Tim Loughton – 2021 Speech on Chinese Government Sanctions on UK Citizens

The speech made by Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, in the House of Commons on 13 April 2021.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank the Speaker for granting this urgent question and for his robust support, together with that of the Lord Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Minister today. I suppose I need to declare an interest as one of the five right hon. and hon. Members of this House who have been placed on the Chinese Government’s sanctions list, apparently for “maliciously” spreading “lies and disinformation”; in the language of the Chinese Communist party, of course, that is a euphemism for speaking the truth. As parliamentarians we have been singled out, together with Lord Alton and Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, presumably for our vociferous calling out of the genocide against the Uyghur people by the Chinese Government, the industrial-scale human rights abuses in Tibet and the suppression of free speech and liberty in Hong Kong. That is what parliamentarians do, without fear or favour, in a democracy. To be sanctioned by a totalitarian regime is, therefore, not only deeply ironic and laughable, but an abuse of parliamentary privilege of this House, by a foreign regime.

What further action are the Government considering against the Chinese Government to emphasise how unacceptable and unfounded their action is? Will the Minister assure the House that the Government will not be proceeding with any new agreements with the Chinese Government while these sanctions remain in place?

The other individuals named were Newcastle University academic Dr Jo Smith Finley and Uyghur expert lawyer, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC. Does the Minister agree that this also represents an attack on academic freedom and the independence of the legal profession in the United Kingdom? What support are the Government offering to those two individuals?

Given growing concerns about the malign influence of the Chinese Government in sensitive research projects in our universities, the sinister tentacles of the Confucius institutes on campuses and increasingly in our schools, not to mention the wide-scale buying of influence in UK boardrooms, will the Government commit to a detailed and transparent audit of Chinese influence in our education system, our military capability, our business and our infrastructure projects, and, if found to be acting against British interests, send them packing?

Given the disgraceful recent dressing-down of our ambassador in Beijing for supporting on social media the role of a free press, will the Minister confirm that British diplomats will not be bowed and will be fortified in calling out abuses by the Chinese Government wherever they happen, as we sanctioned parliamentarians have been fortified to call out the abuses of the totalitarian Government in China by their badly-thought-out and counterproductive use of sanctions, which we will wear as a badge of honour? Will the Minister signal, clearly and firmly, that project kowtow is over and that Britain will not flinch from standing up and calling out Chinese Government abuses, which they have got away with for far too long?