27 June 2016

The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission will tomorrow launch a new report on human rights in China highlighting a significant deterioration of China’s human rights record since 2013, and calling for the UK Government to reconsider its own China policy in light of these findings.

Fiona Bruce MP, who was appointed Chair of the Commission by the Prime Minister last year, said: ‘Without exception, every submission to our inquiry detailed a severe deterioration in human rights in China since 2013 and revealed a situation which is the worst China has seen for many years, possibly since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Witnesses told us that many recent developments were “unprecedented”.’

‘In light of this, we believe it is time for the UK Government to rethink its approach to China, to speak out publicly and consistently on human rights, and consider ways it can more effectively promote and protect basic rights that are being gravely violated in mainland China and in Hong Kong.’

The report is critical of the current UK policy on China, stating: ‘Given the overwhelming evidence of a very grave deterioration in the human rights situation over the past three years, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned about the UK Government’s decision to develop a friendship with the government of the People’s Republic of China, without this being an appropriately critical friendship, particularly at this juncture and especially in the manner in which the relationship has been presented, described and calibrated.’

‘While we recognise the strategic and economic significance of China, we do not believe that it is in anyone’s interests for the United Kingdom Government to be almost silent, publicly, on human rights, in light of such a grave deterioration.’

The report, which will be launched by the former Governor of Hong Kong Lord Patten and supported by former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, is titled The Darkest Moment: The Crackdown on Human Rights in China 2013-2016, and received evidence from Joshua Wong, leader of the pro-democracy Umbrella protests in Hong Kong, and Anastasia Lin, the Chinese-born winner of Miss World Canada who was banned from China because of her human rights work.

The Commission puts forward 22 recommendations for the UK Government and urges the Government ‘to conduct a thorough review of its China policy…[and] to explore what steps can be taken to recalibrate this relationship.’

Speaking ahead of the launch, Lord Patten said: ‘This is a comprehensive and well researched analysis of China’s increasingly deplorable human rights record. I am obviously concerned about what has been happening in Hong Kong. The British Government must take account of this first class piece of work.’

The Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind said: I very much endorse this report and its recommendations. It is an excellent, professional and well researched study. Its recommendations are spot on. This report highlights the urgent need for reform in China. It deserves to be read and implemented.’

Dr Christopher Hancock, a China expert and director of Oxford House, endorsed the report, saying: “For the British government not to take on board its findings would be as much a denial of academic honesty as it would an expression of political naivety and a loss of personal integrity. China is not what it was five years ago. It has undergone a 180-degree turn in its political ethos. Outsiders should not attempt - and will always fail - to change China's political and social behaviour: however, British citizens can, and must, attempt to change their government's hitherto mis-guided response to it.”

The Darkest Moment examines a wide range of human rights issues in China over the past three years, including:

  • the detention and harassment of human rights lawyers;
  • the use of torture;
  • the abduction and detention of booksellers from Hong Kong;
  • forced organ harvesting;
  • the continued detention of dissidents, bloggers and journalists in China;
  • the increased repression of the media;
  • the use of televised forced confessions;
  • the ongoing repression in Tibet and the deteriorating political situation in Hong Kong

Notes for Editors:

For further information please contact:

The report is the outcome of an inquiry held by the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission which heard oral evidence from ten witnesses, including Chinese dissidents and China experts. Anastasia Lin, the Chinese-born winner of Miss World Canada who was banned from China because of her human rights work, spoke at the first hearing, along with Bob Fu, founder of China Aid who had participated in the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Dr Teng Biao, one of China’s most prominent human rights lawyers, gave evidence in the second hearing, alongside Yaxue Cao of and Dr Sophie Richardson, China Director of Human Rights Watch.

Former Hong Kong Chief Secretary Anson Chan and the founder of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party Martin Lee co-authored a joint written submission to the inquiry. Evidence was also received from more than 30 other individuals and organisations, including Joshua Wong, leader of the Umbrella movement in Hong Kong, and Chen Guangcheng, the award-winning blind human rights activist.