China’s Policy on its Uyghur Population

Iain Duncan Smith Excerpts
Monday 12th October 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Sir Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I hope that I am suitably smart to continue—

Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Sir Iain Duncan Smith
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I am glad. That is very kind of you, Mr Gray.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans) on a powerful speech to begin this brilliant debate. It is important that he laid out many of the issues before us, and he did so with great power and oratory. I commend him for that. This is not an issue that should in any way divide those of us who are present today, I hope, but rather it will unite us, in the best traditions of this House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) asked to be recommended to the debate, although he was unable to join it. I said I would do so, if you do not mind him being on the record, Mr Gray. It is by the by, because he will not be coming to speak—you do not need to worry about that.

The key thing to say is that the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China—now formed of 18 countries, from east to west around the world, on the left and on the right—helped to sponsor Adrian Zenz’s first report on the Uyghurs. I am not saying that people were not aware of the issue, but the report has reignited it with some of his findings. The findings come from official Chinese documents that relate directly to individual officials—I will come back to that, in response to the point made by the hon. Member for Islwyn about Magnitsky sanctions, because there are individuals party to this named in the papers by the Chinese Government.

Adrian Zenz made the point clearly that at least 1 million Uyghurs—up to nearly 3 million—have been detained in Xinjiang in the re-education camps. I will not go into the details about the camps, because the hon. Gentleman made those clear, but detainees reported often being subject to forced labour, political indoctrination and torture. Almost 400 internment camps have been built, with dozens more still under development and yet to be built.

We all saw the film that was shown to the Chinese ambassador on “The Andrew Marr Show”. The ambassador preferred not to recognise anything said to him, but the reality is that those things were redolent of a time that we thought had gone—treatment of human beings that, looking back in history, we thought we had finally banished, but not so. The hon. Member for Islwyn made all those points about the treatment of the Uyghurs, the torture, and the forced sterilisation of Uyghur women, which was exposed in those documents and is a shocking tale, and the preferment of non-ethnically Uyghur in the Uyghur territories. All are a terrible indictment.

I want to raise something else, because the long hand of those involved in such repression reaches out way beyond China now. About 5,000 Uyghurs live in Australia, most of them former refugees and their families. They told a parliamentary inquiry about frequent intimidation and harassment, such as WeeChat calls from family members back in China that were held in the presence of Chinese law-enforcement people, warning Uyghurs in Australia not to speak unfavourably about the Chinese Government lest something happen to those family members.

One Uyghur received a message from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security after attending a Tiananmen Square memorial, warning that his actions would have an impact on his family. The wife of the president of the Uyghur Association of Victoria said:

“I have left my homeland but I continue to live in fear. If I speak out for my people inside my homeland, I am afraid of retaliation on my family left behind. If I don’t speak out, I feel guilty of keeping the freedom and democracy all just for myself in a free country.”

That is shocking. We know beyond doubt that what is being done to the Uighur population in Xinjiang province is, in my view, a form of genocide. It is a deliberate attempt to eradicate a whole ethnic group.

They are not alone. Only a week ago I held a debate about similar things that are happening to Tibetans. During that debate, the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) told me that in Inner Mongolia we are beginning to see the start of exactly the same process. This is not a one-off; it is policy that comes straight down from the Chinese Communist party and the Government. It is their way of supressing any potential angry rows, debates or pressure, and it is appalling.

We know about all this stuff. I mentioned the birth suppression and the way in which population growth rates have fallen by 84% in the two largest Uyghur prefectures between 2015 and 2018, and it declined further in 2019. Such activities could meet the term genocide—I believe that they do. We accept religious freedoms and freedom of speech, which are normal here, but now alien in China.

If one adds those factors to the way that China is behaving in Hong Kong—with the arrest of peaceful protestors, their movement back to China for an unfair hearing and the likelihood of their never being seen again—its threats towards Taiwan, its involvement in taking over the South China sea, against the UN’s own statements about its lack of any historic presence in the area, and its clashes with the Indian army on the border with India, then we are beginning to see a pattern of arrogant and determined behaviour by a Government who care nothing about the reaction of the international community.

What can we do? The hon. Member for Islwyn touched on the Magnitsky amendments that we have made that apply to officials. The Minister knows that I think there is now enough evidence from Xinjiang and the official documents to move on many of those officials. I accept that they are not the top people, but that will send a strong signal to the Government that we, and the rest of the free world, will no longer tolerate it.

That gives us all that we need to start. The House of Lords has added new clause 68 to the Trade Bill. I publicise that here because it is important. I hope and believe that we will support the new clause when the Bill returns to the Commons. The clause makes it clear that we cannot trade with counties that are guilty of genocide. Our High Court will make the decision about whether there is enough evidence. We will no longer have to worry about going to the UN to watch the Chinese and their allies block that; that will allow us to do it independently. Under the charter we have a responsibility to act as a nation.

Mr Gray, I will stop now as I know that other Members wish to speak. There are a huge number of areas in which we can act, not just in Magnitsky. We can implement sanctions and mount evidence suggesting violations specified by the global human rights sanctions regulations. We can ensure that we implement sanctions against officials who are responsible in other areas, such as Tibet and even Hong Kong. We need to act in line with the petition, which has given us clear evidence that the British public have formed their own opinion. If we are not careful, we will be running behind them, rather than leading them. Our purpose, I believe, is to call this out and no longer accept it. As the hon. Member for Islwyn said, no matter how much trade is worth to us, it is not worth that for the loss of those lives.

James Gray Portrait James Gray (in the Chair)
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Order. We have 45 minutes until I call the two Front Benchers. Without applying a formal time limit, there are 13 speakers, which means about four or five minutes each, if that is at all possible and as a courtesy to one another. I call Shabana Mahmood.