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Lord Ashbourne moved Amendment No. 1A:

Page 1, line 9, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsection (1A) below").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall speak also to Amendment No. 4B. The intention of these amendments is to give persons who have been forced to undergo involuntary abortion or sterilisation, or have been persecuted for failure or refusal to undergo such a procedure, the right to asylum in this country. They would also give persons in danger of compulsory abortion or sterilisation the right of appeal.

China is the only country where it is illegal to have a brother or a sister. By that I mean couples are permitted one child only. The amendment is not controversial. Almost all Britons, whatever their views on the moral and political questions surrounding abortion, regard forced abortion and forced sterilisation as particularly inhuman violations of their fundamental rights. Indeed in recent parliamentary replies to Questions tabled by my noble friend Lord Braine, Her Majesty's Government condemned such practices.

The Government of the People's Republic of China routinely compel women to abort their "unauthorised children". The usual method is intense coercion, using all the economic, social and psychological tools a totalitarian state has at its disposal. When those methods fail, women are taken physically to abortion mills, often in handcuffs, and forced to have abortions. That sometimes happens very late in the pregnancy, even up to the time of birth. The baby's skull is crushed with forceps or lethal chemical shots are administered into the soft part of the skull.

Forced abortion was rightly construed to be a crime against humanity at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals, and yet today it is being used pervasively throughout the People's Republic of China.

Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that we are talking about a country where children are declared illegal just because they do not fit into a certain quota that has been established and promoted by the government. A report entitled Human Rights Violations Resulting from Enforced Birth Control issued last June by Amnesty International states:

It talks also about psychological and physical pressure; it talks about degrading treatment; it talks about the use of handcuffs; it talks about the use of detention. That report from Amnesty International, an organisation

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which takes no position on the defence of the unborn, strongly condemns China's horrendous practice of forced abortion and forced sterilisation. The report continues:

    "In December 1993 a district court in Guangzhou reportedly sentenced a man to 10 years' imprisonment and three years' deprivation of political rights for his part in a 'save the babies and save the women campaign' which had assisted 20 women to give birth in excess of the plan. The court reportedly claimed that by his actions he had entered into rivalry with the party and state, and had therefore committed counter-revolutionary crimes as well as jeopardising social order".
That man got 10 years in prison because he tried to defend some women and babies in China against that evil practice.

But why am I talking so much about China? noble Lords may be asking. Noble Lords must be thinking that we surely have enough problems of our own. But those flagrant abuses of human rights, wherever they occur, must be resisted by the international community. Is this not an excellent opportunity for this country to take a lead in the fight against that tyranny and injustice?

Noble Lords may be saying to themselves, "Will that not allow a flood of Chinese to come into this country?" I know that noble Lords are concerned about a flood of people coming in, and rightly so, because the Government have to strike a balance, and that is not easy. As my noble friend the Minister has already said, every case is looked at individually. I welcome that, but I would seek to set noble Lords' minds at rest, because we have a precedent in the United States where both during the Reagan regime and the Bush regime legislation was passed similar to that I am seeking to introduce with these amendments.

During that period the number of people allowed into the United States varied between 100 and 200 per annum. That is not a big figure. It is for noble Lords to judge, but 100 to 200 per annum does not strike me as a flood of people coming into this country. Even if the experience of the United States were not repeated in this country, and I am misleading the House, which I am not seeking to do, it would be a simple matter to put a quota on the numbers allowed in. All the Government would have to do would be to say, "We limit the quota to, say, 500". The first 500 get in and then the choppers come down.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down surely it would not be a simple matter to impose a quota. If the amendments were incorporated into the Bill, they would, I believe and hope, be an obligation on government and a quota would go against such an obligation.

Lord Ashbourne: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that intervention. If I have misled the House I must apologise. I shall take back that side of the argument. The House will judge for itself of course, but if the number was between 100 and 200 in the United States, it does not seem likely there would be a flood of applicants. In any event, every applicant is looked at individually. They have to meet the criteria in order to get in.

Last year, the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, chaired by US Congressman Chris Smith, held hearings on "Coercive

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Population Control in China". The subcommittee heard testimony from Dr. John Aird, the former research specialist on China at the US Census Bureau. He testified that the policy:

    "continues to rely on coercive measures to reach its objective, and therefore victims of these measures will probably continue to seek asylum in other countries".

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to Congressman Smith and Miss Maggie Wynne, director of the Pro-Life Caucus in Congress, for their sterling work in drawing attention to these human rights abuses.

Dr. Aird concluded that the one thing that other nations can do is to:

    "lower the barriers to asylum for Chinese fleeing the family planning program, which would cost relatively little".
That is what the amendment seeks to achieve and I commend it to the House. I beg to move.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Braine of Wheatley: My Lords, I warmly congratulate my noble friend Lord Ashbourne on bringing forward this amendment. I hope that it will come as no surprise to any of your Lordships to learn that I fully intend to give him my full, unqualified support. I join my noble friend in paying a warm tribute to United States Congressman, Chris Smith, and to Maggie Wynne, director of the Pro-Life Caucus in Congress. With great skill and dedication they have highlighted the tragedy and the scandal of enforced abortion in China. Civilised people everywhere should be grateful to them for that.

Surely, enforced abortion is the cruellest and most barbaric abuse of human rights imaginable. I understand that last year one distinguished authority on China informed the United States Congress that there had been frequent and credible reports of direct physical coercion of that kind in China including, although not limited to, the arrest of pregnant women and forcing them to attend abortion clinics. There has also been incarceration of pregnant women until they submit to abortions and forcible attendance at so-called study sessions away from their families until they agree to submit themselves to sterilisation or abortion.

As regards the methods used, I am advised that they involve crushing the skulls of infants with forceps during delivery or the injection of iodine, alcohol or formaldehyde into their soft spots so that they are born dead. Secondly, they involve imprisoning husbands where necessary in order to force their wives to accept these appalling treatments; cutting off food, water, electricity and wages for couples who refuse to comply; confiscating their furniture and livestock; and even demolishing their homes.

The amendment, so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Ashbourne, provides asylum for those unfortunates who have been forced to undergo involuntary abortion or sterilisation--procedures involving the utmost cruelty. I hope that when my noble friend the Minister replies she will indicate her willingness to accept our amendment. Otherwise, I feel bound to say, in the face of the evidence it is inconceivable to me that anyone in this House--indeed, in Parliament as a whole--will support such

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appalling cruelty. Therefore, in this debate I hope that we shall speak and act as one on this grave and distressing matter.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I have put my name to the amendment. Some noble Lords may be a little surprised that I have done so. I do not believe that it will surprise any noble Lord to learn that my views and those of the noble Lord, Lord Braine, on abortion are not identical. However, our views on forced and involuntary abortion are identical. That is the hub of the common ground between us.

I believe in a world in which people are allowed to follow their own consciences, provided that they do no harm to others. Whatever may be said, often truly, at conferences on population control, I believe that people's own reproductive systems and their use of them are matters which are very much for themselves. Applying coercion is, to say the very least, intrusive. In many of the cases involved it is worse than intrusive. It is an assault and an infliction of a grave physical injury. I believe that those who face such dangers may well be said to have a well-founded fear of persecution. For that reason I am happy to put my name to the amendment.

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