Former Tory party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has called for “much tougher action” to combat human rights abuses in China, writes Philippe Lejeune.
His plea comes after the EU, earlier this year, passed new laws which allows it to impose sanctions on those guilty of serious human rights abuses, including against China. The so called Magnitsky sanctions were first introduced in the U.S and Canada.
The EU has now imposed sanctions for the first time against 4 Russian officials said to be involved in the Nalvany poisoning.
Duncan Smith, speaking from the UK on Monday to a zoom conference hosted by EU Today at the Brussels Press Club, said, “In the House of Commons we are engaged in a big effort to link any future trade deals with severe human rights abuses, in this case genocide, and we are trying to shift the UK government’s position on this.”
He told the event “China is a big problem facing the free world but one that the free world has fudged. This has a lot to do with reality – many businesses have rushed to China to take advantage of a lower cost base in China to produce their goods. This includes the supply of PPE in the health crisis.”
“The West has quietly forgotten the disadvantages of trade deals with China because there is no balance in these trade deals.”
“Germany has a huge dependence on China for its car parts and, remember, to meet carbon neutral status the biggest battery producer is China so our dependence on China is likely to grow.”
Speaking at a conference, “is it now time for Europe to act?” he said, “China has strategically and very cleverly ensured that much of the free world is dependent on them but we see the most appalling human rights abuses in China against Christians, Falun Gong who have been brutalised, 500,000 Tibetans in forced labour camps. The worst case is the brutalisation of Uyghurs which amounts to genocide.”
“Uyghurs have been terrorised and separated from their families and are in camps while western businesses still sadly are using products from these labour camps.”
“No other country would have got away with this but we are so desperate not to upset China. This also includes Hong Kong which is a huge issue for the UK because agreements between the UK and HK been trashed.”
“The EU has now decided on an economic arrangement with China which has been rushed through. This is a great shame and it should have been discussed first with Joe Biden and the UK because there is a cost to these trade deals.”
“Other issues include the bullying behaviour on China’s Indian border and what he called “the huge threat to Taiwan.”
The Magnitsky sanctions were first applied by the United States in 2016, with similar sanctions applied by the UK in 2020, and is legislation enabling the EU to target people or entities for human rights violations and abuses coming in December of that year.
The sanctions have led to travel bans and asset freezes being imposed on abusers from Russia, North Korea and Saudi Arabia, amongst others. In July 2020 the US sanctioned senior Chinese Communist Party official and Commissar Sun Jinlong for “serious abuses targeting Uyghurs”.
Duncan Smith said, “China is a big problem but it also has huge potential and we do want to deal with it but there is a rules based order and China cannot be allowed to desecrate human rights. We must get China to sign up to this. I hope the EU is listening because we need to change our relationship with China. The European Parliament thankfully seems to be taking a different view on this new trade deal and that is good because this threatening and bullying behaviour of China cannot be tolerated.”
Asked why it was so hard for some to accept the charge of genocide against China, he said, “The idea that this can be used to describe events in another country must be proven beyond doubt and the evidence must be strong. In the UN, China’s allies could also block such a move. This is the basic problem.”
“The reason why genocide cannot be found is that it is a huge allegation to make. It is the single worst crime one could imagine. To do it would upset China dramatically and they would retaliate, so the free world is divided on this. The whole thing is a mess.”
On alleged pro-China lobbying in Brussels , he said, “The difference between genocide and human rights is huge. It is the crime of all crimes. Governments and the courts have to make decisions but China has set out to exterminate an ethnic group.”
Another speaker Finnish Greens MEP Alviina Alametsa said, “We cannot stay silent any long on China and the EU must do all in its power to end this. I am happy the EU has finally imposed sanctions and hope member states will boycott the Olympics. Trade negotiations can also be used as leverage against China.”
Ben Rogers, founder of Hong Kong Watch and advisor to the World Uyghur Congress, said, “There is great unity on this but it’s important to say that we are not anti China but pro China. It is because of this that I want people in China to have their human rights respected. It is the communist party that is the problem. I absolutely agree that the Uyghur case has all the marks of genocide. and this alone should be enough to justify Magnitsky sanctions. Yes, it is time for this. They should be imposed on officials who are responsible for complete destruction of Hong Kong’s freedoms. China cannot be allowed to violate treaties like this so we should also look at boycott of the Olympics too.”
“Human rights are under assault and the recent deterioration is noticeable.”
Antwerp based Ekber Turson, a representative of the 200-strong Uyghur community in Belgium, said, “We must get EU leaders to take effective action against China.”
He said the Uyghur region was first occupied in 1949 and the most recent violence started in 2017.
He said, “There are 1,200 re-education camps in China for Uyghurs to “make them normal people.”
“But these are like concentration camps. They cannot contact their family or friends. Uyghurs are beaten, brainwashed and tortured in these camps. Also, because of Chinese threats we are not even safe in Belgium and have reported this to the authorities here.”
Andy Vermaut, a Belgian human rights activist, said, “China is also responsible for a climate disaster so I am astonished at the indifference to this. Some environmental activists who just want to speak about protected species are in prison.”
The Author, Philippe Lejeune, is a Brussels based freelance journalist and regular contributor to EU Political Report.