Letter to Lord Alton of Liverpool
King Charles Street London
Tel: 0207 008 5000
Our ref: MC2022/30120 8 January 2023
Thank you for your correspondence of 19 November about the US Congressional- Executive Commission report on China. I am replying as the Minister of State responsible for Human Rights.
I am grateful to you for highlighting the report, which further details China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang, as well as the erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) officials are aware of the report and its recommendations.
As I outlined in my speech in the House of Lords on 17 November, the UK was the first country to lead a joint statement at the United Nations on China’s human rights record in Xinjiang. Since that first statement in 2019, which was supported by 23 countries, we have worked through our global diplomatic network to broaden the international coalition of countries calling out China’s actions. Our leadership has sustained pressure on China to change its behaviour, and consistently increased the number of countries speaking out. Most recently, we helped to secure the support of 50 countries for a joint statement on Xinjiang at the UN Third Committee on 31 October 2022.
We have used our Global Human Rights sanctions regime to impose asset bans and travel freezes on senior Chinese actors responsible for enforcing China’s repressive policies in Xinjiang.
These measures were coordinated with the US, Canada and the EU in unprecedented joint action. Taken together, we represent over 1/3 of global GDP,
sending a powerful message to the Chinese Government that the international community will not turn a blind eye to such serious and systematic violations of basic human rights. The FCDO will keep all evidence and potential listings under close review, including in the context of actions in Hong Kong.
In relation to Hong Kong, we continue to make clear to both the mainland Chinese and Hong Kong authorities our strong opposition to the National Security Law, which has seen opposition stifled and dissent criminalised; alternative voices across Hong Kong’s society have been all but extinguished. Changes to electoral rules have further eroded the ability of Hong Kongers to be legitimately represented at all levels of government.
In response to the National Security Law, the UK introduced a bespoke immigration route for British National (Overseas) BN(O) status holders and their immediate family members, which launched on 31 January 2021. This route reflects the UK’s historic and moral commitment to those people of Hong Kong who chose to retain their ties to the UK by taking up BN(O) status at the point of Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997.
As we have made clear, the Hong Kong authorities’ decision to target leading pro- democracy figures for prosecution is unacceptable. Freedoms of expression, association and the right to peaceful protest, as promised in both the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, are fundamental to Hong Kong’s way of life.
More broadly, the Government takes the national security of the UK very seriously.
On 24 November, the Government announced that Government Departments should cease deployment of visual surveillance systems produced by companies subject to the National Intelligence Law of the People’s Republic of China on sensitive Government sites. In addition, the Procurement Bill will further strengthen the ability of public sector bodies to exclude suppliers from bidding for contracts where there is a concern for national security.
We have also published new guidance for businesses on the risks of doing business in Xinjiang, introduced enhanced export controls, and announced the introduction of financial penalties under the UK’s pioneering Modern Slavery Act.
We are also working closely with international partners to ensure a coordinated approach to this complex issue. Under our G7 Presidency in 2021, G7 Leaders committed to working together to ensure that global supply chains are free from the use of forced labour.
The UK Government also consistently raises our concern about the human rights situation in China directly with the Chinese authorities at the highest levels. Most recently, the Foreign Secretary did so in a meeting with his Chinese counterpart on 20 September.
Please be assured that we monitor these issues closely and will continue to impress upon China the need to change course and immediately end violations of human rights.
LORD (TARIQ) AHMAD OF WIMBLEDON
Minister of State
Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict