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 St Albans spoke in a debate on the 1998 Human Rights Act, on 14th July 2022:
My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for securing this debate, and for setting out so clearly many of the great benefits that have been achieved through the Human Rights Act. I will not repeat or elaborate any of those here, and perhaps save a moment or two in so doing.
As neither a legal nor constitutional expert, I am not going to delve into the technical side of the matter, but it is clear to me that this is a discussion not simply about the importance of the Human Rights Act 1998 but about many of the concerns—already raised from different Benches in this House—that noble Lords have with the proposed British Bill of Rights. Before I mention some of my concerns, I commend the introduction of the right to a trial by jury in the updated Bill of Rights Bill. But aside from this one welcome measure, it strikes me that there is a very real danger that the new Bill of Rights may remove levels of accountability from government, particularly in areas such as immigration, which I have an interest in.
The Archbishop of Canterbury received the following written answers on 24th May 2022:
The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury asked Her Majesty’s Government:
what criteria they will use to determine whether someone arriving in the UK, outside of the authorised channels, is eligible for being relocated to Rwanda.
whether families will be split up through the new Asylum Partnership Arrangement with Rwanda; and if not, what evidence they have that the policy will not lead to increased trafficking of women and children.
On 3rd November 2020 the Bishop of St Albans received a written answer to a question on China’s election to the UN Human Rights Council:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of (1) the government of China’s election to the UN Human Rights Council on 13 October, and (2) the impact of that election on that Council’s ability to hold the government of China accountable for the human rights situation in that country. [HL9378] Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks about human rights in China”
On 29th July the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon “Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020”. The Right Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, spoke in the debate.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I, too, welcome this new regime of sanctions, but we must of course ensure that targeted sanctions do not become empty gestures. As other noble Lords have indicated, these sanctions will be most effective when they are consistent with other foreign policy priorities and done through co-ordinated, collective action. Without the support of a wider coalition, we risk being isolated diplomatically.
On 22nd July a statement was given about China. The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark asked a follow up question.
Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, the Foreign Secretary is correct about the importance and place of China in the world but China’s human rights record, especially as it concerns Uighurs, has been well known for some time. In the light of the recent US Uighurs human rights act, will Her Majesty’s Government consider similar measures and produce a list of Chinese companies involved in the construction and operation of the camps? Given the rising and publicly expressed concern in this country, including by the Board of Deputies, will the Minister now accept that it is high time we took firmer steps to counter Beijing’s harrowing human rights abuses against the Uighurs, and that such abuses should influence negotiations on any future trade deal with China?
On 8th July 2020 Baroness D’Souza asked the Government “what representations they will make to the Government of Bahrain regarding the imprisonment and possible execution of individuals including Mohamed Ramadan and Hussain Moosa, and the reported use of torture to extract their confessions.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]: My Lords, the Minister has assured the House that representations have been made to the authorities in Bahrain expressing our complete and utter opposition to the death penalty. Has he also reiterated our opposition to the use of torture to extract confessions? Will Her Majesty’s Government review their existing package of reform assistance to Bahrain to see what further support can be offered to strengthen human rights and the rule of law in Bahrain? Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government to help strengthen human rights and the rule of law in Bahrain”