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This might not matter so much if China was the only country to behave like that towards Taiwan, but sadly that is not the case, as we all know. Unfortunately, Her Majestys Government appear as enthusiastic as any in support of the so-called One China policy. You get the flavour of this when you read the opening words of the FCOs country brief on Taiwan on its website:
The United Kingdom acknowledges the position of the Chinese Government that Taiwan is a province of China and recognises the Chinese Government as the sole legal government of China. The United Kingdom does not recognise Taiwan as a state and does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
The origin of this One China policy lies in the events of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when there were two Governments claiming to be the real Government of the whole of China: the Chinese nationalists, the Kuomintang, who went to Taipei in exile having lost the civil war, and the communist PRC Government of Mao Tse-Tung, who had won it. In terms of human rights, there was little to choose between them. Both operated a one-party dictatorshipparliamentary democracy was non-existentand both
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My noble friend will recall that he and I corresponded in September last year on the subject of Taiwans applications to join the United Nations and the World Health Organisation. In his letter to me and to the co-chairman of the all-party Taiwan group, Sir Nicholas Winterton MP, my noble friend described Taiwan as,
This is the first time that I have heard a referendum to obtain peoples views on an important issue of policy described as a reckless manoeuvre. I hope that the Prime Minister will resist the temptationand pressure from the Chineseto follow the same line when he visits Beijing next week.
I compare this with the Governments position on Kosovo, where they rightly support the Ahtisaari proposals for Kosovan independence from Serbia. President Ahtisaari says that the new Kosovan constitution must be drafted and adopted by Kosovans and that Kosovo must have its own flag, seal and anthem, and the right to negotiate and conclude international agreements, including the right to seek membership of international organisations. My two questions are simple. First, if we are right to support Kosovan independence from Serbia, why do we refuse to support Taiwanese independence from China, based on similar principles? Secondly, what more must Taiwan do to demonstrate its credentials as a democratic state and as a friend of the United Kingdom?
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I have chosen to speak on the role of China in Africa. I owe to an excellent Fahamu publication on China in Africa the following two quotations. The Sierra Leone ambassador in Beijing says:
The Chinese are doing more than the G8 in making poverty history. If a G8 country had wanted to rebuild the stadium, wed still be holding meetings. The Chinese just come and do it. They dont hold meetings about environmental impact assessment, human rights, bad governance and good governance. Im not saying its right, just the Chinese investment is succeeding because they dont set high benchmarks.
Fahamu reports the African viewthat of African environmentalists, technicians, political leaders, civil society, economists and human rights activistson the impact of the Chinese presence in Africa. China never engaged in the slave trade and has no colonial past; on the contrary, it supported liberation movements, if only initially to counter Soviet influence. It has a pragmatic and non-conditional approach to investment and aid on the basis of equal to equal. It does not bother with human rights. African observers such as Moeletsi Mbeki are well aware that China deals with political leaders and is not interested in governance, investing where the need for its expanding industrial power can be met in oil, cobalt, precious metals, woods and other things. It creates some of the infrastructure that many countries needmines, dams, electrical poweroften bringing in Chinese to do the work rather than providing local employment. It accepts and uses the almost universal corruption that obtains among African leaders, and is not unknown in China, and has no tradition of deference to human rights.
Others will speak of the situation in Sudan today, which epitomises Chinas policy of dealing with those in power to meet its need for oil and its readiness to sell arms and aircraft for use to subdue Sudans own people. In earlier times the Chinese, building the pipeline to the Red Sea, were, like the Sudanese Government, wholly unconcerned by the displacement of thousands. They shared the views of, for instance, the Sudanese Government that any civil resistance to work conditions in Chinese enterprises must expect to be met with force, as it would have been in China. Equally, the threat to the environment from illegal logging and fishing does not concern them; the choice of dam sites on the Zambezi is determined by the economic and not by the environmental or human factors. We should be ready to help to recover for any free Zimbabwe Government that may eventually emerge any major assets that have been arbitrarily ceded to Chinese interests by ZANU-PF Ministers without due process.
We must accept, as realistic African observers do, that, despite the Chinese policy of dealing with leaders who are mostly indifferent to the needs of their people, China is doing somethingalthough in its own interests for the infrastructure of the continent in dams, electrical projects and skilled people, and the Chinese presence on the ground is growing. The Sino-African partnership in the UN is becoming a powerful factor in determining international policy, not only in Africa. In Sudan, the UN is powerless; its mandate will be, as always, to observe but not to intervene.
China is in Africa to stay and we have to live with that. If we are to help the peoples of Africa to benefit by the Chinese presence and to protect themselves from the onslaught on human rights, we should be doing all that we can to enable civil society to fight its own battles, both in securing good governance from often deplorable rulers and in acquiring the know-how to deal with the Chinese invasion with skill and expertise and to fight for human rights. The trade unions and
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Until Chinas record at home improves, it will be a waste of time, at least in the context of Africa, to attack the Chinese record on breaches of human rights, especially for so long as the African Union does not do so. HMG should not be afraid to attack corruption among African leaders, to refuse to support such men with unaccountable budgets from DfID or to allow Chinas appalling record to pass unnoticed. Not least, HMG should be restoring our diplomatic presence, which was withdrawn lately from some African countries. Men and women who understand and respect African thinking, including tribalism and African history, are far more valuable conduits to civil society than NGOs, however well meaning, the UN or the World Bank. The Chinese are on the ground and we have to face that. I hope that our people will know enough not to say, Kenya and Pakistan both have a heritage as British colonies. Pakistan was created by partition at the behest of Nehru and Jinnah in the last days of the British Raj, which was administered by the Indian Political Service. It was never a colony.
The human rights record of China is awful beyond words, and that must be recognised and fought. I suggest that pragmatically we should be working out ways to enable the peoplesnot the Governmentsof the African countries to protect themselves, secure their human rights and not allow the Chinese habit of colluding with the Government of the day to use force. That should not pass unnoticed.
I will end with one anecdote. In the last Zambian elections, someone who was canvassing against the Government was rightly extremely angry about the flooding of the country with cheap Chinese goods and much more about the conditions in the copper mines, where people were being brutally treated. When he was enlarging on this, the Chinese ambassador suggested that any more of this and China would withdraw its support if he were to be elected. I suppose that that is a very practical approach, but it is not one that one can regard with any kind of sympathy. I very much hope that HMG will fight in every possible way Chinese breaches of human rights. However, I recognise that China is a large, powerful and great country and we shall have to have very effective means of bringing our own views to bear on it. Personally, I think that Chinas own interests will eventually move in that direction, but I think that that will be a long time coming.
Lord Watson of Richmond: My Lords, I, too, congratulate and thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for having made this debate possible on a very important subject and at a critical phase. I should say right at the start that my remarks may strike a rather different note from the speeches that preceded mine. That is not because I do not recognise the civil rights and human rights abuses in ChinaI absolutely do, and I deplore thembut because I think it more important at this juncture to try and focus on the forces and motors for change in China and in Chinese
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I visited Shanghai for the first time last November. I had been to China a good number of times but never to Shanghai. Like many people, including many noble Lords who have been to Shanghai, I was startled by the citys exuberance and the sheer momentum of what is going on there. It is very striking. I was, incidentally, pleased to see that the Bund on the riverfront is now protected. It gives the city, despite the skyscrapers, a really important and distinctive visual character. It also says something quite important about the international nature of Shanghai.
I feel that there may be something in the Chinese scene whereby Shanghai plays a role slightly akin to that of St Petersburg in Russia. It is the international opening and a very important city in that context. It is certainly an important prism through which to view some of the issues in this debate on Chinas role in promoting and respecting human rights. Why? Shanghai demonstrates Chinas determination to make capitalism work for it. We may find that a strange and contradictory concept but it is the reality. The Chinese are not playing with capitalism; they want it to work and they believe that it is the essential method by which Chinas living standards will be raised. Secondly, it shows Chinas clear intention, Shanghai being such an international city, to be massively active as an investor, importer and exporter in global markets.
Why are these factors so crucial for human rights and developments in human rights? It is because they are the motors of change, and change is what we need to see in Chinese civil society. We should never underestimate the rapidity of change. I was in Shanghai to lecture at Shanghai International Studies University, which is one of the focal points in China for the acquisition of foreign languages. I would remind your Lordships that some 300 million people are studying English in China. The reason for that focus on the English languagewhich of course carries many values of civil society within the languageis their determination to succeed individually and collectively as part of a globalised economy.
As for internal change and human rights in China, I think there has been one reference so far in the debate to Chinas membership of the WTO, which started in 2001not all that long ago. Part of Chinas commitment in its acquisition of WTO membership was a commitment to,
It is important, in seeing where we go from this point, to understand the extent to which Chinas commercial and entrepreneurial ambition has as its concomitant a recognition of the need to create a civil society and a law-based society. I believe that there is clear evidence of recognition of the interconnection between those two things. While it is right that we condemn abuses, it is also important to encourage progress.
Secondly, I believe that the involvement of the Communist Party in China in its entrepreneurial developmentcontradictory though we may find thisneeds to be welcomed. The party congress in 2002 accepted entrepreneurs as party members in mainland
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What of Chinas influence and role in promoting human rights? The point has already been vividly and powerfully made that China plays an increasingly important role as an investor in construction and an importer of raw materials. The figures are quite extraordinary. China is doubling its imports of minerals, oil and energy year on year. That has a paradoxical impact on us: whereas cheap products from China are, in price terms, deflationary in the West, the import of raw materials by China is now a very important inflationary force within the western economies.
The fact is that China is playing a huge role as an investor and importer. There is great sensitivity in terms of the abuse of human rightsZimbabwe has already been mentioned, as have Sudan and Darfur. China can and shouldand we hope it willuse this influence positively. I sense that the Chinese authorities are aware of the importance of this dimension of foreign policy but they have not yet focused on it. The time has now arrived.
I end with two questions for the Minister. Will Her Majesty's Government continue to monitor and urge Chinas fulfilment of its WTO commitment to a law-based society? Will they make that a regular part of our agenda of dialogue with the Chinese Government? Secondly, will we use our ongoing bilateral and very intense dialogue with Chinathe forthcoming visit by the Prime Minister is a good exampleto urge it, as a matter of its maturity and status in the international community, to use its influence for good where it makes major foreign investments? This will be important to Chinas status and credibility in the future.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for raising this issue at an opportune time. China knows that it has to speak the language of human rights if it is to become an international player.
As the noble Lord, Lord Watson, said, respect for human rights is an essential pillar of a free enterprise society, such as large sections of the Chinese population now aspire to, and some would say have always followed. Like individual freedom and the rule of law, it belongs to a process which ensures a healthy global economy. The Chinese leadership are well aware of the wider advantages; it is just that it does not currently suit their internal political ideology. They fear its consequences
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The so-called minorities are in some cases sizeable nations. Tibet remains the outstanding example, but there is another persecuted people: the Uighurs in Xinjiang, western Chinaa vast Turkic Muslim minority of 10 million who have suffered similar treatment to the Tibetans over many years and are about to be outnumbered by the Han Chinese through colonisation, denying them their fair share of national mineral wealth. The Uighurs have stronger ethnic and historic links with their ex-Soviet neighbours and since 1949 there has been discrimination against them in every sphere: in employment, education, religion, even in marriage. State control of Islam in Xinjiang is well documented. There is a deliberate policy of suppression of religious activity, and mosques and religious practices are strictly controlled. On this test alone I would fail China as a proper host of the Olympic Games.
Since 2001, with some Uighurs inevitably sympathising with Islamism and a few joining the Taliban, it has been easier for the Chinese to brand their more extreme Uighur critics as terrorists instead of separatists or counter-revolutionaries. The Uighur diaspora is now widespread. Many have fled across neighbouring borders, although there have been cases of refugees sent back from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Some migrate as far as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, or seek asylum in Sweden and the US. Twenty-three Uighurs from Pakistan ended up in Guantanamo. Some were moved to a better prison but only five have been released, ending up in an Albanian refugee camp.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in 2006 reported some improvement in methods of treatment in Chinese prisons, but from a very low base. As my noble friend said, detainees are held for long periods without judicial control, which is a clear incentive for interrogators to obtain confessions through ill treatment. There is little external or independent monitoring and sentences, including the death penalty, are among the harshest in the world.
I will quote a few examples which demonstrate Chinas paranoia about Uighur intellectuals and campaigners. The arrest of human rights activist Hu Jia in December is the latest sign of a pre-Olympic crackdown. One prominent writer still in prison is Nurmuhemmet Yasin, arrested in 2004. He and Korash Huseyin, editor of the Kashgar Literary Journal, were charged with writing and publishing a short story which was considered a critique of the Governments presence in Xinjiang. Huseyin was sentenced to three years in prison and is due to be released this year. Yasin, after a closed trial at which he was denied a lawyer, was sentenced to 10 years for, inciting Uighur separatism. He is currently being held in Urumqi Jail and has been denied all visitors.
Abdulghani Memetemin, another writer from Xinjiang, was arrested in 2002 after providing information to a pro-independence group abroad. He was convicted in Kashgar and sentenced to nine years. He was reportedly denied legal representation at his trial and has been
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Have the Government taken up any of these cases? At least they could inquire after the health of the family of Rebiya Kadeer, who was elected president of the World Uighur Congress last year. She is well known in Xinjiang as a business leader and a campaigner. She has met President Bush and, as the Minister will remember, last October she called at the Foreign Office. In 2000 she was sentenced to eight years for, among other things, sending her husband newspaper cuttings, and she spent five years in prison. She now lives in the US but her son Ablikim Abduriyim, aged 33, is in a serious state in a prison near Urumchi. He was tried in secret and is said to be seriously ill and injured following repeated beatings and ill treatment which many believe is partly in retribution for his mothers activities. According to Amnesty he has been denied medical treatment. This is surely a case we should be following closely.
On 7 February we will enter the year of the rat. Those born during the year of the rat are said to be adaptable, clever, ambitious and industrious. The rat in the story came along on the back of the ox, jumping ahead at the last minute to win the race.
The UK has been a standard-bearer of human rights and has encouraged free expression in many countries. To some extent, we may be holding back human rights in China in the name of subtle diplomacy. Let us hope we are not applying a different standard to China, as it is now such an important trading partner. We do not want to become spoilsports in the run up to the Olympics. I know that Her Majestys Government will make their views felt through the human rights dialogue, but it is ironic that while the Olympic authorities are monitoring air pollution in Chinaand we must welcome the latest ban on plastic bagsthere is, unfortunately, no monitoring of human rights.
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