Time Line of a Creeping Genocide – Concentric Circles of Hell– Building a Case in Parliament: 2008-2021
Lord Alton of Liverpool, extracts from some interventions in the UK Parliament:
January 10 2008
There are over 100 million self-described Buddhists in China. They have been shown little tolerance. Nor have the Uighur Muslims, the Falun Gong or Christians.
November 21 2013
Through the Opium Wars to the Rape of Nanking and the horrors of Mao Zedong, China has itself suffered gross human rights violations. The protection and promotion of human rights should not only be seen as a moral cause, but it can never be in a nation’s self-interest to see universal freedoms and values trampled upon… There are growing restrictions on freedom of conscience that range from the suffering of the Ahmadiyya Muslim communities… to the plight of the Baha’is… from the Rohingyas ….to Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhists, and Uighur Muslims in China, and of course Christians in these countries… Whatever our beliefs, the defence of Article 18 is therefore something which all of us should champion.
October 28th 2018
What assessment has the UK Government made of alleged human rights violations against China’s Uighur population and of reports that up to one million Uighurs have been sent to re-education camps; and what representations they have made to the government of China on these issues
In reply the Government admitted to “serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang and continued reports of the Chinese Government’s deepening crackdown; including credible reports of re-education camps and wide spread surveillance and restrictions targeted at ethnic minorities.” and confirmed they had raised their concerns with the regime and at the Human Rights Council.
December 19th 2018
“What steps is the Government taking to raise (1) with the government of China, and (2) in international fora, the treatment and conditions of Uighur people held in “re-education” camps in China… Reports suggest that up to 1 million Uighurs have been incarcerated without trial in a network of sinister re-education camps: these are bristling with barbed wire and watchtowers, with torture and brainwashing that demands renouncing god and embracing Communism. People are forced to change family names, give DNA samples and eat and drink forbidden things. Is this not a return to the methods of the Cultural Revolution, when thought crime regularly led to imprisonment and worse? What are the Government doing to encourage Muslim and other heads of state to speak out, recognising that such appalling treatment of a Muslim minority will fuel resentment and radicalisation right across the globe? What are they doing to persuade Beijing of the benefits of Article 18 and pluralism, and show that this appalling treatment of the Uighur people is the last way to create integration, loyalty and harmony?”
February 11th 2019
“ …in the aftermath of the death in detention of the Uighur poet and musician, Abdurehim Heyit, how does the Minister respond to the Turkish Foreign Minister, calling on China to close the camps, alleging, in its words, “torture and brainwashing” and calling them “a shame on humanity”? Can we expect to see the United Kingdom Government not only press again the human rights point with the Security Council but raise with China the danger to its whole belt and road initiative, which is in jeopardy if many countries with large Muslim populations decide to follow Turkey’s lead and start imposing sanctions, preventing the development of those capital projects?
February 25th 2019
“…what discussions they have had, if any, with other governments about the potential to make joint representations to the government of China on the treatment of the Uighur population…what assessment they have made of the treatment of different religious groups by the government of China, including the treatment of Uighur Muslims, Christians, Falun Gong and Tibetan Buddhists; and what assessment they have made of whether the treatment of those groups is part of a wider effort by the government of China to suppress religious groups…. what assessment have they made of reports that Uighur Muslims detained in China have undergone unwanted blood, tissue and DNA tests; what they believe to be the purpose of any such tests; and whether there is evidence of state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting religious prisoners of conscience, including Uighur Muslims
May 21st, 2019
“Carrie Gracie, the former China editor at the BBC, told the Select Committee that it was,
“very important to speak up for one’s values, assert where one’s red lines are and be firm about adhering to them, because one’s Chinese counterpart expects that”.
One glaring example is that of the mass detention of over 1 million people in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Normal life for Muslims has become impossible. An excellent briefing by CSW describes what it calls the,
“already critical level of fear … Disappearances can happen at any time, to any person, without warning. In such a climate of fear, many Uyghur Muslims have stopped public and communal religious observance and have broken off contact with relatives overseas”.
Over Easter, I met a group of Uighurs. British citizens are among the many families whose relatives have disappeared into these camps. If the UK is to remain committed to its values, we must continue to speak up about the appalling situation in Xinjiang. If China fails to respect the rights of Muslims to live peaceably within its own borders, it will place at risk its own internal harmony and, overseas, its belt and road programmes.
July 11th 2019
Over the last 19 years, on 300 separate occasions I have referred to genocide prevention and prosecution, beginning in 2000, after seeing first hand what the Burmese military had done in Karen state. In 2000, it was the Christian Karen. Today it is the Muslim Rohingya and Christian Kachin. From Burma to North Korea and Darfur, from China’s Uighur Muslims to Nigeria’s beleaguered Christians, from Pakistan’s Hindu, Christian, Ahmadi and Kalash minorities to Syria and Iraq’s Yazidis and Christians, the story is the same. Ignore discrimination and tolerate persecution and crimes against humanity, and genocide is never very far behind.
In 1915 a slow-burn genocide, still unrecognised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, for political reasons, took the lives of 1.5 million Armenian Christians. Hitler took the world’s indifference to the slaughter of the Armenians as a signal that he could butcher Jews, disabled people, gypsies, homosexuals, Roma and non- compliant religious minorities, famously saying,
“Who now remembers the Armenians?”.
As the Truro report notes, just over a century ago, Christians constituted 20% of the Middle East’s population. Today it is below 5%. It began with the Armenians but it did not end there. …
As the Truro report reminds us, the killing begins when we ignore the “canary in the mine”; it emboldens the perpetrators into believing that we are too weak or too disinterested to ever hold them to account. It is a green light to the world’s tyrants, lawless militias, totalitarian regimes and hate-filled ideologues, who despise difference and believe that minorities are a curse, not a blessing.
July 23rd, 2019
I welcome what the Minister said about the importance of insisting that an internationally guaranteed treaty is upheld at the United Nations… Would the Minister agree that, instead of remaining silent to the brute force of Triad gangs beating up protesters with iron bars, should Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian regime not understand that the answer to its fears about separatism is to be found in the free air of Hong Kong, not in the Uighur re-education camps of Xinjiang, and that a prosperous, harmonious and stable future for China will never be served by the use of violence?
August 21st, 2019 “what assessment has the Government made of reports that UK investors hold shares totalling £800 million in companies that supply CCTV and facial-recognition technology used to track Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.” The Minister replied that it had “ not undertaken analysis of British investor shareholdings in Chinese surveillance companies. However, we are aware of the recent reports.”
January 23rd 2020
“.. on Monday last the Minister gave a welcome response in the context of the Uighur Muslims, 1 million of whom are incarcerated in Xinjiang in western China. He said that sanctions would be examined in that context. Can he give us some idea of when Magnitsky-style powers might be used in those circumstances? Would he consider holding a round-table discussion for Members of the House to talk through with us precisely how and when these very welcome powers will be used?
January 27th 2020
…notwithstanding the anxiety of our US allies, will the Minister say something about the anxieties expressed in your Lordships’ House on two occasions last week about human rights concerns and the surveillance technology that has been developed by Huawei in places such as Xinjiang, where over 1 million Uighur Muslims have been incarcerated? Will she cast her mind back to ask this question: would we in former times have made this kind of deal and opened up our technology, our security and the possibility of human rights abuses to the Soviet Union if we had known then what we knew later about what it was doing in places such as the Gulag Archipelago?
January 28th 2020
…the Secretary of State has made it clear that there are many risks in taking this decision about Huawei. Can she give the House some idea of what additional costs will be involved in monitoring technology and equipment manufactured and imposed on this country by a communist regime?
Yesterday I raised human rights with the Secretary of State, and I wonder what consideration has been given to the anti-slavery academics who describe what is happening in Xinjiang—where, as we have heard, probably 1 million Uighur Muslims are incarcerated and where Huawei is a key player—as the world’s worst incidence of state-sponsored slavery.
What due diligence will be done on Huawei to ensure compliance with the UK’s legislation, which is world class and leading on anti-slavery and modern-day slavery issues? Can the Secretary of State say what consideration has been given to unbridled surveillance, mass imprisonment, relentless propaganda and egregious human rights violations, which are too high a price to pay for subsidised technology that endangers our security and compromises British values and a belief in human rights?
March 2nd, 2020
…the Minister said that he would not make a preliminary decision, yet in a letter to me on 25 February the Government said that, having consulted the World Health Organisation and Beijing, their view is that China is implementing
“an ethical, voluntary organ transplant system”.
How does that square with the China Tribunal’s findings that organised butchery of living people compares to
“the worst atrocities committed in conflicts of the 20th century”, including the gassing of Jews by the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge massacres in Cambodia?
Will he revisit the full report published this weekend, a copy of which I sent to him, and look at the inquiries and investigations carried out by one of the Sunday newspapers published yesterday, which I have also sent him and which detail these horrendous crimes committed against both Falun Gong practitioners and Uighur Muslims?
March 23rd 2020
… further to reports that Uighur detainees in Xinjiang are being used as forced labour, what assessment they have made of Huawei’s compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2015; what consideration they have given to such compliance in regard to their decision to award contracts to Huawei; how they (1) assess, and (2) investigate, such reports; and what sanctions they can utilise in such cases.
March 31st 2020
… what representations they have made to the government of China about the reported (1) use of facial recognition technology in Xinjian to monitor Uighur Muslims resulting in human rights violations, and (2) mistreatment by the Hong Kong police force of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong; what assessment they have made of the impact of any development of facial recognition technology on those groups; and what plans they have to re-assess their collaboration with China in regard to the development of such technology.” The Government responded that the had “ serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, including extensive and invasive surveillance targeting Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. An extensive body of open source evidence suggests such surveillance, including the use of facial recognition technology, plays a central role in the restrictive measures imposed in the region.”
May 19th 2020 (Committee Stage Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill)
…We should all do more to ensure that high-risk vendors credibly accused of egregious abuses of human rights, such as complicity in the modern slavery of Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, will be excluded from being beneficiaries of the provisions of this legislation. In this context, I should mention that I am a vice-chairman of the APPG on Uighurs and human rights in Xinjiang and that, on 15 occasions since 2018, I have raised in your Lordships’ House the plight of the Uighurs: their incarceration, forced re-education and use as slave labour in various ways.
In January, in relation to Huawei and 5G, I asked the Government
“what assessment they have made in relation to their decision to award contracts to Huawei and other companies of the implications of the government of China’s National Intelligence Law requiring Chinese organisations and citizens to support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work.”
I also asked the Government about
“Huawei’s compliance with the Modern Slavery Act” and
“what consideration they have given to such compliance in regard to their decision to award contracts to Huawei”.
The Minister replied:
“The UK Government expressed its concerns about China’s systematic human rights violations in Xinjiang, including credible and growing reports of forced labour, during the recent UN Human Rights Council.”
That deftly dodged my question and the issue of what we are going to do about the use of slave labour in our supply chains. Profiteering on the broken backs of enslaved Uighurs is either a criminal offence under British law or it is not. Either it is a nice slogan and good public relations or we take it deadly seriously and refuse to profit from it.
Be in no doubt about what we know. As long ago as December 2018, I pointed to reports that
“suggest that up to 1 million Uighurs have been incarcerated without trial in a network of sinister re-education camps: these Official Report, 19/12/18; col. 1804.]
The Government do not disagree with these descriptions.
On 18 March 2020, I asked the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, about the use of Uighur forced labour and what assessment the Government had made
“of reports that the government of China transferred Uighurs from detention centres to work in factories where products are produced for global brands; and what plans they have to take action against such companies under the provisions of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.”
“Recent reports indicating that Uyghurs are being used as a source of forced labour add to the growing body of evidence about the disturbing situation that Uyghurs and other minorities are facing in Xinjiang. Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires companies operating in the UK with a turnover of £36m or more to publish annual statements setting out what steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their organisation and supply chains. The Home Office keeps compliance under active review.”
In a Westminster Hall debate on 11 March, Nigel Adams the Minister for Asia, said:
“We have also seen credible evidence to suggest that Uighurs are being used as a source of forced labour in Xinjiang and across China, and that if individuals refuse to participate, they and their families are threatened with extra-judicial detention.”
He went on to say:
“Our intelligence is that families are also obliged to host Chinese officials in their homes for extended periods, to demonstrate their loyalty to the Communist party. On the streets, Uighurs and other minorities are continuously watched by police, supported by extensive use of facial recognition technology and restrictions on movement.”—[Official Report, Commons, 11/3/20; cols. 149-50WH.]
That was the Government, but in a report entitled Uyghurs for sale, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute outlined how Uighurs and other ethnic Muslim minorities are uprooted, wrenched from their villages, separated from their loved ones, and coercively transported under guard, across China, to work in factories. That report estimates that, between 2017 and 2019, around 80,000 Uighurs were transferred from detention centres in Xinjiang to factories throughout China. Far from their homes, devoid of family contact, incarcerated in segregated dormitories and subjected to propaganda and systematic attempts to destroy their culture, religion and identity, the labourers are kept under 24-hour surveillance. The report examines the direct and indirect supply chains of 83 leading global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, such as Apple, BMW, Huawei, Nike and others.
Are these companies directly complicit? One of the Australian institute’s researchers, Vicky Xu, says that the idea that Huawei is not working directly with local governments in Xinjiang is “just straight-up nonsense”. The 2018 announcement of one Huawei public security project in Xinjiang—as posted on a Chinese government website in Urumqi—quoted a Huawei director as saying:
“Together with the Public Security Bureau, Huawei will unlock a new era of smart policing and help build a safer, smarter society.”
This is not speculation, or evidence extrapolated from big data. This is straight from the horse’s mouth. We all know that safer, smarter policing is a euphemism that would make George Orwell roll in his grave. Huawei is making huge profits from Xinjiang’s unique techno-totalitarianism.
In December, our Government were alerted to the Australian report in a joint letter from parliamentarians from across both Houses, but again they sidestepped the issue. Their reply to us ignored the need for the Government to conduct the same human rights due diligence that they now demand of corporations. Where is that due diligence in the Bill? The more dependent we become on firms whose ties with the Chinese state extend as far as the construction of Xinjiang’s surveillance technology, the harder it will become to take a credible stance. The deeper our dependency becomes, the harder it is to stand up for our values. Huawei’s activities in Xinjiang should alert us to its true allegiances and values: its willingness to create mass surveillance technology and its devotion to, and dependency on, the Chinese Communist Party.
The most striking thing in the Government’s Statement to Parliament in January was the repeated admission of the risks involved, but where is that reflected in the Bill? And why take risks when alternatives are available? In January, I asked the Government to consider whether, in former times, the United Kingdom would have been willing to put its technology into the hands of the Kremlin, knowing what crimes were being committed in the gulags of Siberia, as in The Gulag Archipelago. The human rights-focused Helsinki process helped to bring an end to the Cold War and liberated the people suffering under the yoke of communist ideology. Today we need Helsinki with Chinese characteristics. We do not need to betray our values.
To mark Holocaust Memorial Day this year, I read Corrie ten Boom’s memoir, The Hiding Place. After sheltering Jews from the Nazi regime, Ms ten Boom was sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp. She describes her experience of doing forced labour for Siemens in the camps where her sister and many others died. The Holocaust saw state-sponsored mass enslavement on an appalling scale. Ironically, on the morning following Holocaust Memorial Day, the United Kingdom National Security Law committed to sign over up to 35% of our 5G infrastructure to Huawei, a company that the Government know actively partners with the Xinjiang Government to make the world’s most dystopian system of governance possible. Is what happened at Ravensbrück, or in The Gulag Archipelago, so very different from the plight of these 1 million Uighur Muslims, incarcerated and forced to work for nothing? It is surely our duty to ensure that legislation such as this does not further entrench what academics have described as the world’s worst incident of state-sanctioned slavery.
The United Kingdom have, admirably, expressed their ambition to lead the world in their anti-slavery commitment. When we come to Report, I hope that the Government will put flesh on the bones of that commitment and ensure that no deals are made with any company for which there are credible reports of slave labour.
June 4th 2020
…How will the UK offer exclude those who have collaborated in the destruction of Hong Kong’s freedoms? What sanctions will await collaborators, including UK banks such as HSBC, for aiding and abetting those who, having incarcerated 1 million Uighur Muslims, now threaten Hong Kong? How does the Minister respond to Jeremy Hunt’s warning today that, following Hong Kong, democratic Taiwan will be next, and subjected to China’s willingness to use force? On this anniversary of Tiananmen Square, are we at last recalibrating our assessment of the nature of the Chinese Communist Party, especially before handing over yet more of our assets and strategic infrastructure to it?
June 29th 2020 Report Stage of the Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill
Noble Lords should be prepared during the debate for opponents to claim, as Governments always claim about Back-Bench amendments, that there are technical issues with the drafting and that the time is not right—but the time is never right. If the Government agree with the principle and believe that it is something that should be enshrined in legislation, I hope that during our debate they will be persuaded that it should be given further thought, and avail themselves of the opportunity which Third Reading presents in your Lordships’ House to make good on the principles, if not the detail, of amendments.
If accepted, Amendment 5 would introduce a human rights threshold which would prevent companies involved in human rights abuses using such buildings’ telecommunications infrastructure to carry out such violations. On the face of it, this feels a very narrow Bill for an amendment that is conceptually extremely broad. I will explain later why that is not so.
The broader context to this amendment will not have passed noble Lords by. It was drawn up in response to mounting evidence that certain companies are complicit in the atrocities suffered by Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. Its purpose is to prevent such companies gaining further access, however small, to our telecommunications infrastructure. Our amendment couples with new paragraph 27B, which sets out conditions under which providers may supply internet to leasehold properties. By preventing companies using “any part” of this telecommunications infrastructure in procuring human rights abuse, the amendment necessarily includes the digital supply chain. Let us consider that for a moment.
It may not be plainly obvious to all that, when we speak of telecommunications infrastructure, we are not speaking merely about hardware. “Digital infra- structure” does not just mean wires, lest noble Lords were thinking that this amendment would prevent companies using only our actual wires or the boxes containing them to perpetrate abuses. As one common definition has it, telecommunications infrastructure means:
“Organizations, personnel, procedures, facilities and networks employed to transmit and receive information by electrical or electronic means.”
To some extent, the Government must concede this because the Bill before us also deals with personnel and facilities, not just hardware. I mention this merely to make a simple point: if companies supplying our leasehold infrastructure with internet services are also abusing human rights, our infrastructure therefore becomes a tool in that abuse.
The notion that we can carve up a digital company into the parts that are abusing human rights and the parts that are not is palpably absurd. This argument might have more credibility in a different industry, but against a background of allegations about Huawei maintaining a repository of data in China on those who use their mobile devices in other countries, it quickly falls apart.
The amendment does two significant things. It would empower the Government to deny infrastructure access to operators that they believe are abusing human rights, and it begins an important new conversation about how our modern slavery legislation might apply to the digital economy, especially regarding supply chain transparency.
I move to the second part of what I want to say to your Lordships: the arguments for and against the amendment. In Committee and during the meetings with the noble Baroness and other Ministers, it was readily conceded that Huawei poses significant human rights concerns. A principal argument was that we should kick this down the road to the telecommunications security Bill. However, one of the benefits of those meetings is that I learned from the Bill manager of the telecommunications security Bill that it will not be wide enough for such a human rights amendment to be placed on its face and to be in scope. Fortunately, this amendment is in scope and gives us an immediate opportunity to act and to set a precedent for what follows.
Two former Conservative Cabinet Ministers who support the amendment have both said, one directly to the Minister, that telling parliamentarians to wait for some other vehicle is the oldest argument in the book—they both said that they had used it in their time. We all know that kicking things down the road rarely brings a result. Indeed, it was suggested that an entirely new Bill based on the Modern Slavery Act 2015 might be the appropriate vehicle, but there is no timetable, no certainty and no urgency. An imperfect vehicle it may be, but this is the legislative vehicle currently before your Lordships’ House. It can and should be used to preclude further involvement of human rights-abusing companies in our telecommunications industry.
A further argument is that the Government would not wish to introduce a human rights standard for one sector that would be different from that for other sectors. They mentioned the garment sector and said that a single set of human rights principles is required, not piecemeal legislation. This was the very argument used to justify excluding more concrete measures from Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which, incidentally, does not apply to all business, just those with a turnover in excess of £36 million—a point regularly by me. In addition, one of the failings of the Act is that the supply chain transparency provisions do not really make sense to industries, such as financial services or telecommunications, that do not have traditional supply mechanisms.
A strengthening of the modern slavery legislation would be very welcome, but it is not an argument for not taking action in this sector now. I am, as the Minister knows, an incrementalist by nature—I have used the phrase to her in our conversations. If this amendment became a benchmark for other measures and industries, it would set a fine precedent, not create an anomaly. Waiting for new Acts of Parliament is like waiting for Godot. We have an opportunity to make a start by passing a declaratory amendment that will have an immediate impact—an opportunity we should take.
We have also been told that operators will face “uncertainty” because of “undefined terminology”. This will therefore have a “chilling effect”, which would lead to court cases. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, with his huge experience of serving on the boards of major companies, has said to me that any company offered such advice should sack the person who gave it. All of us can distinguish between minor infringements of human rights and egregious violations of human rights, such as those involving the use of slave labour in Xinjiang. Operators would have only to read Hansard, which is often cited in legal actions, to see what Parliament’s intention had been in incorporating this amendment or one like it. If the issue ever did go to the courts, a judge would have no difficulty in marking the difference. This will not be a problem unless all our telecommunications operators are perpetrating human rights abuses. I certainly do not believe that is the case.
Throughout, I have made clear to the Government my willingness to withdraw the amendment in favour of one from them if it would help to better target and catch the sharks. I was initially told that that would not be possible because the department had been given legal advice that it would not be able to get an amendment in scope, but how can that be when this amendment is in scope? Even at this late hour it is still open to the Government to come forward with their own amendments at Third Reading. If the Minister can concede the principle and give such an assurance, I am sure it would be possible to postpone a Division today while further work is undertaken on a human rights threshold.
I will also deal with the argument that the amendment, if it has a chilling effect, could undermine the opportunity of millions of people living in flats to access the technology. That implies a willingness of users themselves to put technology before all other considerations. In the early 19th century it was the populace who rose up against slavery. By boycotting sugar from the plantations, ordinary people gave force to the courageous but faltering parliamentary campaign to abolish slavery. I was brought up in a council flat and I know, from having represented thousands of tenants of flats in Liverpool, that Ministers should not underestimate the instinctive hatred of exploitation felt by ordinary people with no vested interest at stake. As those tenants come to an increasing awareness of the enormities being committed against Uighurs and others, they will ask why we, who have the power to act, failed to do so.
Opponents of the amendment also say that Huawei is already involved in our telecommunications structure. Yes, but that is not an argument to allow it to be involved further. When we allowed Huawei in, we did not know about its involvement in the treatment of Uighurs and other minorities, but we know now. Our question should not be: “How can we involve it further?” but: “How can we get as far away from the infamies of Xinjiang as possible?”
That brings me to the third and final leg of my remarks: why do we need a human rights threshold at all? Since the current legislation was first mooted there has been a sea change in the political climate and the mood in Parliament, in both Houses. That has been reinforced by the emergence of more and more evidence. It is why Members of another place want a Lords amendment, which would give them the chance to consider this further.
The known partnership between Huawei and Xinjiang’s security bureau is not in dispute. A Xinjiang news press release quoted a Huawei director as saying:
“Together with the Public Security Bureau, Huawei will unlock a new era of smart policing and help build a safer, smarter society”.
This “smarter society” has been described by Professor Adrian Zenz, a German scholar, as
“the largest detention of an ethno-religious minority since World War II.”
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute meticulously details the global expansion of 23 key Chinese technology companies. One of its researchers, Vicky Xu, says that the idea that Huawei is not working directly with the local governments in Xinjiang is “just straight-up nonsense”.
The Government do not have to believe an institute in Australia or a scholar from Germany. Senior Members of the House of Commons, including the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, have written to Dominic RaabForeign Secretary, urging him—in the words of their letter—to
“cease consideration of Huawei as a contractor or partner for the UK’s 5G infrastructure until investigations have been conducted into Huawei’s work in Xinjiang and its relationship to the mass persecution”.
Our amendment would give flesh to those bones.
Our Government do not dispute any of this. Home Office Ministers tell us:
“The UK Government expressed its concerns about China’s systematic human rights violations in Xinjiang, including credible and growing reports of forced labour, during the recent UN Human Rights Council.”
“credible and growing reports of forced labour”— and an expression voiced by our representatives at the United Nations Human Rights Council surely cannot mean that it is a case of simply business as usual. Two Foreign Office Ministers have reinforced the same message. Our own colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, has said:
“Recent reports indicating that Uyghurs are being used as a source of forced labour add to the growing body of evidence about the disturbing situation that Uyghurs and other minorities are facing in Xinjiang.”
Meanwhile, his colleague in the Commons, Nigel Adams MP, has said that there is
“credible evidence to suggest that Uighurs are being used as a source of forced labour in Xinjiang and across China, and that if individuals refuse to participate, they and their families are threatened with extra-judicial detention.”—[Official Report, Commons, 11/3/20; col. 149WH.]
This morning, the German scholar, Professor Adrian Zenz, set out further previously unpublished evidence about the relationship between Huawei and the communist state, saying:
“We must conclude that Huawei is directly implicated in Beijing police state and related human rights violations in Xinjiang, and that it has lied to the public about this fact on at least two different occasions.”
“The company does engage in business with the security services in Xinjiang, worked with them for years on dedicated, custom-made security solutions, and it even proudly advertises how they are being operated. In 2014, Huawei received an award from Xinjiang’s Ministry of Public Security for its role in establishing citywide surveillance systems.”
Professor Zenz has also published a new paper suggesting that the dramatic decline in the birth rate among the ethnic minority communities in Xinjiang may indicate the promotion of a targeted birth prevention strategy which, along with the destruction of cemeteries, reports of mass incarceration, indoctrination, extrajudicial detention, invasive surveillance, forced labour and other crimes could point towards the crime of genocide. In an Associate Press report this morning, a Newcastle University academic describes what she calls”
“a slow, painful, creeping genocide.”
Other noble Lords will explore these questions further and spell out why a human rights threshold is so urgently needed.
Given all that we now know, the question for Parliament is whether it is willing to turn a blind eye and let Huawei march on regardless. In Committee, I drew a parallel with Siemens and its role in the Reich when, 80 years ago, it built its vast commercial interests on the backs of slave labour in Ravensbrück. Do not let us pretend to ourselves that this is any different; it is not. While a delay may suit the Government, it does not suit the Turkic Muslims in western China. For all these reasons, I commend the amendment to the House.
July 21st 2020
…has the Minister had the opportunity to watch the video recording I sent her last Wednesday, which appears to show shackled and blindfolded Uighur Muslims in China being led from trains to camps? The Board of Deputies of British Jews has stated:
“The World will neither forgive nor forget a genocide against the Uighur people.”
The Foreign Secretary has said that this is,
“reminiscent of something not seen for a long time.”
What progress has the Minister made in pursing my request to ask British Telecom how it verifies Huawei’s denials of the use of slave labour or the use of Huawei technology in oppressing Uighur people?
August 3rd 2020
…when did the UK Government last discuss the detention of Uighur Muslims in camps in Xinjiang with the Ambassador of China to the UK; and what response they received to any such discussions.…what plans does the Government have to seek international support for a full and impartial investigation into the detention of Uighur Muslims in camps in Xinjiang. …what progress they have made in establishing how BT verify Huawei’s denials of (1) the use of slave labour, and (2) the use of Huawei technology in oppressing Uighur people.”
In reply the Government confirmed that the 2015 Modern Slavery Act “does not require organisations to certify that their supply chains are slavery free but asks businesses to be transparent about their assessment of modern slavery risks and measures taken to mitigate these… We have been clear that China’s approach in Xinjiang is wrong and must stop.” They said that they had raised the internment camps with the Chinese Ambassador “in March.”
September 3rd 2020 – Second Reading of the Trade Bill
We must move the United Kingdom away from a position in which its economic dependency can be weaponised to discourage the UK from championing human rights or the rules-based order, which the Minister referred to in his speech.
Concerns, and the need for concerted action by liberal democracies, have only grown stronger following the way in which the Chinese Communist Party has tried to deploy economic coercion against Australia following its calls for an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19. What is the Minister’s view about a comprehensive review of national resilience? And what of human rights? In 2015, the UK enacted the Modern Slavery Act; yet over recent months, we have seen reports suggesting that many UK-based and UK trading brands are benefiting from the forced labour of Uighur Muslim communities in China. A recent report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimates that some 80,000 Uighurs are working in factories in the supply chains of at least 82 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen. Some of the same companies also turn a blind eye to the use of child labour in lethal conditions in Congolese mines.
Cross-departmental action is needed. If the Bill were amended to incorporate concerns about egregious violations of human rights—as I suggested in a letter to the noble Lord and to Ministers involved with telecommunications Bills, it would address the matters raised by Members of both Houses; not least by those who supported my amendment to the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill. I hope we will return to these questions at a later stage of the Bill.
September 23rd 2020
…In the light of the near impossibility of arriving at a legal determination of alleged genocide or crimes against humanity in the Uyghur region, which Ministers in the other place have acknowledged, will the Minister join me in welcoming the new initiative of Sir Geoffrey Nice QC in setting up the Uighur Tribunal? Will he confirm that the Government will do everything possible to co-operate with the Tribunal, including providing evidence and agreeing to take seriously what will be a rigorous and impartial judgment when the process is completed?
October 2nd, 2020
… what action they have taken at (1) the UN General Assembly and (2) the UN Human Rights Council, to address human rights violations against Uighur Muslims in China; and what assessment they have made of the impact of the government of China’s use of veto powers at the UN Security Council on the way in which they conduct their actions at the UN. The Government replied that “the UK is the only country to have led formal joint statements on the issue. On 30 June, the UK read out a formal statement on behalf of 28 countries at the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council highlighting arbitrary detention, widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly those targeting Uyghurs and other minorities, and urging China to allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights meaningful access to Xinjiang.”
October 2nd 2020
….what assessment they have made of reports (1) that Uighur Muslim women have been subjected to forced abortions and womb removals, (2) that Uighur children are being separated from their parents and placed in orphanages, and (3) of the treatment of those children in such orphanages, in China. The Government replied “We are deeply concerned by reports of suppression of birth rates and the mistreatment of Uyghur children in China, including reports of children being forcibly separated from their parents and placed in state run institutions…. On 25 September, at the UN Human Rights Council, I also raised serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, including credible reports of forced labour and forced birth control in the UK’s ‘Item 4′ national statement. It is noteworthy that the Chinese authorities’ own figures show a drastic decline in birth rates in Xinjiang. These reports add to the growing body of evidence about serious and widespread human rights violations taking place in Xinjiang. We continue to raise our concerns at the UN, and directly with China.”
October 13th 2020 Committee Stage of the Trade Bill
…Thanks, too, to the founders of the Coalition for Genocide Response, Luke de Pulford and Ewelina Ochab, for their valiant efforts in driving this on. Particular thanks, though, to Members of another place for their supportive, bipartisan references to the amendment in their recent Westminster Hall debate entitled “China: Labour Programme in Tibet” and yesterday’s debate on Uighurs. The former leader of the Conservative Party, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, told the House that
“should such a new clause come to the Commons, I will absolutely support it”.—[Official Report, Commons, 7/10/20; col. 119WH.]
In yesterday’s debate, triggered by 100,000 signatures sent in a petition to Parliament, Shabana Mahmood MP said that she hoped that her colleagues on the opposition Front Bench would back the amendment…
It was back in March 2016 that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, my noble friend Lady Cox and other noble Lords strongly supported an amendment responding to the unfolding genocide against Yazidis and other minorities in northern Syria and Iraq. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, made a characteristically powerful intervention. The Government resisted the amendment and repeatedly told the House that genocide was a matter for the courts.
We did not leave it there, and the admirable Member for Congleton, Fiona Bruce MP, a lawyer, tabled a Motion in the Commons declaring those events to be a genocide, in line with the legal definition of genocide set out in the convention on the crime of genocide of 1948. Although the House of Commons passed it with overwhelming all-party support, the Government again resisted it, saying that only international courts could determine a genocide. This is a circular argument—indeed, a vicious circular argument.
The Government say that the International Criminal Court is the appropriate court of law, neglecting to add that a referral to it from the Security Council will almost always be resisted by the use of a veto by a permanent member. Does anyone seriously believe that the Chinese Communist Party would refer itself to the International Criminal Court to establish whether it had committed genocide in Xinjiang against Uighurs. Waiting for international institutions to act soundly is very commendable, but is a convenient fiction, especially for those who think it should just be business as usual.
What happens in this cycle of buck passing? Following the debate in 2016, it is estimated that 10,000 Yazidis were kidnapped or killed by Daesh, and approximately 3,000 Yazidi women and girls were forced into sexual slavery and are still missing. Many other minorities suffered similarly, as I heard and saw for myself when collecting evidence in northern Iraq a few months ago. For the past four years, Mrs Bruce and I have tabled genocide determination Bills to break the circle—and here, in this Bill, we have the opportunity to do just that.
So how would the provision work? During the debate in Committee on Tuesday 29 September, the noble Lord raised his concern that the continuity agreements do not involve trading partners who are most likely to be the most serious abusers of human rights, and that a country such as China would not have been within the scope of the amendment. However, with the help of the Public Bill Office, to which I am grateful, Amendment 76A takes those points into account and, in summary, nullifies trade arrangements made under the Bill if the High Court of England makes a preliminary determination that they should be revoked on the ground that the proposed trade partner has perpetrated genocide.
I particularly draw the attention of the Committee to the words that such deals would be revoked if
“another signatory to the relevant agreement or any future trading partner that has hitherto traded with the UK, regardless of whether they have a formal trade agreement, has committed genocide under Article II of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, following an application to revoke the regulations on this ground from a person or group of persons belonging to a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, or an organisation representing such a group, which has been the subject of that genocide.”
As for scope, the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, rightly insisted during the Committee proceedings last week that it is for Parliament, not government departments, to determine what falls within the scope of the Title of a Bill. Therefore, this amendment is in scope. However, another argument is now also being deployed. The amendment may be in scope, it says, but this is not the Bill in which to do it; this is not the right time or place. However, as Sir Iain points out, that is a standard line that he himself was told to deploy and use during all his years as a Minister. It is never the right time and never the right Bill.
This is a convenient moment to remind the House of the promise given by a government Minister at the Dispatch Box of your Lordships’ House at the conclusion of Report on the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill. Following speech after speech from all sides pointing to human rights violations in Xinjiang and the direct links of Huawei and the companies in supply chains that use slave labour, the Government agreed to rewrite an amendment on human rights violations and to bring it back at Third Reading. That Bill of course continues to be deferred, and it is no secret that the Government have been unable to draft the promised amendment. Hence, an opportunity is presented here for the Government to honour their promise and to use this vehicle not for the Christmas-tree purposes of hanging on it every issue under the sun but to meet an obligation entered into in Parliament and to act on an issue that enjoys bipartisan and bicameral support.
So how would this provision work in practice, and who might it affect? The key is that the court would decide whether there is enough evidence to justify a predetermination. The threshold is incredibly high. Furthermore, as my noble and learned friend Lord Hope of Craighead pointed out, if they so wished, the Government would have the right to have a contradictor present in the court to argue against such a predetermination. I thank my noble and learned friend for his invaluable advice, not least in pointing me to the High Court of England and Wales rather than the Supreme Court as the relevant body to make the predetermination.
Currently, the most obvious global contenders for predetermination are China and Burma for their crimes against Uighur and Rohingya Muslims. However, if state collaboration in countries such as Syria and Iraq against ethnic or religious minorities, such as the Yazidis, were proven, they too could fall within the terms of the amendment. However, we should be clear: the threshold is exacting, and the amendment will not stop any trade with any country until the High Court has made a preliminary determination that there is a prima facie case of genocide, with the Government able to deploy a contradictor in the court.
The crime of genocide—often described as the crime above all crimes—is carefully defined in the 1948 convention on the crime of genocide, to which the United Kingdom is a signatory. Article II of the convention states that
“genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
As a signatory to the convention, we are required to prevent genocide, to protect those affected by genocide and to punish those responsible. However, if no judicial authority declares a genocide to be under way, we are not obliged to act—hence the vicious circle.
The practical effect of that is illustrated by the Armenian genocide of 1914 to 1923. It is still unrecognised by the United Kingdom as a genocide. It involved the systematic mass murder and expulsion of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians carried out in Turkey and adjoining regions, and was referred to here in your Lordships’ House only yesterday in the context of the current unfolding events in Nagorno-Karabakh. In an intervention last week, I reminded the House of Hitler’s infamous remark as he prepared the Final Solution: “Who now remembers the Armenians?” In yesterday’s debate in another place, Siobhan McDonagh, the MP for Mitcham and Morden, movingly said of Xinjiang:
“If we look on, history will condemn our unforgivable cowardice and ask why those in power did not act.”—[Official Report, Commons, 12/10/20; col. 40WH.]
Increasingly, we might ask, “Who now remembers the Tibetans?”, and in the future will other perpetrators of genocide ask, “Who now remembers the Uighurs?”
Perhaps I may give another example of the vicious circle. The United Nations report into mass atrocities in North Korea, chaired by the eminent jurist Michael Kirby, a judge in Australia, described North Korea—a country I have visited, and I should declare that I am a co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for North Korea, which I founded—as “a state without parallel”. The report called for North Korea to be referred to the International Criminal Court. It has never happened because this of course would require a referral by the United Nations Security Council, where China would use its veto.
What sort of evidence would be laid before the High Court to short-circuit the vicious circle and to upend the impotence to which the cynical misuse of the veto and the subversion of United Nations agencies has led? During the debate on Amendment 33, we heard allegations from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of King’s Heath, about forced organ harvesting in China, targeting Falun Gong practitioners. We have heard many accounts from Xinjiang of forced labour, the removal of people from their homes and villages, the creation of what the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, described as concentration camps, the prevention of births, and the destruction of cemeteries, identity and culture. There are almost 400 prison camps in Xinjiang and more are being built. The Muslim faith and culture, language and identity are being obliterated and a surveillance state enforces compliance.
I August, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews stated in a letter to the Chinese Ambassador:
“The World will neither forgive nor forget a genocide against the Uighur people”, noting
“the similarities between what is alleged to be happening in the People’s Republic of China today and what happened in Nazi Germany 75 years ago”.
Having seen a video of shackled and blindfolded Uighur Muslims being led from trains to camps, Dominic Raab said this is
“reminiscent of something not seen for a long time.”
Professor Adrian Zenz, a German scholar, describes it as
“the largest detention of an ethno-religious minority since World War II”, while Joanne Smith Finley, a Newcastle University academic, has described what she calls
“a slow, painful, creeping genocide.”
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has described the region as
“a massive internment camp shrouded in secrecy, a ‘no rights zone’, while members of the Xinjiang Uyghur minority, along with others who were identified as Muslim, were being treated as enemies of the State based on nothing more than their ethno-religious identity.”
I urge noble Lords to read the harrowing testimony of Mihrigul Tursun, a Uighur who managed to escape, who says:
“Each time I was electrocuted, my whole body would shake violently, and I could feel the pain in my veins. I thought I would rather die than go through this torture and begged them to kill me.”
There are increasing reports of Uighurs being subjected to DNA tests, and there is significant suspicion that they have been targeted for forced organ donation and biometric surveillance.
Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, in the final judgment of his independent tribunal into forced organ harvesting in China, concluded:
“Forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale … Falun Gong practitioners have been one—and probably the main—source of organ supply … crimes against humanity against the Falun Gong and … Uyghur … had … been proved beyond reasonable doubt”.
On 6 October, 39 countries issued a joint statement on the human rights situation in Xinjiang at the United Nations General Assembly Committee, stating
“We are gravely concerned about the human rights situation in Xinjiang”.
A report published last week by the US Department of Labor detailed the list of goods produced by forced labour and child labour. It described the appalling conditions and indoctrination endured by over 1 million Uighurs and said that the “vast scale of abuse” must
“serve as a notice for the world to ask questions, take action, and demand change.”
Shockingly, western fashion brands and big-name companies simply turn a blind eye. In a call this morning with Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch, who is based in Washington, she told me that over 400 members of the House, from across the political divide—extraordinary given the toxicity often of US politics—had come together to insist on a rebuttable presumption on goods from China, requiring companies to demonstrate that they had not been manufactured by slave labour.
I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, insist last week that
“The UK is committed to the principle that there must be no impunity for perpetrators of genocide”.
He is right: there must be no impunity, but no lucrative trade deals either. Genocide should be bad for business, but it has not been in the past and it is not now. Think of Nazi slave labour and beneficiaries such as IBM and Volkswagen, which even built a labour camp next to one of its factories to ensure a supply of labour. Think of Hugo Boss, Kodak and Siemens; Siemens even ran factories inside concentration camps, including at Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen. Extermination through labour: what is happening to the Uighurs and others is comparable.
To summarise and conclude, Amendments 68 and 76A do not take a blunderbuss approach but are carefully designed to hit a target. They could not easily be used in trivial or vexatious cases. They are a proportionate response to a monstrous crime. They build on the almost unanimous support of Peers for such a threshold, expressed on Report on the telecommunications infrastructure Bill, and would therefore enable the Government to honour their promise, given during that debate, to find a suitable legislative vehicle to take the matter forward.
I have no doubt that the Minister shares my abhorrence and that of other noble Lords. I hope that even though he will feel duty-bound to resist many amendments to the Bill, he will recognise the unique nature of this amendment and will, between now and Report, work with the movers to incorporate it into the legislation. I beg to move.
14th October 2020
…further to the response by Lord Grimstone of Boscobel on 29 September (HL Deb, cols GC49), whether they are examining supply chains that may be connected to the use of slave labour in Xinjiang; and what prosecutions for breaches of that Act, in connection with Uighur slave labour, are either under way or being prepared.” The Government replied that they are committed to implementing changes to strengthen the 2015 legislation “ when parliamentary time allows.”
October 28th 2020
… further to the Written Answer by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 14 October (HL8617), what prosecutions for breaches of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, in connection with Uighur slave labour, are either under way or being prepared; what assessment they have made of the United States’ Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act; and what plans, if any, they have to introduce similar rules as contained in that Act on imports from China. The Government replied that it advises “businesses with supply chain links in Xinjiang to conduct appropriate due diligence to satisfy themselves that their activities do not support, or risk being seen to be supporting, any human rights violations or abuses. We do not currently have plans to ban imports from Xinjiang.”
October 28th 2020: Grand Committee: Forced Organ Harvesting Committee Stage Medical Devices and Medicines Bill
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to be able to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, and to support the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, my noble friend Lady Finlay and other noble Lords who have spoken to the amendment. In doing so, I return to an issue that I raised at Second Reading and declare my interests as set out in the register.
On 2 August 2018, the Times published a letter signed by me, Professor Jo Martin, President of the Royal College of Pathologists, and 55 others, including Dr Adnan Sharif, a consultant nephrologist in Birmingham, who is the secretary of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting. We began the letter by recalling the Liverpool Alder Hey Children’s Hospital scandal, which had involved the retention of human organs and tissue, without consent, and which led to the Human Tissue Act 2004.
With my antecedents as a Liverpool Member of Parliament and a one-time grateful parent, deeply appreciative of the skills of Alder Hey doctors, I was appalled that such an ill-judged breach of ethics had inflicted such damage on a wonderful hospital. Fourteen years later, and notwithstanding that scandal and that important Act of Parliament in 2004, I was incredulous that in 2018 an exhibition, entitled “Real Bodies”, of Chinese corpses and body parts preserved with silicon in a process called plastination, was being staged for commercial gain at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham—denigrating ethics, science, and human rights, and far worse than even the scandal of Alder Hey.4.30pm
In our letter, Professor Martin and I said:
“We believe that the legislation requires reform”,
and we pointed to what we described as
“a loophole being relied upon by a number of exhibitions that obtain bodies from countries with poor human rights records.”
In 2010, the Lancet called for reform to plug that loophole, and between then and 2018 there were at least three such exhibitions, all promoted under the banner of enhancing understanding of medicine, the anatomy and science. But dress it up as you may, this was a commercial exhibition staged for financial gain. In 2018, we pointed out that the US organisers, Imagine Exhibitions, were unable to provide any evidence of consent for the use of these cadavers. The organisers merely said that the cadavers were unclaimed bodies obtained from Dalian Hoffen Bio-Technique, China. Imagine Exhibitions CEO, Tom Zaller, admitted in an interview that the bodies were “absolutely from China” but added that there was “no documentation” to prove their identities or to show they had agreed in life to donate their corpses in death.
It is the lack of consent and documentation, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, a few moments ago, which is deeply troubling. It should have troubled the UK Government, who said that they would not intervene in answer to Parliamentary Questions from me at the time. It is deeply troubling that the UK has allowed the bodies of unknown Chinese citizens, who may have been victims of torture, human rights violations, persecution or organ theft, to be turned into a travelling circus. It is disrespectful and disgraceful in equal measure. How can the Government say that we have sufficient legislative measures in place?
The Human Tissue Act 2004 governs licences connected to the display and use of human corpses and remains. Prior consent for bodies to be used for research, display or education is one of the founding principles of that Act. However, current regulations mean there is a huge disparity between regulations for bodies coming from within the United Kingdom and those coming from outside it. That makes absolutely no sense, and it is dilatory on the part of government to decline to rectify this. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, my noble friend Lady Finlay, and I raised this issue at a meeting with the noble Baroness, Lady Manzoor, when she was a Minister.
Significantly, when considering the requirement contained in this amendment involving validation and consent, a similar exhibit entitled “Bodies: The Exhibition” by Premier, which also sourced plastinated bodies from Dalian Hoffen Bio-Technique, reached a settlement with the New York State Attorney-General in 2008 to display a disclaimer stating:
“This exhibit displays human remains of Chinese citizens or residents which were originally received by the Chinese Bureau of Police. The Chinese Bureau of Police may receive bodies from Chinese prisons. Premier cannot independently verify that the human remains you are viewing are not those of persons who were incarcerated in Chinese prisons.”
The Birmingham exhibition was little different to the exhibition in New York but carried no such disclaimer. I might add that I am arguing not for disclaimers but for prohibition, as happens in other jurisdictions such as Israel and France, where commercial exhibitions of body parts imported without valid consent are forbidden. They should be outlawed here, too.
Article 16-1-1, paragraph 2, of the French civil code requires the remains of deceased persons to be treated with respect, dignity and decency. Clearly, an exhibition of cadavers aimed at making money does not respect that requirement. By contrast, human tissue from abroad has no consent or traceability requirements to enter the UK, nor to be put on display for commercial gain—nor is consent or traceability required for imported human tissue to be used in medical research. The UK has, arguably, some of the most ethical and comprehensive consent requirements for human tissue in the world, yet imported human tissue slips through the net.
Noble Lords will see that this amendment would take a welcome step in closing that net by at least requiring the users of organs and tissue being appropriated for the development of medicines and treatments to identify their origins. It would enable the relevant authority, through regulations, to insist on a rebuttable presumption requiring the users of such organs or tissue to demonstrate that informed, valid, uncoerced and demonstrably documented consent had been given for the harvesting of such human tissue and organs. How likely is it, in the case of the Chinese Communist Party, that such valid documentation could be produced?
In 2018, I asked that question of Ministers and was appalled by the complacency of the replies. Like a game of pass the parcel, a Foreign Office Minister said that no other government department had asked the Foreign Office,
“to make formal representations to the Chinese authorities”
and they had
“no evidence … that the … exhibition … contains cadavers of Chinese political or religious prisoners”.
But did they even bother to look—and why was the FCO waiting for other departments to raise it with them? I asked a government law officer, who complacently told me it was not his concern and that it was a matter for the coroner.
Meanwhile, in a series of other questions, I specifically raised the plight of Falun Gong practitioners, 1 million incarcerated Uighurs, Tibetan Buddhists, house church Christians, underground Catholics, and a whole host of cases involving abductions, disappearances, torture, ethnic cleansing, executions and potential genocide. In parenthesis, only today I received a reply to a Parliamentary Question from the FCDO about Zhang Zhan, a citizen journalist abducted by the authorities in China five months ago, after she reported on Covid-19. She is reported to now be on a hunger strike; the Government say that they have made no representations on her behalf.
The bodies that I refer to, put on public parade in Birmingham, had their origins in China, where we are all too well aware of the plight of dissenters and believers and the imprisonment, arrest and disappearance of lawyers who have challenged everything from the one-child policy to abuse of power—women like the citizen journalist, Zhang Zhan. The connection with Dalian is particularly troubling, because the Dalian district of north-west China, and specifically Dalian’s public security bureau—the local police and prison service—is known for human rights violations, organ transplant activity and the persecution of Falun Gong. During the “Real Bodies” exhibition, the NEC stated that all bodies on display were “unclaimed bodies” which had been donated legally, but how could it possibly verify that? The connection with the PSB and unclaimed bodies used in the exhibitions had long been suspected and, in 2012, the chairman of the Dalian Hoffen Bio-Technique, Sui Hongjin, admitted:
“Dozens of corpses came from Public Security. They were procured by the Public Security Bureau”.Column 149GCis located here
In China, the term “unclaimed bodies” can be interpreted in multiple ways. First, this can be a term for people who have died in hospitals with no known next of kin but, equally, it can be a term for prisoners of conscience who have, while suffering detention and imprisonment, refused to provide their real identities through fear of repercussions for their family and friends. Multiple investigations from different sources have concluded that large-scale unexplained organ transplant activity has taken place and continues to do so. In these investigations, the PSB has been documented as a key element between the prison and labour camps and hospitals performing organ transplants.
In June 2019, the China Tribunal referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and others and chaired by the redoubtable lawyer, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said in a unanimous determination—set out in detail in his Gresham lecture, which can be watched online—that it was
“certain that Falun Gong was a source—probably the principal source—of organs for forced organ harvesting”.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Sir Geoffrey said that the UK Government ignored continued organ harvesting in China to avoid acknowledging “an inconvenient truth”.
Along with others, I have urged the Government to be more committed to shining a light on this horrific practice, and to raise the matter directly with the World Health Organization—an issue which the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and I have both asked the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, about. On 23 September, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, confirmed that a letter to the WHO had now been sent. I welcome that, but when I asked in an Oral Question for them to publish the contents of that letter, the Government refused to do so. So much for open government. I have submitted a freedom of information request to the FCDO. Surely, as a principle of transparency and openness, this correspondence should be in the public domain. This is a global issue with national repercussions. It is a global trade involving both Chinese nationals and foreign tourists using organs linked to abuse of prisoners, ethnic and religious minorities and prisoners of conscience, and with some reports suggesting that victims are killed on demand for their organs.
Underlining the international activities of these mafias, I was recently given a report about how poverty-stricken Pakistanis have been lured into transplant tourism, selling their organs to make some survival money. In September, the Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency arrested seven suspects involved in an international racket transporting Pakistanis to China for illegal surgery. The country’s Human Organ Transplant Authority says it is largely impotent, with one doctor describing how agents enlisted the poor with offers of riches in return for their liver or kidneys and as a way of escaping the slavery of bonded labour. At least 20 companies —and maybe as many as 28—have supplied China, in some cases for over 20 years, with materials, drugs, and devices supporting the development of the transplantation business, while being aware of the facts and evidence related to illegal organ harvesting. It is a lucrative business with the revenue reaching billions of dollars. Sir Geoffrey’s tribunal says that such companies, along with Governments, which
“interact in any substantial way with the PRC including: Doctors and medical institutions; Industry, and businesses … should now recognise that they are … interacting with a criminal state.”
The WHO should be leading the campaign to ensure that every country is challenged to put national legislation into place to ensure that both international and national action is taken to end this criminal trade. The UK as a principal donor to the WHO should be using that leverage, but it should also be sanctioning individuals who are known to be involved in the trade and passing legislation, such as this amendment, to show that it is not telling others to do what it is not willing to do itself. It should also show more courage in dealing with the CCP and, instead of suggesting it has no evidence, listen instead to witnesses such as the courageous former surgeon in China, Dr Enver Tohti, who was referred to by my noble friend Lady Finlay, and whom I have met and taken a statement from. He told me that he was ordered to
“cut deep and work fast”,
on a victim who was still alive. Dr Tohti has spoken here in Parliament.
On 16 October 2018, at one such meeting to highlight forced organ harvesting, I argued for legislation—whether for commercial gain through staging macabre, grotesque exhibitions of body parts from unknown victims, or using their mortal remains to supplement the profits of giant pharmaceuticals, or providing organs for people involved in organ tourism. Parliament needed to force the hand of the Government. I encouraged a long-standing colleague and friend from Merseyside, Marie Rimmer, the Member of Parliament for St Helens South, to attend. She has valiantly and diligently pursued this issue in the House of Commons during the debates on this Bill. Through the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, we now have the opportunity to give a name and an identity to those who, in both death and life, have been so outrageously violated, and to put far more stringent provisions into law.
In 1832, Parliament passed the Anatomy Act after two Scots were convicted of murder and—along with other body snatchers and grave robbers: the so-called resurrection men—of supplying bodies for dissection for use by Robert Knox in his anatomy lectures. In 2020, and with new international challenges, similar legislative action is surely necessary. I therefore have great pleasure in supporting the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt.
November 18th 2020
…in the House of Commons yesterday the Trade Minister, Greg Hands MP, said:
“We are negotiating better market access in markets such as … China”.—[Official Report, Commons, 17/11/20; col. 196.]
Today Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, has called on the UN to investigate the horrors being perpetrated in Xinjiang. Some 180 human rights groups say that many of the world’s biggest fashion brands and retailers, along with suppliers of PPE to the United Kingdom, and companies such as Huawei and Volkswagen are complicit in the forced labour and human rights violations of millions of Uighur people in Xinjiang. Atrocities include torture, forced separation and the compulsory sterilisation of Uighur women. Is it a case of business as usual, or does the Minister believe that, where allegations of crimes against humanity or genocide are made, these should have consequences for trade with China? Will he therefore accept the amendment on genocide that I have tabled to the Trade Bill? The Minister replied “We understand the importance that noble Lords attach to these matters. The Government are studying them actively and carefully.”
November 19th 2020
…in a Written Answer, the Minister confirmed to me that the NHS warehouse for PPE at Daventry has masks made by Medwell Medical Products. It is estimated that a quarter of the workers at its Chinese factory are Uighurs in a facility 3,444 kilometres from Xinjiang, so it is implausible that they went there voluntarily. In his Answer, why did the Minister not name the intermediary company involved? Will he now say whether it was Meheco or another state-owned company, what the value of the deal was, whether our embassy was involved, whether the UK made the deal before or after July—when Medwell was named in reports—and what steps he is taking to ensure that the United Kingdom is not complicit in using Uighur slave labour to produce PPE for the NHS and profits for the Chinese Communist Party?
December 7th 2020 Report Stage of the Trade Bill
My Lords, the House has already heard some of the arguments explored in the preceding group of amendments. The House will be relieved to know that I will not rehearse them all again.
Amendment 9 straightforwardly asks the House to give the High Court of England and Wales the opportunity to make a predetermination of genocide if it believes that the evidence substantiates the high threshold set out in the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which the United Kingdom is a signatory. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of the Shaws, my noble friend Lady Falkner of Margravine and the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth—the other sponsors of this all-party amendment—to Peers from all parts of the House and to the Coalition for Genocide Response, notably its co-founders, Luke de Pulford and Ewelina Ochab.
During the preceding debate we heard three things about Amendment 9 which I would like to deal with immediately. The first was from the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone. He has now retreated to the Back Benches after the exhaustion of the last few hours and we welcome the noble Viscount to his place to answer this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, talked about the separation of powers. I remind the House that in the case of genocide, whenever the Government speak on this issue in this House, we always say that it is a matter for the courts. This is the same Government. They say that there is a separation of power and indeed, recently said that the recognition of genocide
“is a matter for judicial decision, rather than for Governments or non-judicial bodies.”—[Official Report, 13/10/20; col. 1042.]
I gently say to the Minister, and the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, that the Government’s position is that the courts make the determination about genocide. That is not to say that Parliament should not have a view about these things—I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said earlier about the role of the courts. I would also say to the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, who has left the Back Benches but may be viewing from elsewhere, that this is not about virtue signalling. This is about virtuous behaviour. If we cannot stand up on the crime of genocide and say that once evidence has been placed before the courts, it is shown to be credible and they make a predetermination, we will not then, in those circumstances, stop trading with that country, in what circumstances would we do so? There is a clear issue here on this narrow point of genocide. That is why this amendment is different from those that have preceded it. It is about one question: the crime above all crimes. I realise that some noble Lords who would not have been able to vote on the earlier amendment support this amendment because it is so carefully constructed and defined.
Three speeches were made in Committee that explain the thinking behind this amendment very well. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, rightly said that enabling the UK High Court to make legal determinations on genocide is preferable to other legal avenues. Pursuing such claims through international courts has proven ineffective. The amendment provides a respected means to assessing genocide, allowing the UK to live up to its legal commitments on genocide. He is right. The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, added that future trade deals may not be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, so it is imperative that the Government decide now to rule out deals with perpetrators of genocide. Not for the first time, the noble Baroness is right.
My noble and learned friend Lord Hope of Craighead, who has a lifetime of experience in the highest reaches of the law, said in a hugely important speech in Committee that there is inadequacy in the judicial architecture currently in place. In comparing the genocide convention with the convention on torture, he said:
“The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide now seems, with hindsight, to be a deplorably weak instrument for dealing with the challenges we face today … we can now see, in today’s world, how ineffective and perhaps naive this relatively simple convention is.”
The noble and learned Lord said that the amendment would
“allow for due process in a hearing in full accordance with the rule of law.”
It would “achieve its object” and result
“in a fully reasoned judgment by one of our judges. That is its strength, as a finding by a judge in proceedings of this kind in the applicant’s favour will carry real weight, quite apart from the effect it will have on the relevant agreement.”—[Official Report, 13/10/20; cols. 1037-38.]
He said that the route we have chosen in this amendment has his “full support” and would be “a big step forward”.
Just three weeks ago, we marked 75 years since the Nuremberg trials. Sir Hartley Shawcross, later a Member of your Lordships’ House, was the Labour Member of Parliament for St.Helens and the lead British prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal. In his closing speech at Nuremburg, Shawcross remarked that when
“some individual is killed, the murder becomes a sensation, our compassion is aroused, nor do we rest until the criminal is punished and the rule of law is vindicated. Shall we do less when not one but … 12 million men, women, and children, are done to death? Not in battle, not in passion, but in the cold, calculated, deliberate attempt to destroy nations and races”.
Shawcross reminded his generation that such tyranny and brutality, such genocides, could only be resisted in the future not by
“military alliances, but … firmly … in the rule of law.”
Yet we all know how regularly such horrors have recurred while the law we put in place in 1948 has been honoured only in its breach.
I will unpack the vicious circle that the amendment seeks to break. Over the past 20 years, I have raised the issue of genocide on 300 occasions in speeches or Parliamentary Questions in your Lordships’ House. As recently as 5 November, I asked the Government whether they intended to follow the example of Canadian parliamentarians in designating actions by the Government of China against their Uighur population to be a genocide, and what plans they had, if any, to enable an appropriate judicial authority to consider the same evidence and to reach a determination on this matter.
In reply, I was given the usual circular argument that the Government’s policy is not to make such determinations themselves but—and I say this gently to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley—to leave it to the courts, knowing that the International Criminal Court would require a referral from the Security Council and that, in this case, China would veto any attempt to hold it to account by the International Criminal Court.
I say gently to my good and noble friend Lord Sandwich, responding to his remarks in the earlier group of amendments, that this amendment does not seek to carry out criminal prosecutions in the High Court of England and Wales. If it did, it would have to overcome all sorts of obstacles to bring about a prosecution. This amendment seeks to establish whether there is sufficient evidence available. We heard some of it from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, in her intervention on the last group. Is there sufficient evidence for a predetermination to be made? That is the point: this is not about a criminal prosecution; it is about whether there is evidence that can be established in the High Court of England and Wales.
Before lockdown, I went to northern Iraq. I met Yazidi and Christian leaders who told me, “What happened to us was way beyond imagination”. It is not beyond our imagination—quite the reverse. In March 2016, my noble friend Lady Cox, the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and I specifically moved an amendment calling for the evidence we presented during that debate—of horrific genocidal acts being carried out against Yazidis, Christians and other minorities—to be laid before the High Court and for a judge to determine whether those atrocities were part of a genocide, which would, of course, have required an appropriate response from the Government. The Government opposed the amendment and I hardly need remind the House of what occurred.
During my visit to northern Iraq, I met some of the families whose girls had been abducted, raped and enslaved. Some of them are still refugees, having seen neighbours slaughtered and homes confiscated. In every case that I have ever raised, going right back for 20 years—20 years ago, I raised what was happening at the hands of the Burmese military in the Karen State, which I had gone into illegally, and was told that it was not a matter we could deal with here—I have always received the same reply. I remind the House of what the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, said: that the recognition of genocide
“is a matter for judicial decision … rather than for governments or non-judicial bodies.”
Yet, as my noble and learned friend told us in Committee, the international judicial system is not functioning as intended.
This is not about ceding power from Parliament to the courts, as the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, was right to remind us. This is not about the widespread ceding of powers; this is about a very narrow area. This is about genocide and a policy that is already the position of the Government. It is depoliticising a decision that Governments of all persuasions have hesitated to make. Limiting the clause to genocide is also proportionate. There can be no clearer statement that the United Kingdom places its values above trade than making it clear that we are not content to strike deals with genocidal states.
Let me finish my remarks by recalling again the challenge laid down 75 years ago at Nuremberg by Sir Hartley Shawcross. For 70 years, we have failed to recognise our wholly inadequate response to those challenges. Tonight, we have a chance to put that right. I intend to ask the House to vote on this amendment, unless the Government are prepared to say that they will come forward with an amendment at Third Reading to deal specifically with the issue of genocide or will do so in another place.
No doubt we will be told, as we so often are, that this is the wrong amendment, that it is technically defective, that it is the wrong Bill, or that it is the wrong time. We are always told those things. It is always the wrong time; it is always the wrong Bill. The amendments are never perfect, but the whole point is that, week in, week out, I have been urging the Government to sit down with us and with some of the most celebrated lawyers in this country, who are esteemed in their knowledge of human rights law and who, through the Coalition for Genocide Response, circulated as recently as this morning a long brief setting out why this is a viable amendment and why any refinements that are needed can easily be rectified if there is good will on the part of the Government.
By sending this amendment to the House of Commons, where I know that it has support on both sides of the Chamber—notably from the former leader of the Conservative Party, Sir Iain Duncan Smith—I know that we will ensure that something good will come out of our debate tonight and out of the effort that so many noble Lords have put into this issue. It will give the other House a chance to engage and remedy any deficiencies in drafting. Tonight, we should not hesitate in affirming the principle that we will not trade with countries judged by our High Court to be mired in genocide. I beg to move
December 23rd 2020
…what assessment has the Government made of reports that Uighur forced labour is being used in Xinjiang for the production of cotton for garments sold internationally; and what action they intend to take for breaches of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.” The Government responded that supply chain transparency needed to be strengthened, that there had been a Review and that “These measures will require legislative change and will be introduced as soon as Parliamentary time allows.”
January 19th 2021
… what plans they have to enter free trade negotiations with the government of China in the future; and what human rights due diligence they will employ during any such negotiations to ensure that the UK does not support the exploitation of Uighur Muslims in China. The Government ambiguously replied “the Government has no plans at present to negotiate a free trade agreement with China”
January 19th 2021
My Lords, in the House of Commons last week, the Foreign Secretary said that what is happening in Xinjiang is “on an industrial scale”. Perhaps the most shocking example of this has been the reported export of tonnes of human hair, shaved off the heads of Uighur slave labourers. Dominic Raab’s predecessor, Jeremy Hunt said that no responsible country would engage in free trade agreements with a state committing genocide. Can the Minister give a firm commitment now, on the Floor of the House, that the United Kingdom will not negotiate a free trade agreement with China until the United Nations is permitted to investigate Xinjiang and these violations on an industrial scale? Also, will he ask the Foreign Secretary to urgently respond to the request of the movers of Amendment 3 to the Trade Bill, both here and in the House of Commons, to meet Mr Raab to discuss the next steps in dealing specifically with the crime of genocide?