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7. Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe): What actions the United Kingdom is taking to discourage financial and other support for UNITA which prolongs the war in Angola. [99949]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Peter Hain): It is vital that UNITA is starved of the fuel, arms and munitions supplies that enable it to maintain its murderous war, and I have taken fresh action to help to achieve that. The Bank of England has recently blocked five UNITA bank accounts.

Dr. Palmer: I am grateful to the Minister for his prompt action. Will he comment on the persistent reports that senior officials in Zambia, Uganda and Ukraine are helping to fuel the war by illicit shipments of arms into the territory?

Mr. Hain: I know of reports that show conclusively that Jonas Savimbi's UNITA organisation can sustain its murderous civil war activity, killing hundreds of thousands of people, as it has done for the past 20 years or so, only because fuel and arms are flown in, often with the connivance of the countries around Angola.

I am also aware of the allegations in respect of Zambia and Uganda. I have raised those with the Zambian Foreign Minister and the President of Uganda, and both have assured me that they will take any evidence that is given to them very seriously, because UNITA must be starved of its capacity to wage that war.

I am also aware of Ukrainian pilots flying in supplies. That must be stopped, and I look to the Ukrainian Government to take immediate action to stop it.

Mr. Martin Bell (Tatton): Is the Minister aware of the need, on humanitarian grounds alone, to keep some line of communication open to Jonas Savimbi and UNITA? I speak of the case--in which I have a constituency interest--of Jason Pope, a young man who was kidnapped by UNITA more than a year ago, and who has not been heard of since. I should like an assurance that the Minister is willing to speak to Mr. Pope's family and not to discount altogether the possibility of a mission by private citizens, including the family and anyone else--perhaps a Member of Parliament--to try to find that young man and return him to his family.

Mr. Hain: I very much welcome the opportunity to say that Foreign Office officials are in regular touch with

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Jason Pope's family. We are very aware--I am especially aware--of the suffering that his parents have been undergoing for some time. We are doing, and shall do, all that we can to track down his whereabouts. I hope that he is still alive.

UNITA--especially its leader--is a very difficult organisation to talk to on an honest basis. Jonas Savimbi has consistently broken his word. I should like UNITA to be brought into negotiations with the Government of Angola to achieve a peaceful settlement to the awful crisis and long-standing war, but it is difficult to envisage that happening with him at its head.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (Telford): I welcome everything that my hon. Friend has said, but does he agree that, sadly, there is nothing new about the present situation in that, whenever there has been a possibility of peace in Angola, the intransigence of UNITA has been the stumbling block? Given that, if that country had not been plagued by war and violence, it would have the potential to become one of the richest countries in Africa, does my hon. Friend agree that the whole international community should redouble its efforts to bring peace to that troubled country?

Mr. Hain: I very much agree with my hon. Friend. The scandal is that, although Angola has the capacity to feed the whole of southern Africa and to become a really rich and prosperous country, contributing to Africa's renaissance with its vast natural resources in oil, gas and diamonds, it has been plagued by a dreadful civil war, waged by UNITA, previously supported by the CIA and the South Africans--although, thankfully, no longer.

We must act firmly and toughly against those who are supplying UNITA with fuel and munitions. United Nations sanctions are in place. Ambassador Fowler is doing an excellent job. However, it is time that we had action from the countries that are able to influence UNITA's supplies, and we in Britain have stepped up our campaign to ensure that that happens.


8. Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes): What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of his policy of quiet diplomacy with the Chinese authorities. [99950]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. John Battle): We are continually assessing the effectiveness of our policy towards China, especially in the field of human rights.

Mr. Baker: I believe that the Government are acting from the best of motives--as was the Minister's predecessor, the excellent Derek Fatchett--but I have to say that the policy of quiet diplomacy has failed. Repression in Tibet, far from disappearing, has intensified in recent years. It is now a criminal offence to have a Tibetan flag--even in this country it is difficult, these days--or to have a picture of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader. The youngest political prisoner in the world, the Panchen Lama, is being held by the Chinese authorities and no access to him is allowed. Is it not clear that the

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policy of quiet diplomacy has, sadly, failed, and that it is time for the UK and other western countries to start talking tough with Beijing?

Mr. Battle: I do not accept that the policy has failed. Since we undertook the policy of dialogue with China on human rights, China has signed the UN covenant on economic, social and cultural rights in October 1997 and the UN covenant on civil and political rights in October 1998. There have been visits to China by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, in September 1998 and by the working group on arbitrary detention in November 1997. There was also the EU troika ambassadors' visit to Tibet in May 1998. That is some progress, and I think that the special rapporteur on torture will visit China next year.

On Tibet, I recently visited Beijing and I met the Minister and Vice-Minister, whom I asked directly about the Dalai Lama's choice of Panchen Lama, not least because there had been rumours that the Panchen Lama had died and had been cremated. I asked for permission to send in visitors to verify that he was still alive and I pressed them to provide a written assurance that he was still alive. I am glad to say--perhaps it is only a small matter--that we received that assurance and we made sure that it received public press coverage as well. We can move forward, albeit slowly because we face tremendous challenges. I share the hon. Gentleman's aims, but we have got to keep pressing.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): Through diplomacy, will my hon. Friend also ensure that the agreements over Hong Kong are not eroded and that freedom of press in Hong Kong will continue?

Mr. Battle: The answer is yes. I was recently in Hong Kong, where I met members of non-governmental organisations, human rights groups and representatives of political groups, including opposition and governing groups. We shall continue to work with them to ensure that human rights and freedom of expression are respected. I was pleased, when I visited Hong Kong, that I was thanked by a member of a leading human rights non-governmental organisation for my help in securing the safe return of Lee Cheuk Yan to Hong Kong some years ago. I was surprised by that when I walked into the room, but we shall continue to work with such groups to ensure that there is proper freedom of expression in Hong Kong. That was part of the agreement at the handover, and it will remain part of it.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): We welcome any progress but, as has been said, treaties are often forgotten. Does the Minister therefore accept that there needs to be a constant watch on what is happening in China and Tibet? Will he be able to press for an open parliamentary visit to Tibet so that we can see for ourselves what is happening?

Mr. Battle: I know that the hon. Gentleman takes a strong interest in Tibet and has done so for many years. I met the all-party group on Tibet in the House a few days ago. When I was in Beijing, I asked the Chinese authorities whether it was not time to allow and enable an all-party group of Members of Parliament to visit Tibet. I was told that that would not be likely because the

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authorities were rather worried that the representatives on the delegation could be suspicious characters. I reminded the Chinese that the all-party group would be elected Members of the House and, therefore, had a right to go. I am confident that we can continue to press for an all-party group of Members of the House to visit Tibet, and I hope that that will be next year.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): The real question is whether the Minister is a fit person to be in charge of diplomacy, quiet or otherwise. On 5 November, the Minister of State, Home Office, the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), in a written answer confirmed to the House that 15 people had been arrested in connection with the visit of the President of China. Some two weeks later, on 22 November, the Minister told the House that no one had been arrested. Either the Minister did not know, or he misled the House. He should tell us now and, if he did either, he should resign.

Mr. Battle: I have corrected the record as a result of the misunderstanding that arose on 22 November when I said--I shall read out the record--that no one was "arrested or charged". I meant "arrested and charged". I will concede that a few people were arrested, and that is what the Home Office said. However, no one was charged during the visit, and that is the primary point. That is what I said, but I am happy to put the record right for a slip of the tongue. Whether I am a fit person to do the job is, I am grateful to say, not the hon. Lady's decision; it will remain a decision for those on the Labour Benches.

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