The Bishop of St Albans tabled a question for short debate in Grand Committee on 17th November 2022, concerning reports of human rights abuses in China:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of allegations of human rights abuses in China.
My Lords, I approach this debate with a great deal of reticence and, indeed, almost reluctance. I have long admired China and the Chinese people, although one should of course acknowledge that the population of China is made up of 56 different ethnic groups. I have long admired their ancient civilisation. Not only is China a country of great natural beauty; it is the nation that invented the compass, gunpowder, paper, moveable-type printing, kites, fireworks, silk, tea and porcelain, to name a few. I will perhaps omit noodles from my list of admirable inventions. My Chinese friends are among some of the most educated, industrious and cultured people I know. China is the fourth-largest country by land mass and has the largest population of any country in the world. Over many decades, we have developed extensive trade links with China, and it is in its interests and ours for us to share in commerce and seek to find common cause for the good of the world.
Yet I feel I cannot remain silent in the face of such a wide range of human rights abuses. Lying behind our profound differences is a vast cultural gulf that was laid bare most recently for me when I read President Xi’s speech at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party last month. He said:
“We will … continue to take the correct and distinctively Chinese approach to handling ethnic affairs … We will remain committed to the principle that religions in China must be Chinese in orientation and provide active guidance to religions so that they can adapt to socialist society.”
He also said:
“We have effectively contained ethnic separatists, religious extremists, and violent terrorists”.
To those here who are familiar with China’s history of human rights abuses, these are worrying words.
The Bishop of Leeds received the following written answer on 16th November 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds asked His Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to introducing an import ban on (1) all products produced by forced labour, and (2) on products produced by all Chinese companies listed as exploiting forced labour.
The Bishop of Guildford received the following written answer on 31st October 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Guildford asked His Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of China regarding recent reports that at least 10 leaders from unregistered Protestant churches were arrested and charged with fraud over normal church financial activities in 2021, including Zhang Chunlei, Yang Xiaoguang, and Hao Ming.
The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 24th October 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that crimes have been committed against Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China; and what steps they are taking in response to ensure that the perpetrators of any such crimes are brought to justice.
The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 10th October 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of crimes being committed against (1) Uyghurs, (2) Kazakhs, and (3) other Turkish Muslim minorities, in Xinjiang in China; and what discussions they have had with international partners about taking steps to investigate, and if necessary prosecute, any such crimes.
The Bishop of St Albans asked the following question on Sri Lanka’s relationship with China, on 21st July 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked: whether Her Majesty’s Government agree with those commentators who believe that part of the issue has been an overclose relationship between the ruling family and China? Does the Minister also agree that this is a wake-up call to those countries which are now being courted by China? What else can Her Majesty’s Government do to increase our soft power among the Commonwealth at this time when people are vying for power in this volatile part of the world?
The Bishop of St Albans spoke in a debate on security challenges relating to China, on 14th July 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I have spoken on numerous occasions about the ongoing tragedy in Xinjiang province. I have also spoken on various occasions about the worrying issues of surveillance and hacking of businesses and individuals in this country. It is very helpful to hear other noble Lords picking up on some of them. However, in the very limited time I have, I want to make a few comments building on some of those made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, about China’s relationship with the Commonwealth. In particular, I want to focus on the soft power which maintains strong international bonds, bolsters our influence in the world and commends our western culture, rooted in an understanding which draws on Christian tradition.
The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answers on 25th April 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of extradition treaties between EU Member States and the People’s Republic of China on freedom of movement for UK citizens in Europe; and what discussions they have had with European counterparts on this matter.
The following written question was replied to on 30th March 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Hong Kong following reports of threats and intimidation of Benedict Rogers, a UK citizen and Chief Executive of Hong Kong Watch. [HL7070]