Chinese Government Sanctions on UK Citizens

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Wednesday 14th April 2021

(6 months ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lord, in agreeing with much of what the noble Lord said, let me assure him that we totally and utterly condemn China’s attempt to silence those highlighting human rights abuses, be they at home or abroad.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful to the Government for the support they have given to those who have been sanctioned by China. It is vital that we defend the right to freedom of speech, by parliamentarians in particular but by academics and others as well. Last time the Uighurs were discussed in the House, the Minister agreed to write to me about why the head of the Communist Party in Xinjiang province, who has overseen the atrocious abuses there, was not included in the UK’s list of those sanctioned. As I have not received a letter, will he answer my question now?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, first, on the letter and the response to a specific question, I shall of course follow up on that with my officials. Without speculating on future sanctions, an evidence threshold needs to be met that is tested robustly before we apply sanctions to any given individual.

Human Rights Update

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Tuesday 23rd March 2021

(6 months, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Turkey remains an important partner for the United Kingdom, but I assure the noble Earl that I engage directly on the issue of human rights with the Turkish Government. They have recently produced a new report on the actions they will take this year. We would rather they stayed on board with the Istanbul convention. I agree that any actions we take to ensure that our countries are secure from the scourge of terrorism need to ensure that human rights are always protected.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, like others I welcome the decision to enforce sanctions, but I will press the Minister again on the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and my noble friend Lady Kennedy of The Shaws. Can he explain explicitly why the Communist Party boss in Xinjiang is not on the list of those being sanctioned, given that he is considered by many to be the main enforcer of hard-line policies there? If the Minister cannot be explicit now, could he possibly write to me to explain the very odd decision not to include him?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have noted what all noble Lords have said in respect of sanctions of other individuals. I am sure that noble Lords respect the fact that I cannot be specific on particular names, but, as the noble Baroness requested, I will be happy to explain the process we go through before we sanction any individual or entity under the regime.

Hong Kong: Electoral Reforms

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 11th March 2021

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I note my noble friend’s suggestions, but I assure him that officials have raised these concerns directly. Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Beijing raised them with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 4 March; our acting consul-general in Hong Kong raised them with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 2 March; and London-based officials raised them with the Chinese Embassy here on 5 March. Let me assure my noble friend that we are also in close contact with like-minded partners regarding further action that can be taken.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I would like to pick up on the Minister’s last remarks. Given our close historical connections with Hong Kong, the international community will be looking to the UK to take the lead in defending democracy there. Can he therefore tell the House in more detail than in the Written Answer what discussions the Government have had with the US, the EU and other democracies in the Asia-Pacific region, and what response they have had with respect to the actions to be taken?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, as I have already indicated, we are in constant contact with our partners, whether it is the Five Eyes partners that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, referred to, our colleagues within the European Union, or other allies for calling out the continuing suppression of democracy in Hong Kong. We are in very close contact with all of them. This includes action that we have taken at the UN and, specifically, working with close allies on the Human Rights Council, such as Germany and others. That will continue to be the case. However, the issue is for China to take a long, hard look at itself. It is not standing by international agreements that it has signed. It needs to reflect very carefully, because we are seeing the continuing suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, but we are working with partners to ensure that we call it out as regularly as we can.

Alexei Navalny

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 28th January 2021

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

My Lords, on the noble Baroness’s second point, I believe that I have already informed the House that that is currently in discussion with the EU. On the substantive issue of sanctions, I have said that it works in tandem; we are working closely with the EU, not just on the sanctions regime and co-ordination with other allies. On the question about close working with the EU, the noble Baroness will have noted the G7 statement that just went out, which included the High Commissioner from the European Union, underlining the importance we are attaching, within the context of the G7, to the role of the European Union.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard -

My Lords, does the Minister agree with Mr Navalny that only if we sanction what he calls “the people with the money”, not those operatives who are obeying orders, will there be any impact at all on the Russian authorities?

Xinjiang: Forced Labour

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Tuesday 19th January 2021

(9 months ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, I know that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and his team will look at all requests that we receive from colleagues across both Houses. I will certainly follow up what the noble Lord has raised. On his earlier point, the important thing is that, in any trade agreement that we look to negotiate and are involved with, human rights will be reflected in our discussions; I speak as a Human Rights Minister. As I have said before, China is an important strategic partner to the United Kingdom, and it has an important role to play in the world but, in doing so, it needs to recognise that the situation in Xinjiang is not going unnoticed. China is now being pressed and held to account for what is going on.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I welcome the fact that the Statement recognises the appalling nature of the human rights abuses by Chinese authorities against the Uighur people, some of which have just been described by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. Given the denial of access to the region and refusal to admit that these abuses are taking place by the Chinese authorities, I wonder why we are being so slow in applying Magnitsky sanctions to the violators. I want to support what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, has already said. The Minister has said we are keeping this under review. I hope that he will not mind me saying that this seems rather feeble in the circumstances that we are now in. Surely, it is time for action and not just keeping something under review.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I hear what the noble Baroness says. The new sanctions regime was only launched last summer. I am sure she would agree with me that many, if not all, the designations that have been made have been valid and done because of the strength of the abuses that have occurred. I say this very clearly: the situation in Xinjiang and the action we have taken is demonstrable of not just our concern but, as the Foreign Secretary has said in the other place, the dire situation faced by the Uighur Muslims and, let us also not forget, other minorities within Xinjiang. We have acted. Of course, I take note of the issue around sanctions, but the actions we have taken—in Hong Kong, in engaging and showing international support, on the issues and limitations on extradition treaties with Hong Kong, arms exports and the recent provisions we have announced on forced labour—show that the Government are not sitting back. We are taking action, and there is a wide range of steps we can take. Of course, as ever, I note very carefully what the noble Baroness has put forward.

Official Development Assistance

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 26th November 2020

(10 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I join the noble Lord in his tribute to my noble friend Lady Sugg. She was not only a noble friend but a friend within the FCDO, and will be sorely missed both by the department and, I am sure, by your Lordships’ House in this role. As I have said, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary will lay out some details on the issue of legislation. The noble Lord has raised two important points, and I can assure him that we are very cognisant of our obligations both in terms of the Act and to the House. As for the cut that has been announced, as my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer laid out only yesterday, it was a difficult decision, but it was necessary on the basis of the challenges we face. None the less, in real terms we will still spend £10 billion to fight poverty and climate change, among other key priorities in overseas development.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the Minister has paid tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg. I too want to pay tribute to her for her honourable decision to resign when the Government broke their manifesto commitment on development assistance. She said that was fundamentally wrong. Does the Minister agree with this, and with her letter to the Prime Minister, which said:

“Cutting UK aid risks undermining your efforts to promote a global Britain and will diminish our power to influence other nations to do what is right”?

In answering that question, perhaps he would also indicate when the Government intend to restore development assistance to 0.7% of GNI.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, on the noble Baroness’s first point, I have already mentioned my long support of and friendship with the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg. Of course, she discussed her decision with both the Prime Minister and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. I pay tribute to her efforts and her work in both DfID and the FCDO. As the Chancellor said only yesterday, the cut is temporary and we will return to the 0.7% when the fiscal situation so allows.

Protecting Civilians in Armed Conflict

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Monday 12th October 2020

(1 year ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, first and foremost, let me assure the noble Lord that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has made it clear that we continue to support the work of the Minsk Group. He and the Canadian Minister for Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, issued a joint statement on 6 October calling for an immediate ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table. That must be the first step so that, as the noble Lord has rightly articulated, we can then move forward to holding the perpetrators of crimes fully to account.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, how will the Government hold to account those who are responsible for the use of explosive weapons in populated areas which devastate the lives of all civilians, but particularly those of children and the elderly? What actions are they planning to take to prevent the use of these weapons?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, on the important point raised by the noble Baroness, the UK is working closely with other states, including the Red Cross movement, to promote compliance with international humanitarian law. We will continue to work with partners and call on all states and non-state actors engaged in armed conflict to respect international humanitarian law and to act in accordance with their obligations under it.

Yemen: Humanitarian Aid Funding

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 4th June 2020

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for International Development
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord raises an important point about countries in the region and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I was pleased that it participated in the conference, and it has also made a pledge of $500 million towards resolving the challenge of Covid in Yemen. We look forward to working constructively on the ground with Saudi Arabia and others in the region.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the Minister referred to our role on the UN Security Council as a permanent member and to our particular role as a penholder on Yemen. Can he say why we have so far failed to broker a ceasefire to end this horrific war, and why we are continuing to supply arms to Saudi Arabia, which is fuelling it?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, on the second point, the noble Baroness will be aware that we are not currently supplying any further arms. We are respecting the decision that was taken and we will continue to look at that situation carefully. On the question of resolving the conflict politically, we are working hard at the Security Council to get parties around the table. Most recently, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary also spoke with Martin Griffiths, the special envoy, to see what other efforts we can make bilaterally and, as the noble Baroness says, at the UN directly.