Henry Ridgwell | Voice of America
LONDON – The Chinese Communist party has intensified an assault on all human rights throughout China, and those interacting with the regime should do so in the knowledge they are interacting with ‘a criminal state’, says a new report from the human rights commission of Britain’s ruling Conservative Party.
From the incarceration of millions of ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, to the brutal crackdown on protests and democracy in Hong Kong, there has been a massive deterioration in the human rights situation in China the past five years, according to the author of the report, Benedict Rogers, co-founder of the commission.
“The regime has developed in recent years new tools of repression, in particular, endemic slave labor, the development of surveillance technologies to create essentially an Orwellian surveillance state, the use of televised forced confessions, the implementation of new laws that allow within the so-called legal system for arbitrary detentions and disappearances, and the continued widespread use of torture and forced organ harvesting,” Rogers told a virtual press conference Wednesday.
The report, titled ‘The Darkness Deepens: The Crackdown on Human Rights in China 2016-2020’, has been endorsed by several Conservative lawmakers, including the chair of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee Tom Tugendhat, two former foreign secretaries and the last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten.
It calls for the Britain-China relationship to be “reviewed, recalibrated and reset.”
The British Conservative Party report also accuses Beijing of increasing repression in Tibet, and grave violations of the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1997 upon the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese control through the imposition of a National Security Law in 2020.
The report describes endemic, systematic, widespread torture; the use of forced televised confessions; forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience; slave labor on a huge scale, which helps to supply 83 global brands; the creation of a surveillance state; and increasing influence at the United Nations and other multilateral institutions aimed at silencing criticism.
Beijing has denied accusations of gross human rights abuses and has repeatedly called for Britain and other Western countries to avoid interfering in its internal affairs.
At a news conference January 11 in Beijing, officials denied the country is conducting forced sterilizations or has imprisoned millions of Uighurs.
“In the process of carrying out the family planning programme in Xinjiang according to the law, it is forbidden to carry out illegal activities such as late term induced labor, forced birth control and forced pregnancy examination,” said Xu Guixiang, the deputy director-general of the Communist Party Publicity Department of Xinjiang. “Whether or not people of all ethnic groups take contraceptive measures and what kind of contraceptive measures they take are all decided by individuals at their own will, and no organization or individual can interfere. There is no problem of compulsory sterilisation.”
Elijan Anayat, a spokesperson of the regional Xinjiang government, denied Uighurs were being held in re-education camps.
“All the students who participated in learning of the national common language, legal knowledge, vocational skills and de-radicalisation education have graduated. With the help of the government, they have achieved stable employment, improved the quality of life and lived a normal life. At present, there is no education and training centre in Xinjiang,” Anayat said.
‘Knock on the door brings fright’
Among those contributing to the British report was Rahima Mahmut, a Uighur from Xinjiang province. After witnessing the massacre of dozens of protesters in 1997 in her home city of Ghulja, known as Yining in Mandarin, she fled to Britain. Mahmut told VOA she last spoke to her family in 2017, when her brother finally answered the phone after several attempts.
“When I asked him why no one is answering the phone, he said, ‘They did the right thing.’ And then he said, ‘We leave you in God’s hands. And please leave us in God’s hands, too.’”
Mahmut says people in Xinjiang are living under constant terror.
“A knock on the door brings fright to anyone. Because you just think that, ‘have they come to me? Are they here to take me away?’ I don’t know how to describe my feelings, you know, each time when I read these articles, the details of what is happening to the people: mass rape, sterilization, tearing apart families.”
It’s been just five years since Chinese President Xi Jinping was given a full state visit to Britain, including a banquet at Buckingham Palace hosted by Queen Elizabeth. Then British Prime Minister David Cameron hailed a ‘golden era’ of relations with Beijing.
However, the relationship has soured rapidly in recent years following concerns over China’s military expansion in the South China Sea, its crackdown on political freedoms in Hong Kong, concerns over unfair trade practices, Britain’s ban on the use of Huawei equipment in the rollout of 5G technology, and the deteriorating human rights situation within China.
Britain has proposed the formation of a ‘D10’ grouping of leading democracies to counter authoritarian regimes such as China, a suggestion welcomed by fomrer Hong Kong legislator Nathan Law, who was jailed for leading pro-democracy protests and now lives in exile in London.
“The world should prioritise human rights over trade and we should act before it is too late. Democracies have to act in an orchestrated and coordinated way in order to preserve our values,” Law told the press conference on the launch of the report.
Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab this week announced new restrictions on trade with companies based in Xinjiang province.
“Our aim, put simply, is that no company that profits from forced labour in Xinjiang can do business in the UK and no UK business is involved in their supply chains,” Raab told lawmakers Tuesday.
“We must take action to make sure that UK businesses are not part of the supply chains that lead to the gates of the internment camps in Xinjiang, and to make sure that the products of the human rights violations that take place in those camps don’t end up on the shelves of supermarkets that we shop in here at home week in, week out.”
The British move follows the United States’ recent ban on cotton and tomato imports from Xinjiang over concerns of slave labor.
Uighur exile Rahima Mahmut wants the West to go further and declare the persecution of the Uighurs as genocide. “[Britain says] that genocide has to be decided in court, not by politicians. But then we know very clearly, we cannot pursue the U.N. route because China has a veto power,” Mahmut told VOA.