January 10th 2019 House of Lords – British Parliament
*Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the violations of human rights in China, including the arrest and disappearance of political activists and religious adherents, forced organ harvesting, and restrictions on free speech; and when they last made representations on these matters to the government of China.
Question 11.22 am Asked by
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the violations of human rights in China, including the arrest and disappearance of political activists and religious adherents, forced organ harvesting, and restrictions on free speech; and when they last made representations on these matters to the government of China.
My Lords, we are deeply concerned about restrictions to civil and political freedoms in China, particularly the treatment of ethnic minorities, freedom of expression, association and assembly, and freedom of religion or belief. We highlighted these concerns publicly during China’s universal periodic review in November 2018 and in my subsequent Statement. During 2018, the UK raised human rights bilaterally with China on a number of occasions, including through the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, Ministers and senior officials.
My Lords, I commend the efforts of the noble Lord in consistently raising this issue and standing up for the different communities, the lawyers and activists, those of different faiths, and those who are being subjected to specific targeting for organ harvesting. I reassure him that, during the last UPR in Geneva, I made it a point to directly raise these issues, including the treatment of lawyers and religious minorities, and specifically the closure of Christian churches and the desperate situation of the Uighurs.
Sir Geoffrey Nice is conducting a review on organ harvesting, and the noble Lord will note that I ensured that some of my officials attended the hearings of the preliminary findings of that report. We are currently awaiting the detailed outcome. Let me reassure all noble Lords that we will consistently raise this publicly, through processes such as the UPR, and bilaterally, as I indicated in my original Answer.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his response and also for Mark Field’s response to my honourable friend’s Written Question just before Christmas. However, noting all the contact that we have had through the Foreign Secretary and the Minister himself in raising our concerns, has the FCO taken the trouble to speak to the Department of Trade and other civil society organisations, including business, about our concerns on civil liberties? Engagement is not simply about political representation. We should make clear to everyone engaged with China that we have genuine concerns over human rights, and that to do business with China we need to see an improvement.
It is good to know that the Government are making these representations, but what evidence is there that the Chinese are listening and acting on them? Surely it is a matter of the profoundest concern that the country that will be the dominant power in the world by the middle of this century indulges in these practices.
My Lords, as I said, our job is to raise this concern bilaterally and, with other like-minded partners, with our Chinese counterparts, and we will continue to do so. If I may, I will refer to a recent example that I have already mentioned in your Lordships’ House. Just before Christmas, we sent our diplomats to undertake an insight into the suffering of the Uighur community. They have now reported back and we are looking very closely at their findings and recommendations to ensure that we can take those up with the Chinese. This cannot in any way be done by force of hand. It is through consistent and collaborative representations that we will, I believe, begin to see a change. If the Chinese wish to see a place for China that is progressive—which they clearly do—they need to subscribe to the international standards set and be held accountable.
My Lords, according to Amnesty International, there are more executions in China than the rest of the world. Issues that have been identified include not only the death penalty but the one-child policy, the legal status of Tibet, freedom of the press, the lack of regular legal recognition of human rights, the lack of independence of the judiciary, and the lack of rule of law and due process. In our haste to build a good relationship with China, particularly for trade, are we compromising on these human rights issues?
Following this House of Lords Oral Question on human rights violations in China I thought that you might find of interest the following briefing from Human Rights Without Frontiers.
The Orwellian life in Xinjiang campuses
(28.12.2018) – More than a million Uyghurs are languishing in transformation through education camps, but millions are still at large in the no-mans land of uncertainty where a careless word or administrative whim could put them behind bars.
Dozens of Bitter Winter reporters arrested
(27.12.2018) – Accused of espionage and subversion, at least 45 contributors were arrested and interrogated; the reporter who filmed a secret camp in Xinjiang “disappeared” after the arrest.
House churches shuttered in Northeastern China
(30.12.2018) – Government officials have been going on a rampage to close churches that won’t join the state-approved Three-Self Church.
The Red Armbands are watching you. Everywhere
(30.12.2018) – Reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, China mobilizes citizen spies, vigilantes to “maintain public order” and suppress religion.
New pogrom against The Church of Almighty God
(28.12.2018) – In early December, Heilongjiang provincial authorities mobilized a large police force and launched a mass arrest operation against members of the CAG.
Pastors accused of “foreign affiliations”
(28.12.2018) – Husband and wife pastor duo in Tongjiang city lose church after buying religious books from South Korea, which officials deemed illegal.
CCP monitors, punishes comments on social media
(28.12.2018) – Authorities in China scan cell phones at will, and even the most benign comment – from years ago – can have lifelong consequences.
In China, Moses delivers only nine commandments
(28.12.2018) – In a “sinicization” move bordering on farce, authorities force a church to delete one commandment from the fundamental law of Judaism and Christianity.
3,000 officer squelch garbage plant protest
(28.12.2018) – Fearing for health and safety, residents of Teng’ao town protest a large-scale garbage incineration plant close to town. People protest, authorities crack down.
Sermons censored, donations seized at patriotic churches
(27.12.2018) – Even government-approved Three-Self Church faces control of preaching, mandated patriotism, and control of finances, in ongoing “sinicization” push.
New details of secret transfer of Uyghurs
(27.12.2018) – Despite the best efforts of the Chinese authorities, more leaks emerge of the logistics and the inhumane treatment, and the fear endured, by Uyghur detainees.
Even going to the doctor poses trouble for believers
(27.12.2018) – Patients in China are forced to register religious status when seeking medical care and also undergo a litany of questions about private life.
Authorities destroy place of worship in Henan
(27.12.2018) – Chinese officials allege, on false grounds, that the buildings on the Chinese Christian Church Prayer Mountain broke laws.
Christians arrested for thanking the Lord
(27.12.2018) – Instead of using frequent Christian expressions of praise, believers must thank the Communist Party of China – or face dire consequences.
Fengqiao – a Maoist revival to attack religion
(27.12.2018) – Cultural Revolution technique revived from the 1960s pits masses against masses, brother against brother, faith against faith, to control belief.
Dalai Lama gives important Christmas interview
(26.12.2018) – He explains to the Hindustan Times how a decision on whether there will be a next Dalai Lama or not will be taken.
Muslims forced out of jobs, in Xinjiang and beyond
(26.12.2018) – Uyghurs working outside Xinjiang forced to return home, Huis in Xinjiang – to their places of origin, facing questions of how to support families.
Underground Catholics in Jiangxi may lose their churches
(26.12.2018) – Authorities are harassing underground Catholic churches in the Diocese of Yujiang, intimidating believers into joining the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.
Anti-Muslim repression expands outside Xinjiang
(25.12.2018) – Using “terrorism” as an excuse, Beijing’s fight against Islamic religion reaches other western border regions.
Elderly believers suffer for their faith
(23.12.2018) – House churches are forced to change locations to avoid being closed down by Chinese authorities, making the life of senior Christians extremely difficult.
Religious books banned and destroyed by the state
(23.12.2018) – New regulations are banning the sale of religious books, including the Bible, and churches and temples are threatened with the burning of scriptures.
Chinese authorities boycott Christmas
(23.12.2018) – Churches have been ordered to get approvals to celebrate Christmas from multiple state institutions and people are forbidden from having Christmas decorations.
Underground Catholic priest arrested, kept under surveillance
(23.12.2018) – Government’s “patrol inspection team,” supervising religious affairs, has been stationed in Fuzhou city. Underground Catholic priests are the main targets.
You may also be interested in the work of the China Tribunal, led by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, into involuntary organ harvesting. Details appear at this link:
How Chinese Doctors Who Harvest Organs Get Away With Murder
A wall of silence around China’s oppression of its Muslim minority is starting to crumble
More and more countries are standing up to China over its oppression of the Uighurs, a majority-Muslim ethnic minority living in the country’s west. See –
Also see this bulletin from Human Rights Without Frontiers
China: Uighur Muslims
19 December 2018
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to raise (1) with the government of China, and (2) in international fora, the treatment and conditions of Uighur people held in “re-education” camps in China.
My Lords, we have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, including the use of political re-education camps and widespread surveillance and restrictions, which are targeted particularly at Uighur Muslims. Indeed, our diplomats recently visited Xinjiang. We highlighted our serious concerns at the September UN Human Rights Council, during China’s universal periodic review in November and in my subsequent public statement. My right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific also raised the issue with their Chinese counterparts.
My Lords, having met Uighurs in western China, I thank the Minister for that very robust reply.
Reports suggest that up to 1 million Uighurs have been incarcerated without trial in a network of sinister re-education camps: these are bristling with barbed wire and watchtowers, with torture and brainwashing that demands renouncing God and embracing Communism.
People are forced to change family names, give DNA samples and eat and drink forbidden things.
Is this not a return to the methods of the Cultural Revolution, when thought-crime regularly led to imprisonment and worse?
What are the Government doing to encourage Muslim and other heads of state to speak out, recognising that such appalling treatment of a Muslim minority will fuel resentment and radicalisation right across the globe?
What are they doing to persuade Beijing of the benefits of Article 18 and pluralism, and show that this appalling treatment of the Uighur people is the last way to create integration, loyalty and harmony?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising this issue. When we talk of religious persecution and the rights of different minority communities around the world, the plight of the Uighur Muslim is often forgotten. I have certainly been aware of this. The noble Lord will know that we raised this issue in a deliberate, focused way during the universal periodic review with the specific reference to the plight of the Uighur Muslims. To answer his question directly, that has resulted in strong support at an international level, not just among Muslim leaders, but in other states, ensuring that we raise the bar on raising this issue consistently with the Chinese authorities. Indeed, as I said earlier, our diplomats have recently returned from the region. The reports they provided are quite challenging and even quite horrific in certain respects, with people being asked to remove any sign that they are of a particular faith.
My Lords, the United Nations estimates that there are over 1 million people—mostly Uighur Muslims, including Kazakhs and others—in these resettlement camps. We are a member of the UN Human Rights Council; China has been a member for six years and this expires in October of next year. It is good that we have raised this issue, but what support have we received from others on the Human Rights Council, and what response has there been from China?
My Lords, it would be fair to say that at this stage the response from China on the concerns raised has been quite limited. However, this is an issue that has come to the fore and has now been raised at an international level, where perhaps it had not previously got the focus it deserves. Let me assure the noble Lord and your Lordships’ House that this remains a key priority on our human rights agenda. Specifically, we have been talking to partners at the Security Council, we raised this directly and bilaterally with the Chinese authorities and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary raised this in his direct talks with the Foreign Minister of China.
I thank the noble Lord for his very strong response, but does he recognise that some of the actions we have taken on this matter have been taken in conjunction with the EU External Action Service? Of course, we also worked together with France and Germany on the case of Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia. How does he think we will be able to maximise our impact on human rights with a superpower such as China if we leave the EU?
My Lords, our stance on human rights predates our membership of the European Union. The noble Baroness is right to say that we have worked very closely with our European partners. In bilateral discussions with EU partners and beyond, the importance of human rights and the impact of raising those issues when we stand together is clear. Unity of action on these issues is clear, and it is my view that after we leave the European Union, we will continue to work very closely with our European partners on human rights issues and the benefits we have seen will continue.
I appreciate that the Government have been raising this issue with the Chinese authorities, but have they raised it with the US in order to get joint action to persuade China that human rights are a matter of international concern and not something that can simply be left to individual countries to deal with on their own?
My Lords, the noble Lord raises an important point, but let me assure him that through our membership of the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, we raise these issues with like-minded partners but also with countries from the Islamic world—to which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, referred—to ensure that a consistent message is delivered. China is an important partner of the United Kingdom on a range of different issues, but that should not preclude our raising human rights issues clearly and unequivocally.
My noble friend’s replies have been encouraging, but I understand that the situation is even worse at present. It is now reported that the Chinese authorities are removing the children from these camps, which are full of 1 million of their nationals, and taking them away to be re-educated separately. That is totally heartless and should be a central part of his inquiry.
My Lords, my noble friend raises a disturbing turn of events, which has been much reported. Any parent of any child can relate to the issue he has raised. The issue of the Uighur Muslims in particular, but also that of all the different religious minority communities in China, is a concern. Let me assure him and your Lordships’ House that in my role as the Prime Minister’s special envoy on freedom of religion or belief, I will raise it consistently, both bilaterally and in all international fora.
My Lords, the Minister will doubtless know that there are factories alongside these concentration camps that are paying very low wages. Will the Government therefore ensure that their products do not enter supply chains into this country?
My Lords, I have been made aware of this and we are certainly reviewing the reports we have received. As I said, earlier this month senior diplomats from our mission in Beijing visited the region, and we are looking at their observations and recommendations very closely.
Congressman Chris Smith (R, New Jersey) has introduced a new Bill into the US Congress drawing attention to the China’s barbaric treatment of the Uyghurs as well as concrete steps to be made in response. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/7123
Washington Post endorsed the bill in an editorial: Opinion | China got rid of one of the most oppressive practices of the Mao era. Now it’s coming back.
Yingye’er re-education camp managed like prison (video)
New exclusive video details internal management regulations of the Yingye’er “transformation through education” camp in Xinjiang. Experts confirm that the rules are almost identical to those of a prison.
By Massimo Introvigne
Bitter Winter (11.12.2018) – https://bit.ly/2SLeFyZ – At the end of November, Bitter Winter posted an exclusive video about the large-scale Yingye’er “transformation through education” camp for Uyghurs in Yining city of Xinjiang. The video has drawn a lot of attention throughout the world. We now present another video about the same camp, detailing its internal management rules and regulation.
The rules and regulations are posted on public signboards displayed in the corridors of the camp and detail a variety of internal management issues, such as the security of the camp, the code of conduct of “students” and personnel, as well as provisions regarding the inmates’ communication with families. According to public security personnel, some of these rules and regulations are almost identical to the management regulations of prisons.
The instructions regarding the security of the camp state, “The section needs to make overall arrangements of armed police officers, public security personnel, security guards, and other forces.” In fact, armed police officers and public security personnel are part of the state security forces. So, if Yingye’er camp were an ordinary vocational school, the daily routine of providing safety would only require regular security guards.
The “Code of Conduct” for ‘students,'” posted on the “class affairs board” in the corridor, contains 26 regulations. Among these, article 23 is especially worth mentioning: it requires “students” to address armed police and special police as “police officers” and address teaching cadres as “training officers.” The requirement is notably similar to the code of conduct used for prison inmates.
One of the responsibilities for teachers requires them to “strive hard to study Marxism-Leninism and Chairman Mao’s thought,” “adhere to the Party’s basic line,” and teach students a “proletarian philosophy.”
As per the regulations, the responsibilities of the headmaster and Mandarin Chinese teachers include the indoctrination of students through ideological and political education. The rules state that, basically, only the students who speak Uyghur are required to learn Mandarin.
In a recent interview with Bitter Winter, an employee of another “transformation through education” camp revealed that all Uyghur detainees are forced to learn Chinese. “But even if an Uyghur manages to get a perfect score in Chinese, he or she will not be allowed to leave the camp,” revealed the employee.
The regulations of the Yingye’er camp include detailed provisions regarding contacts between “students” and their families, which are extremely restrictive. Phone calls between them must be applied for and approved, and the length of each phone call is usually limited to under five minutes. The rules require that phone calls must be “personally registered, personally dialed, and personally monitored” by members of the staff. The use of “code words and secret language” during conversations is prohibited. Inmates who do not comply with these rules will be punished with deprivation of family phone call privileges from one to six months based, depending on a situation.
Article 1 of the regulations states that “anti-extremism” should be incorporated within the content of “heart-to-heart chats,” and emphasizes that through such chats, “staff should gain a multifaceted understanding of students’ ideological dynamics and strive to discover emerging and tendentious intelligence information and clues.”
Our reporter has also discovered a room with a sign on the door “zhēnbié shì (Screening Room).” The original meaning of the Chinese word zhēnbié (screening) is “to differentiate and distinguish,” which emphasizes carrying out the assessment, examination, identification, and verification cautiously and seriously.
One of the most probable explanations for the function of this screening room could also lie in the interview with the employee of another “transformation through education” camp, mentioned earlier. He states that all detainees are divided into four levels of supervision: lenient, ordinary, strict, and enforced. According to him, special teams regularly screen “students” to determine whether they have signed a statement of repentance and “admitted their guilt.” An assessment is then conducted, and students who do not pass are sent to a detention center. Therefore, most probably, the screening room at the Yingye’er camp is used to evaluate the degree of “transformation” and “reform” of students.
Although CCP’s propaganda strives to conceal the truth, a growing body of evidence shows that the CCP authorities are carrying out large-scale persecution and suppression of Muslim Uyghurs. In its external communications, the CCP refers to “transformation through education” camps as “schools.” The factual materials our reporter has collected confirm that in terms of both internal structure and management regulations, this “transformation through education” camp is, in fact, a prison.