on.
We talk about debating the subject. Under article I of the UN convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, the United Kingdom is obliged, along with all other UN members,
“to prevent and to punish”
genocide—not just to talk about it, although it is good that we are doing that, but actually to do something about it.
We have heard all the clear evidence on what is going on in Xinjiang province; I will not repeat what my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden said. We know that China formally recognised the Uyghurs as an ethnic minority among its exhaustive list of the no fewer than 56 ethnic groups that comprise its population, along with the Tibetan people. Under China’s own constitution, those minorities and their cultures and identities should be protected, but they are being obliterated. China is trying to assimilate them within its main population, so whatever we may think in terms of international law, it is falling foul of its own constitution. As my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Sir Charles Walker) said, the Chinese regime, in doing what it has done to suppress free speech, has committed an act against this Parliament and the privileges that we have in this Parliament. It is a naked act of aggression against free speech.
It is clear that what is happening is genocide. My hon. Friend the Member for Wealden put it starkly: if a state-orchestrated and race-targeted birth rate plunge of two thirds in two years is not genocide, what is? If mass internment, slave labour, systematic rape, torture and live organ harvesting, mass sterilisation, womb removal, forced abortion, secretly located orphan camps, brainwashing camps and the psychological trauma of these combined atrocities do not amount to genocide, under any of the definitions, what does? There is a saying, “If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck and walks like a duck, it is a duck.” This sounds like, looks like and is genocide, and it needs to be called out loud and clear for what it is.
I urge the Minister again, who has been very supportive. We are very grateful for the very supportive words of the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Minister, who I am glad to see here again today, and of the Speaker and the Lord Speaker in support of the magnificent seven. But why, oh why, are we not going further in the sanctions against people who are clearly guilty of waging genocide on other Chinese citizens? Chen Quanguo absolutely needs to be on that list; he has been committing genocide against the Uyghurs since 2016, having learnt and plied his trade in Tibet against the Tibetans before that.
We need to do more to support those businesses that are being thrown out of Xinjiang and that are in some cases taking a stand. We need to have a proper audit of our universities and schools. I hear that the Prebendal School in Chichester, in my own diocese, is now under threat of being taken over by the Chinese, and this is on top of no fewer than 17 senior schools around the UK that are now under the control of senior Chinese figures in the Chinese communist party. This is happening in our country, on our watch. We need to flush it out; we need to put the spotlight on it.
The contacts the Chinese have within our military research and their activities within our infrastructure projects—we have to have a full and thorough audit of the tentacles of the Chinese regime in UK society up and down this country. There are still artificial intelligence firms with links to persecution of Uyghurs funding research at British universities. They are funding places at PhD and post-doctoral research positions at Surrey University, for example, despite having been placed on a US blacklist in 2019. I pay tribute to the University of Manchester, which cancelled an agreement with the Chinese electronic company CETC after warnings that it supplied the tech platforms and apps used by Beijing’s security forces in the mass surveillance of the Uyghurs. We need to do more to make sure we are not aiding and abetting these parts of the Chinese regime.
Last month, the Foreign Office admitted that the Uyghurs were being harassed and abused in the UK itself, so it is not just happening within China. As the Foreign Secretary said, this is being done to intimidate them into silence, and they are being urged to report on other Uyghurs to the police.
Rahima Mahmut, the UK director for the World Uyghur Congress, who has bravely stood up and is one of the mouthpieces for the Uyghur population here, was in Parliament Square earlier. In an article in The Telegraph, she gave some chilling examples of Uyghur exiles in this country being intimidated by the long tentacles of the Chinese regime while in the supposed safety of this country. Those exiles are ominously reminded that they have relatives back in China. A Uyghur woman received texts every day from the Chinese police urging her to spy on other Uyghurs in the UK and saying, “Remember, your mother and your sisters are with us.”
This regime does not stop at its own borders and we need to stand shoulder to shoulder and offer whatever support we can to protect those Uyghur refugees, Tibetan refugees and other victims of oppression by China who find themselves in this country. They deserve our safety and our succour, and we need to give them more to protect them from the dangers that they are going through.
I also urge the Minister: we should be encouraging our diplomats to speak out. Last week, I cited the example of the new British ambassador in Beijing who had been hauled over the coals for just mentioning the free press to the Chinese Government. John Sudworth, the BBC correspondent in Beijing, has had to flee from Beijing, after reporting on human rights abuses, because of fears for his own safety and the safety of his family. We must encourage these people to continue to speak out.