So the UN Report on the oppression of the Uyghur people in China is finally out. Naturally the Chinese government fought tooth and nail to suppress it. But then men like darkness to hide their evil deeds. The report identifies serious human rights abuses that could amount, in the words of the report, to “crimes against humanity”. It details allegations of Uyghur women being raped, men and women being tortured including by waterboarding, and others subject to extended solitary confinement.
What is going on in China is, in its persecution of non-Han Chinese, on a par with the Nazi regime’s treatment of “inferior races” in the 1930s and 1940s. There is a cancer that is spreading like slime from the heart of the Chinese communist party. It is a cancer that exerts a degree of vice-like control over those unfortunate individuals targeted by Xi Jinping and one that makes the regime in George Orwell’s 1984 look benign and inefficient by comparison. It is a cancer that is eating away at the pillars of the civilised world, corrupting accepted norms of international behaviour, weakening democracies, bolstering dictators. And it is a cancer that not only has the West been unable to arrest, but which useful idiots like David Cameron and George Osborne have helped on its way.
Britain has always had a proud record of standing up for human rights, Through much of this island’s history, we have been a haven for the persecuted, whether it was the Huguenots in the 18th century, the Jews in the 19th, or all those fleeing from the Nazis in the 20th. And as this century began, we were doing our best to protect the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, and almost alone in the world, were refusing to recognise the fiction that Tibet is part of China.
That changed with the deep freeze of 2012 when for eighteen months Beijing showed the UK the cold shoulder, furious that David Cameron and Nick Clegg had met the Dalai Lama. So Cameron and Osborne decided this deep freeze must never happen again and human rights and the other values of this country should be quietly filed away in a drawer somewhere. This approach was not just a betrayal of British values, it was also counter-productive. When the Chinese smell weakness, they exploit it. They only respect strength.
Interestingly, the first minister allowed back into China in 2013 at the end of the deep freeze was me. I was also then President of Tibet Society and had not hidden my views about what the Chinese were doing in Tibet. A trade mission to Beijing followed, led by Osborne who was accompanied by the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. China was “an opportunity, not a threat”, he said. Britain was going to be China’s best friend. A golden era was beginning. It was pitiful to watch the Bambi pair of Osborne and Cameron prancing about while the Chinese communist wolves grinned nastily.
Then we had a state visit for Xi, the butcher of Beijing, a banquet at Buckingham Palace, all the pageantry that could be mustered, and all the ordinary British people sickened by this grovelling kept well away from Xi’s eyes. Of course Cameron has done rather well for himself out of his kowtowing. In 2017 he took charge of a £750m fund to improve infrastructure between China and its trading partners. The Dalai Lama’s view is that Cameron is only interested in “money, money, money”.
What Dr Julian Lewis MP, chair of the UK Parliament’s Intelligence Committee, has called “the grasping naivety of the Cameron-Osborne years” has given the Chinese communists a dangerous foothold in this country. They now have access to our nuclear technology with their involvement in the planned new nuclear stations at Hinkley C and Bradwell, the latter with an originally envisaged, but now reduced, 66% share.
They own assets worth an estimated £143 billion in the UK including investments is Heathrow Airport, Superdrug and Greene King, and shares in Manchester City FC and ironically AstraZeneca for whom they have been drumming up business. This week it was revealed that for the first time, we imported in the first quarter of 2021 more from China than from any other country. Imports are up 66% in just three years. At least public pressure finally forced the government to remove Huawei from our sensitive 5G network, though not until 2027.
The Chinese also have a stranglehold on rare metals, producing 95% of the world’s supply. These are the very metals we need for our environmental transformation, metals for electric vehicles, for wind turbines, for smartphones. Can we naively assume they will always supply the UK and other western countries with what we need?
China’s economic and military power has increased enormously in the last quarter of a century, but that have used that not to be a positive influence in the world, but with the sickening enthusiasm of the playground bully, throwing their weight around and picking on the small boys. With a 19th century colonial mindset, they have muscled in to claim virtually the whole of the South China Sea. They claim land that is clearly not theirs, islands which are Japanese, land which is Indian. Now they have set their sights on Taiwan.
In Africa, they are spending billions on ports, railways, roads, energy schemes and telecommunications. They have even financed and built (and no doubt bugged) the new headquarters of the African Union. But this spending is not out of the goodness of their heart. No, the finance deals are crippling. China has become an international loan shark. And the price to be paid is not simply a financial one. It buys silence and votes in the United Nations.
Cameron, with that arrogant sense of entitlement that gives him supreme confidence about matters he barely understands, is on record saying that he wanted to “help deliver the Chinese dream”. Dream? More like nightmare. If there is a hell on earth, it is within those areas controlled by China where the Muslims and Buddhists live – the Uyghur region and in occupied Tibet. The new UN report merely confirms what many of us have long known.
Because the Chinese leadership regards anyone who is not Han Chinese as inferior, and sees their differences a threat to the motherland. So their culture, their language, their customs, their religious practices – all have to be crushed out of existence. Those who resist, for example by wanting to pray in a mosque, are classified as terrorists. There have always been dictators and unpleasant regimes. The difference with Xi Jinping and his two-dimensional henchmen is the sheer scale of the brutality, and the heightened technical capability to control people that no other state has ever had before. They have many levers of repression and they pull them as far as they will go.
We learned recently of the latest horror. Police stations in the Uyghur region – of which there are hundreds, some just 15 metres apart – have had sophisticated artificial intelligence software installed which is designed to recognise and analyse even minute changes in facial expressions and skin pores and so reveal those with a negative state of mind. It is called predictive policing. Those who generate a red area on the pie chart that the machine churns out are deemed to be guilty of thought crime – 1984 again – and carted off to one of the tens, or is it hundreds of concentration camps that litter the countryside. It is pre-judgement without any evidence.
It is estimated that up to three millions Uyghurs are incarcerated in these concentration camps where they are tortured, used as slave labour and the women subject to forced sterilisation. Three million out of a population officially counted as twelve and a half million. A further million have been sent to other Chinese provinces to be used as slave labour. For those not incarcerated, they live in a different sort of prison. I spoke to a well-informed Uyghur who for his own safety must remain nameless. He said every Uyghur who is suspected of being unsound, and in any case every Uyghur family, is required to have a smartphone and to download special state software.
This software enables the state to listen to, and track every communication, and to know your exact location at any time. 170 Uyghurs were recently arrested for turning off their phones while they prayed during Ramadan. Just in case something might be missed, there are an estimated 400,000 cameras to monitor those Uyghurs not in concentration camps. I was told that there is a camera at the entrance to every block of flats, and outside every door within the block. Each door has a bar code on it to identify what kind of citizen lives within. There is also a security guard at the entrance and every guest has to sign in and explain why they are there. If the guest is still in the building after about twenty minutes, the security guard comes to find them and ask why they are doing.
In Tibet recently, a new directive forbids the carrying of Buddhist symbols such as rosaries, forbids religious teaching in schools, and forces monks to produce calligraphy celebrating the Chinese government and praising Xi Jinping whose picture now fills shrines once dedicated to the Dalai Lama. In both Tibet and the Uyghur region, children are removed from their parents and taken to orphanages where they can be brainwashed. Tibetan and Uyghur women are forced into marriages with Han Chinese men.
Social credit scores for individuals now exist and are determined by who you speak to, what you wear, what language you use, and how often you pray. The further away from the typical Han Chinese, the lower the score you get.
The ruthless man in charge of the Uyghur region is party secretary Chen Quanguo. He was previously in charge of Tibet. Following the steer from Xi that he should “show absolutely no mercy”, Chen has called for the detention of anyone with “symptoms of religious radicalism or anti-government views, including giving up smoking or drinking, wearing long beards and studying Arabic.” Over a thousand imams have been rounded up. Chinese officials who have resisted this draconian approach have themselves been imprisoned.
The UK parliament goes further than the UN report and describes what is happening in the Uyghur region as genocide. They echo dozens of experts in international law who have concluded that the Chinese government is guilty of violations under each and every act of the Genocide Convention. The US based Freedom House has concluded that Tibet is the least free country in the world, with a score of just 1/100, equal bottom with Syria and behind North Korea. According the official Chinese line, people live in harmony… and enjoy a stable and peaceful life with no restrictions to personal freedom.
The world cannot stand by and allow genocide to continue, while Xi realises his dream of eliminating any culture within China’s borders that is not Han Chinese and turning people into obedient robots. We cannot stand by as the norms of international behaviour are torn up, as countries are bullied, as a stranglehold is exerted on key resources. We cannot stand by as truth is replaced by lies. The democratic world needs to come together to challenge the Xi clique. Left unchecked, cancer spreads until it kills the body. The time for urgent treatment is now.