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Britain must hold China to account or risk seeing democratic freedoms slip away

3 min read

China has shown they have no respect for human rights and democracy. It's time Britain takes more decisive action to help Uyghurs, Hongkongers and other people being brutally repressed by Beijing.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, China has continued its shockingly aggressive approach to both internal and international relations. What is surprising is that the world has yet to tackle Beijing’s draconian oppression head on. It’s time the UK spoke up for the people of China, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, who are denied the opportunity to speak for themselves. 

A recent speech by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the United Nations Human Rights Council takes Beijing’s unashamed bullishness one step further. His speech was designed to send a warning shot to the UK and all countries that respect democracy. Just as Beijing warned Hongkongers not to protest for their rights in 2019, Wang has similarly now warned the UK against making “slanderous attacks” on Beijing. 

Wang’s speech is problematic for many important reasons. Firstly, he chillingly claimed that international human rights laws don’t apply to China. This is deeply concerning because human rights must always be applied universally. When they are jeopardised anywhere in the world, they are jeopardised everywhere in the world. 

Secondly, Wang openly denied that any wrongdoing has occurred in Xinjiang. This is despite many thorough and respectable investigations concluding that systematic violations, torture, and sterilization are being perpetrated against Uyghurs due to their ethnic minority background. Viral video footage has also captured many hundreds of Uyghurs in uniform being shipped off to labour camps. Drone footage of these camps has been widely circulated. 

Hongkongers cannot wait as they watch their rights and freedoms crumble before them

Wang’s response tells the world that Beijing does not care about hard evidence. The only truth they see is that approved and released by Beijing. 

The disturbing picture that Wang has painted tells us that China has no respect for human rights and democratic norms. The UK’s minimal efforts to hold Beijing to account are simply not enough. We must be more decisive, assertive and urgent in our actions if we are to truly help Uyghurs, Hongkongers and other people being brutally repressed by Beijing.  

The UK has a clear duty to stand up for international human rights, and to oppose mass torture and genocide worldwide. We must uphold this duty by speaking up for democracy.  

Hongkongers cannot wait as they watch their rights and freedoms crumble before them. Another 47 pro-democracy activists were arrested in Hong Kong just this week for their belief in freedom. Dominic Raab has accepted that Uyghurs are being systematically tortured, but we must act in accordance with these horrific realities before it is too late. 

The APPG for Hong Kong, of which I am a vice-chair, has investigated the systemic brutality that Hong Kong authorities have inflicted upon innocent civilians, including medical and humanitarian workers. Our report found substantive evidence of widespread harassment at best and torture at worst.

Having worked closely with grassroots campaign group Stand with Hong Kong, I know our findings are widespread across the territory. This is not something that the UK government can sit by and watch in silence. We must take action.  

I am therefore urging Dominic Raab to impose Magnitsky-style sanctions on senior officials in Hong Kong responsible for the continued perpetration of human rights abuses against Uyghurs and Hongkongers. This includes major political figures such as Carrie Lam in Hong Kong.  

Without human rights and our freedoms, we have nothing. We must act to defend and protect these crucial rights worldwide. We must hold China to account for continuously threatening these fundamental cornerstones of democracy, or risk seeing them slip away. 


Andrew Rosindell is the Conservative MP for Romford and vice-chair of the APPG on Hong Kong.

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