On 8th September 2020 during the House of Lords second reading debate on the Government’s Trade Bill, Rt Revd Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn, delivered his maiden speech. The full text is below:
The Lord Bishop of Blackburn (Maiden Speech): My Lords, I am extremely grateful for the warmth of the welcome that I have received in my Introduction to your House. When I told my elderly father in 2013 that I had been appointed to serve as the next Bishop of Blackburn, many miles away from his home in Sussex, he was very quiet and somewhat disappointed that my wife and I would be living so far away, but then a light came into his eyes and he asked, “Does that mean you may be invited to enter the House of Lords?” When I replied in the affirmative, he said very quickly, “Well, then, that makes it all right.”
I come, first and foremost, as a Christian who will seek opportunity to support the convictions and values foundational to our faith in Jesus Christ, and to draw attention to those many today, around the world, who are persecuted for their faith in him, and then to advocate for the right for all to enjoy freedom of speech and belief, wherever they may live, and to do so in peace.
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 29th June Baroness Falkner of Margravine asked Her Majesty’s Government “what plans they have to reassess their relationship with the government of China.” The Rt Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry, asked a follow up question focusing onreligious persecution in China.
Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, with Christian pastors made to preach on patriotism as a condition for restoring worship after Covid-19, the new ethnic unity law to sinicize Tibetan Buddhism, and reports of birth control forced on Uighur Muslims, does the Minister accept that firm, co-ordinated international effort is required to challenge Beijing’s abuses of its religious minorities and that such human rights abuses should not be overlooked in our trade negotiations with China?
On 23rd June the Rt Revd Alan Smith,Bishop of St Albans received a written answer to a question on religious freedom in China.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: HL5718 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that priests in China have been forced to preach Chinese nationalism in return for the opening of religious spaces.
On 17th June Baroness Northover asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of their relationship with the government of China; whether they intend to alter that relationship; and if so, how they intend to do so”. The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans asked a follow up question, focusing on freedom of religion and belief.
Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, inevitably, trade and defence issues will play an important part in our relationship with China. Will the Minister assure us that issues of freedom of religion or belief will not be overlooked? Estimates suggest that between 900,000 and 1.8 million Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other Muslims have been detained in Xinjiang province. What plans have the Government made to join our American allies in sanctioning those responsible for the oppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang?