Widespread protests in China could mark the beginning of the end for the CCP
Recent protests in China are ostensibly about the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) authoritarian zero-Covid policies. But they also speak to a simmering discontent and pent-up anger at the general brutality of the Chinese regime and its Orwellian attitude towards protest and dissent.
In the past we have seen brave protests – from “Tank Man” in Tiananmen Square to “Bridge Man” before the recent CCP Congress – and we watched thousands take to the streets of Hong Kong to defend democracy.
But what makes these protests different is their widespread and spontaneous nature and the challenge the CCP faces from a rising generation who know that alternatives exist to a one-party state.
The young people now calling for Xi Jinping’s removal courageously put their lives on the line
Despite the CCP’s attempts to use Covid to entrench its control and extend its sinister surveillance state, the protests expose the difficulty which Xi Jinping faces in controlling an enormous population that is growing ever more inter-connected to the rest of the world.
The Chinese people understand the freedoms that exist elsewhere; be it the freedom from enforced lockdown under a zero-Covid policy or the freedom to protest in demanding basic human rights.
The CCP has a long and brutal history of cracking down on protestors, as I spoke about in the House of Lords recently. The writing has been on China’s Great Wall for the CCP since the tragic massacre in Tiananmen Square more than 30 years ago.
The CCP is so frightened of its past catching up with it that it even arrests people daring to light a candle at a vigil to commemorate those who were killed.
The young people now bravely calling for Xi Jinping’s removal know these risks but courageously put their lives on the line. A young man In Shanghai who was filmed calling for Xi to go was brutally assaulted, arrested and has disappeared. And there will have been many others.
The CCP is utterly intolerant of dissent and disdainful of human rights and democracy. Think of Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong, the CCP’s national security law has empowered the authorities to brutally crack down on all forms of protest and to destroy the democratic “two systems, one country” agreement that was so cherished by Hongkongers.
I am particularly proud that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong investigated and exposed the brutal practices of the CCP and its puppet Hong Kong authorities.
The APPG recently worked with grassroots campaign group Stand With Hong Kong to develop another report that included evidence of unlawful arrests, notably the mob attack in Yuen Long MTR Station, which saw prolonged and indiscriminate beatings of unarmed civilians. The protests also saw medical workers subject to verbal abuse and arbitrary arrest, as well as 90 per cent of journalists covering the protests being exposed to tear gas.
The United Kingdom government has the option of utilising the powers it has under the Magnitsky-style sanctions regime – powers it has already used to sanction officials from Russia, Belarus and other countries guilty of appalling human rights violations.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently used his address at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet to set out his government’s foreign policy, but he needs to go further and take the necessary steps to stand up to China – and stand up for Hong Kong.
Guilty individuals should be unable to freely travel or access their international assets. That would hit them hard. They should not be allowed to accrue benefits from western countries that respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
The recent protests may be against prolonged lockdowns and restrictions but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The Chinese people are now making their voice known; one of anger against the injustice that they have seen and suffered. The UK must give greater support by imposing sanctions against those key individuals who have caused so much misery for so many people.
Lord Alton, crossbench peer and vice chair of the APPGs on Uyghurs and Hong Kong.
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