Tory MPs press for sanctions against China amid slave labour and abuse concerns
British business chiefs must resist “taking the Chinese shilling” and avoid supply chains using forced labour, senior Conservative MPs have urged.
Former minister Tim Loughton also called for a United Nations special investigation into “genocide and the use of slave labour” in China, labelling the country a “serial abuser” of human rights and cultural identity.
He was among several MPs to voice concerns over the treatment of Tibetans, Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang being “forced into concentration camps”, attacks on the freedom of Hong Kong citizens, and the “suppression” of Mongolian minorities.
Chinese officials involved in such abuses should face sanctions such as asset freezes or travel bans, the debate in Westminster Hall heard.
Tory former leader Iain Duncan Smith also urged the Government to back an amendment to the Trade Bill which would axe agreements if the High Court makes a preliminary determination that a trading partner has perpetrated genocide.
Mr Loughton highlighted his Tibet (Reciprocal Access) Bill, which would seek reciprocal sanctions against officials who do not allow representatives of the British Government or others to visit Tibet to see the human rights abuses.
He said: “We need this law to send out a strong signal from this country that governments cannot abuse their own people in secret, because we will call it out.
“Human rights abuses of this magnitude, wherever they happen, must be called out, and China has no divine right to immunity.”
He added: “We remember the Tesco Christmas card incident last year, when somebody found a message from a slave labourer being used to produce Christmas cards in part of China.
“We must resist Huawei.
“We must resist the influence on UK boardrooms of highly-paid British directors taking the Chinese shilling.”
He went on: “We must also call out the Confucius Institutes, which wield sinister influence in our universities and increasingly in our school classrooms.
“They give money supposedly to teach Mandarin, but there is another, subtler agenda going on.”
Opening the debate, Mr Duncan Smith said: “We need to look at mandatory sanctions with regard to global human rights abuses: sanctions such as travel bans or asset freezes.
“The officials responsible should have Magnitsky arrangements set on them for the use of forced compulsory labour in Tibet and in other areas too.
“The Government should also open a way for similar judgments to be issued on cases regarding abuses against Xinjiang’s Uighurs and other minorities in China that I have touched on.”
On the Trade Bill, he said: “The Lords amendment to the Trade Bill, new Clause 68, to nullify trade arrangements past and future if the High Court makes a preliminary determination that a proposed trade partner has perpetrated genocide – I’d urge the Government to support that amendment in the Lords.
“I can tell them now that, should such a new clause come to the Commons, I will absolutely support it.”
Mr Duncan Smith also suggested that some Western companies and governments are “turning a blind eye” to China’s behaviour as it seeks economic expansion.
He highlighted other concerns, saying: “The supply chains in Tibet, Xinjiang and other regions are linked to forced labour, and the Government has to make it clear to British business that it is unacceptable to be in the slightest bit involved with those chains.”
He went on: “The peculiarity of the situation is that if China were any other country in the world, every government would call it out. They would demand change.
“Imagine if it were a country in Europe, Africa or anywhere else – there would immediately be demands and debates in the UN. That does not happen.
“Far too much of what we think and do about China is now influenced massively by the concern about getting goods, manufacturers, investment and so on organised.”
Mr Duncan Smith also suggested that the 2022 Winter Olympics planned for China should be moved to another country.
Foreign Office minister Nigel Adams said the UK was “carefully considering” further designations under its sanctions regime but would not detail who they would be against.
He added: “It is crucial that all businesses conduct the appropriate due diligence to ensure that their supply chains are free of forced labour.”
On the Olympics, Mr Adams said there were “no current plans to boycott” them and such a matter was for the sporting authorities.