Bishop of St Albans asks about suppression of journalists in China

The Bishop of St Albans asked a question regarding government response to suppression of journalists by the Chinese authorities on 1st December 2022, during a debate on a Commons Urgent Question concerning the arrest of BBC journalist Edward Lawrence while he was covering protests in Shanghai, China:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, what attempts are His Majesty’s Government making to work with our partners in the UN to build an international consensus, so that China, which is seeking to raise its profile as an international power, hears from all quarters that suppressing journalists, not least those who are doing their duties, and arresting people for these demonstrations is simply unacceptable in the modern world?

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Bishop of St Albans leads debate on human rights abuses in China

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.

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Bishop of St Albans asks about calls to place an arms embargo and sanctions on Myanmar

The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answers on 9th November 2022:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the call by the Women’s League of Burma and Burma Campaign UK to institute a comprehensive global arms embargo.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): The UK is a longstanding supporter of an arms embargo on Myanmar. We are clear that countries should not sell arms to the Myanmar military. On 27 March, the UK coordinated a joint statement with 48 signatories that committed us to working to prevent the flow of arms and equipment to the Myanmar military. We have also worked with international partners at the G7, UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council.to secure strong language on stopping the flow of arms.

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Bishop of Guildford asks about detention of church leaders in China

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.

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Iran: Demonstrations – Bishop of St Albans tables question for short debate

The Bishop of St Albans tabled a question for short debate on 27th October 2022, concerning the recent protests and demonstrations in Iran:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask His Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Iran concerning the recent demonstrations in that country.

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity that this short debate affords to highlight the plight of many people in Iran, especially young women, who are fighting for their basic human rights and, as a consequence, suffering horrific violence at the hands of the state.

Within a few metres of this Palace of Westminster, we have seen and heard the many protesters over recent weeks who have been chanting—please excuse my pronunciation — “Jin, Jiyan, Azadî”, a slogan which has been taken up by the protesters. It is Kurdish and it means “Woman, Life, Freedom”. The protesters are demonstrating in solidarity with the women in Iran. I hope that this will give us an opportunity for their voices to be heard in this Chamber today.

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Bishop of Southwark asks about corruption in Zimbabwe

The Bishop of Southwark asked a question about corruption during a debate about treatment of opposition activists in Zimbabwe on 27th October 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, the diocese of Southwark is linked with four of the five Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe and the neighbouring diocese of Rochester with the fifth, Harare. Does the Minister agree that the systemic corruption and long-standing poor level of governance in Zimbabwe continually undermine civil society and reduce the well-being of the people and all the institutions there, including the Church?

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Bishop of St Albans speaks in a debate on the blockade of Ukrainian ports

On 21st July 2022 the House of Lords debated the impact of the blockade of Ukrainian ports on food insecurity in developing countries. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his brilliant introduction to this debate. I also welcome my colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, and congratulate him on his maiden speech. I know he has huge experience to offer to this House and will be drawing not least on the huge successes and, indeed, some of the challenges of the east Midlands, where he is based. We look forward to hearing much more from him.

Next Tuesday we will start the next Lambeth Conference. Hundreds of bishops are gathering from all round the world. They are flying into this country as we speak, including many bishops from the whole of Africa and parts of Asia, and we are going to be meeting many of these people who, in their dioceses, are facing the famine that is now ahead of us. We hope that will be an opportunity to get first-hand reports of what the challenges are and how we might be able to try to respond, to alleviate some of the terrible suffering facing our world and particularly the Horn of Africa.

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Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham makes maiden speech during debate on food crisis in Africa and Ukraine war

On 21st July 2022 the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Rt Revd Paul Williams, delivered his maiden speech in the House of Lords during Lord Alton’s debate, “that this House takes note of (1) the impact of the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports on food insecurity in developing countries, and (2) its contribution to the danger of famine in (a) the Horn of Africa, and (b) East Africa.”

The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham (Maiden Speech): My Lords, I begin by thanking fellow Members for their gracious welcome and expressing my gratitude to the parliamentary staff and officers who have so kindly supported my introduction to the House.

It is an honour to make this maiden speech in such an important debate, which focuses so clearly on the needs of the most vulnerable: those affected by the sudden steep rise in global food prices resulting from Russia’s terrible war and blockade in Ukraine. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, both for bringing this debate to the House and for his long record of campaigning advocacy on behalf of those whose suffering is too often overlooked.

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Bishop of St Albans asks a question regarding Sri Lanka and China

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?

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Bishop of Southwark asks a question regarding a submission to the UN Committee Against Torture

The Bishop of Southwark received the following written answer on 21st July 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Southwark asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the joint submission by Human Rights Watch and Lawyers for Justice on the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to the UN Committee Against Torture at its 74th Session, 12–29 July; and what discussions they have had with the Palestinian Authority as a signatory of the Convention Against Torture. [HL1586]

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