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I suggest that there should be a single web portal that gives access to all the information available on the dialogues—ours, those of the European Union, those of the Americans, and so on—with links not only to the related material on Foreign Office websites but to the site of the reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, pointing the way to better co-ordination than we have at the moment on those processes. I know that there are periodic meetings of the dialogue partners, but one would like to see how that works and how the special procedures are fed into those discussions.

Let me give an example. The UN Rapporteur for Religious Freedom visited China in 1994 and made a series of recommendations, which could be used as the benchmarks proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, to measure the achievements of the dialogues. The FCO report says that no progress has been made on religious freedom, a key issue that was apparently raised without results at the EU-China dialogue last October. We have asked the Chinese to confirm when the UN rapporteur would be allowed to make a visit to follow up the 1994 recommendations and the Minister could perhaps say whether any answer to that has been received.

The issues of the gratuitous prohibition of the Falun Gong and the ill treatment of its adherents, as well as the relentless persecution of monks and nuns in Tibet, are taken up by Ministers, I know, at every opportunity and one hopes that these matters will be raised at the dialogue. The talks between the Chinese Government and representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama are useful but, since the sixth round last July, the ball has been in the Chinese court to name the date and place for the next meeting. Meanwhile, the railway link to Lhasa has stimulated even higher rates of Chinese emigration, accelerating an undermining of Tibetan cultural and spiritual identity, and, as the noble Lord knows, last September a regulation was passed providing that all lamas have to be approved by the Chinese authorities. If Beijing is playing for time, expecting that in a few years it will have extinguished Tibetan Buddhism, it is making a mistake, because the Dalai Lama is the spiritual head of a belief system that has a growing number of followers all over the world. This is the point where domestic human rights intersect with China’s foreign policy, as obviously China is not going to be tough on the Burmese junta over the killings and arrests of monks and the closure of monasteries during the recent uprising when similar violations have been perpetrated in Tibet.

This debate has been far too short to cover more than a fraction of the issues raised by the noble Lord’s Question, but clearly there is a strong demand across the House for the Government to seize the opportunity provided by the Beijing Olympics to increase the

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persuasion that they already apply for China to address human rights problems. I hope that in doing so they will keep Parliament fully informed and involved.

6.01 pm

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, we are all very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for raising this crucial issue and as usual we have heard a number of extremely expert views. For instance, the noble Lord, Lord Wilson, played a major part in preparing for the successful transfer of sovereignty in Hong Kong and probably knows more than almost anyone in this House or elsewhere about dealing with the Chinese people and their aspirations.

The conundrum about Britain and China is easily summed up. We want a strong relationship with China and all its peoples but we do not like some of the brutal methods employed in China today. The facts stare us in the face that China now already produces 16 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product. That figure is measured in purchasing power parity terms and it is heading much higher. Last year China exported over $1 trillion of goods to the western world. We have a dilemma between what we like and do not like, and we try to bridge the gap by hoping that economic freedom will eventually lead to political freedom; by hoping that opening to world trade will lead to higher standards; by arguing, as my noble friend Lord Moynihan did with great eloquence and expertise, that sport and the Olympic Games’ spotlight will bring liberalisation, as I believe it may well do; and by hoping that the information revolution and the world wide web will mean less state dominance and more power dispersal from the centre. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, began by reminding us, that is going rather slowly when all the major search engines are collaborating with the repressive instincts in the Chinese Government. Above all we hope that China will change in line with the general patterns of global development, and it probably will, although in ways and patterns which will continue to baffle western political and economic theorists and not fit in with the kind of models and theories with which we are familiar in the western world.

On the good side it needs to be said that although there are many aspects we thoroughly dislike, let us at least remember—and we have been reminded in this debate—that the Chinese Government are free of some of our own flaws and weaknesses in the West, such as the idiocies of multiculturalism and the fallacies in some of our aid policies, and that they have lifted 400 million people out of poverty through sheer enterprise and energy, leaving hundreds of millions more, as the noble Lord, Lord Wilson, reminded us, still in the countryside and crowding into the towns. Nevertheless, this is progress and it cannot be denied.

Technology is moving ahead very fast. Earlier, we talked about developing our nuclear power programme. In the end, we may have to borrow from Chinese technology to restart our own civil nuclear programme in an effective way. If there are any doubts about the huge shift in wealth and political power now taking place towards China and the other Asian countries—indeed, to the whole Shanghai Co-operation Group—just

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to take a rather trivial example, I read in the newspaper this morning that China is the most favoured destination for exporting Rolls-Royce motor cars. Last year, sales to China increased by 50 per cent, which is evidence that something—maybe not the right thing—is certainly going on in that market, a market that we have to be in.

Of course, we do not want just markets from China, but responsibility and a measured weight in world affairs. We need China to be a force for stability in Africa, in central Asia, in Iran and in the Middle East. We want, indeed advise, those in China who will listen to us to adopt a less confrontational and more embracing approach to Taiwan, as the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, rightly reminded us. The idea that it will embrace the future Taiwan by firing rockets at it and mobilising military forces on the mainland is completely the wrong approach.

I was especially struck too by the comments made by my noble friend Lady Park, which are always deeply perceptive. She is right to say that we must make sure that in Africa human rights are upheld, and that we point out to both the Chinese and the African people the benefits of pursuing the rule of law and upholding human rights. But we have to face a fact, which was encapsulated the other day in the rather disastrous EU-Africa meeting in Lisbon when one of the African leaders said, “It is all very well lecturing us on human rights, but the plain fact is that you can buy two Chinese cars for one European car”. That is the hard currency of the situation. If China can bring immediate, in-the-pocket benefits, it will prove to be a very attractive visitor and is beginning to exert an enormous influence, so that everywhere one goes in Africa now one sees signs of buildings and infrastructure labelled with Chinese symbols. That is what we are up against.

My right honourable friend David Cameron, the leader of my party, was in Chongqing recently, where he made a very interesting comment at the university, which I have no hesitation in repeating. Addressing a Chinese audience, he said:

as we know,

He went on to point out that:

is not worse, but a more “sustainable and brighter” place for the future, as my noble friend Lady Verma rightly emphasised. He also pointed out that China should play a really responsible part in helping to,

He urged China to,

successful Chinese,



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That is the language of talking direct to Chinese interests and Chinese realism, which is beginning to have some effect, as many of those participating in this debate have rightly said.

In the end, the message we need to send to China—not as lecturers from some superior moral position but as practical friends who want China to succeed and prosper—is that more humane practices and a much deeper respect for human rights will benefit the Chinese people, as the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, rightly indicated, and will enable China to play its full, rightful and responsible role in world affairs in the 21stcentury. That is what we all want to see.

6.10 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, I join others in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on proposing this debate. His interest in the subject reflects his overall commitment to human rights, for which I think we all commend him.

This has been a typically interesting and thoughtful debate in which we all to a greater or lesser extent share the arguments made by the noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Wilson. Having come to China first as an expert on development rather than on human rights, I have always had to take into account the fact that China ranks in about the middle of the list in the UNDP Human Development Report. Although it scores poorly on the political criteria, it continues to score way above its per capita income level in terms of the economic and social criteria because of the improvements in life that it has created by lifting so many hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Yet if one looks at the more purely political league tables of human rights freedoms and political freedoms more generally—that of Reporters Without Borders, which has been mentioned, or of Freedom House—one finds China near the bottom of the list. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, referred to this dilemma. We are in a sense investing in the idea that if China continues to enjoy strong economic progress, it will translate into greater political liberalisation.

For those who make that case, such as on the Olympics, there is a precedent. I would argue that China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation was a step change in many areas of internal freedom and in the introduction of at least pluralistic economic competitiveness into the Chinese economy. We hope, similarly, that the hosting of the Olympics will be another step change; not a temporary aberration where freedom is granted and then taken away but a process of locking in a greater degree of press and other freedoms.

Similarly for those of us who believe that the way forward on human rights is through engagement with China and through China’s economic and social success, we also make the case about the need to think of the alternative. If disengagement led to lower growth rates in China, think of the appalling challenges that it would pose to such a large country, with such rising aspirations and expectations among its people for a better life. After all, China comprises between one-fifth and one-sixth of the world’s population, so its fortunes

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impact directly on all of us, not just because of the trade and consumer goods that it provides us but because China’s environmental performance, its role as a consumer of the world’s natural resources and its role in global security are of direct interest to us. We require a partnership and a dialogue to help China manage its way through these daunting challenges of development and modernisation in a way that improves human rights as well as its performance on the other criteria. I would certainly make the case—I did not hear that much dissent from it in the debate—that however one balances the disappointing human rights record against the successes in other areas, the only way forward is engagement.

China’s stability is vitally important both for us and for global growth more generally. President Hu is committed to doing more to address the growing disparities affecting his country, and that is a commitment we wholeheartedly welcome. It has a value in terms of China’s record on economic and social rights that we sometimes underestimate. After all, there are two covenants on human rights; there is not only the civil and political covenant, but also the social and economic one. Since the reforms of 1978, China has lifted perhaps as many as 500 million people out of poverty. We need to applaud that and work to see how we can build further on it.

We want China to be a stable power so that it can play an increasing role in the global political system. That is because with the role comes the responsibilities associated with being a global stakeholder, as Bob Zoellick, president of the World Bank, has described it. Through exercising its influence responsibly, China can be a real force for good from Darfur to Kosovo, Iran to North Korea, and Burma to Afghanistan. Indeed, there has been some limited—I acknowledge that—progress on this. For example, China is now one of the largest contributors of personnel to UN peacekeeping operations of any P5 member. Chinese engineers are working in the Middle East, as well as a battalion of engineers embarked for Darfur. More recently, China voted in favour of important UN Security Council resolutions and supported what was for it difficult statements on issues such as Darfur and Burma, and as has been said, China facilitated the visit of the UN envoy to Burma last year.

Further, while I acknowledge that there are two points of view on this, China’s role in Africa is nevertheless very significant. At the time of my visit to Beijing last summer, in conversation with me the envoy to Africa announced that indeed China would now limit its support to Zimbabwe to humanitarian assistance and that it recognised that it was no longer a plausible development partner. On Darfur, it has been China’s pressure which, while at times perhaps not as strong as we would have wished, none the less allowed us last July to pass a Security Council resolution at 15 votes to zero in order to bring forward the deployment of UNAMID and see the beginnings of political negotiations between the two sides.

Finally, I turn to the issue of China’s investment in the infrastructure of Africa. Speaking as an old development man, while I recognise that the Chinese

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are like a new donor who needs to learn how the issues of environmental and social standards as well as good governance are critical to development outcomes, nevertheless for Africa, which for years was asking us for investment into the critical infrastructure of roads and power to allow it to compete in the global economy, it was China which heard that call. I regret that we in the West did not come forward with similar amounts of development assistance. So, yes, we can make the case for the ways in which the Chinese can improve how they deliver that assistance, but we should not fall into the trap of looking, in this case, an aid gift horse in the mouth.

Domestically, we believe that China could do more progressively to build a stronger rule of law, much greater freedom of information and association, and, over time, we hope, a pluralistic political system. That is critical if China is to equip itself with the checks and balances needed to let the pressure out of the steam cooker of dealing with public discontent. If people are not to riot and protest then, as we have seen in country after country, they must be granted the means of expressing themselves peacefully in politics. So we will go on pressing for a trajectory of Chinese reforms that do not cover only economic and social issues, but touch also on the political. It is against that backdrop that I would like to turn to the specific human rights issues raised today. Obviously it will not be possible to deal with every case, so I shall be happy to come back to noble Lords after the debate who want more information on particular cases.

First, let us acknowledge that ordinary Chinese people are now at much greater liberty to choose where they live and work and have greater rights to travel abroad. With this greater openness comes a greater exposure to other people’s ideas and cultures. China’s burgeoning economy offers them new choices and opportunities.

Institutional progress is often ignored, but there are developments in China’s legislative framework to provide greater protection for the rights of its citizens. The new labour law, which came into force on 1 January, is a good example. Of course there are difficulties of full implementation in a country the size of China, where there are still restrictions on some forms of public organisation. Nevertheless, on issue after issue, we are seeing greater recourse to legal remedies, a greater demand by the Government for improvements in how the judiciary operates and greater use by citizens of legal redress when they feel that their rights have been abused. On the rule of law, we consider that the use of house arrest, of re-education through labour and of extrajudicial forms of detention remain serious problems and we continue to urge the Chinese to be more transparent. But we also see progress.

Freedom of the media is still a significant problem. The new media regulations, put in place in January 2007, provide greater freedom for foreign journalists to travel around the country, but they are due to expire in October, after the Olympics, and do not, as has been pointed out, apply to domestic journalists. As has been said, the BBC Mandarin service is being

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blocked, an issue that we have raised with the Chinese authorities and about which we are in discussion with the BBC.

We are all aware of the difficult issues around Tibet. The death penalty in China has also been mentioned and, while its use seems to be declining, we still lack sufficiently reliable data to be confident of how far the number of executions has really fallen. Freedom of religion has properly been mentioned by many noble Lords today and we share the great concern about it.

On the one-child policy, when I heard the noble Lord refer to the fact that China is the only country where by law you cannot have a brother or sister, I thought that my squabbling children would all apply to move there. But behind the policy lies a profound and dangerous social situation. The consequences for family life and the structure of the country were by no means fully understood when the policy was adopted. I fear that we will live with the consequences for some time. Let me assure the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that moneys given to UNFPA are not used for coercive family planning; there has been much insistence by UNFPA that its moneys are used for policies that do not breach human rights.

Specific cases were mentioned. I visited China last August and, again, I can say that the cases of Chen Guangchen and that of his wife, Yuan Weijing, who at that time had just been stopped from travelling, have been raised by me and by others. The case of the children of Rebiya Kadeer has been raised. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary discussed human rights with his Chinese counterpart during the latter’s visit here in December. He again raised Chen Guangchen’s case, as well as those of Gao Zhisheng

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and Rongye Adak. We received responses to our requests for information just last Friday—4 January—with information on the welfare and whereabouts of many of those whose cases we had raised.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and I also discussed with our Chinese interlocutors the prospects of Chinese ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We are disappointed that the Chinese Government remain reluctant to commit to a timetable for ratification and we urge them to do so. It has been noted that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will visit China later this month. He, too, will raise the issue of human rights and, shortly after his visit, we will hold the 16th round of the UK-China human rights dialogue, which will look in great depth at progress and at the challenges ahead. There is, as has been mentioned, a similar European Union dialogue in which we also participate.

In closing, I acknowledge that the Prime Minister will raise lots of other things in addition to human rights. He will raise our growing links in the financial, commercial, environmental, political, research, cultural and sporting areas. We host the Olympics in sequence with each other, and we will have a lot to learn from each other. We hope to be a kind of financial back office for China as its role in the world grows. We hope to partner with China to find solutions to its environmental difficulties. We have made great progress in that. The dialogue with China is rich and important and it must continue on all fronts, but it is critical that central to it—and something that we are never embarrassed about raising—is the role of human rights in China’s development.


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