Skip to main content


Volume 602: debated on Tuesday 24 November 2015

1. What discussions he had with the President of the People’s Republic of China on human rights in Tibet. (902302)

During last month’s state visit, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and President Xi Jinping discussed the importance of ongoing dialogue on issues about which we disagree, including human rights. I set out the Government’s position on Tibet, including our human rights concerns, in a parliamentary debate secured by the hon. Gentleman in June.

I thank the Minister for that answer. He will be aware that the UN Committee against Torture met last week in Geneva to review China’s record, and it expressed serious concerns over China’s continued use of torture to extract confessions from prisoners. In response, the Chinese delegation denied all allegations of endemic, systematic acts of torture. China also claims to hold no political prisoners at all. Will the Minister or the Foreign Secretary ensure that the routine use of torture in Chinese jails, including in Tibet, is raised with China at the next UN Human Rights Council?

We would normally raise such matters regarding Tibet or anywhere else. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on keeping Tibet at the forefront of the House’s deliberations, and there have been two debates on the issue, most recently in June and before that in December. The recent state visit was a huge success. President Xi acknowledged the importance of improving protection for human rights and said that China was ready for increased exchanges and co-operation on that issue with the UK. The UK is one of the few countries in the world to have an annual human rights dialogue with China, and that is an incredibly important architecture within which to press the Chinese and raise such matters. We shall continue to do so.

The Minister will recall that in an exchange on 22 October he confirmed that China is ready to co-operate with the UK and other countries in the area of human rights. Were matters such as Tibet and the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, the alleged forced harvesting of organs, and the harassment of Ai Weiwei discussed with the Chinese President when he visited the UK?

The right hon. Gentleman credits me with almost total recall, but our position has been consistent. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised the issues of Falun Gong and organ harvesting with State Councillor Yang Jiechi during the UK-China strategic dialogue in Beijing in August. We have raised specific concerns about reports of organ harvesting on numerous occasions, including in response to a written question on 15 July.

What discussions have taken place to promote the importance of the freedom of religious expression in Tibet, in particular among the Uyghur people?

We raise those issues consistently with the Chinese within the framework of the UK-Chinese human rights dialogue, and our annual human rights report is updated every six months. Some comments about the recent state visit have implied that our relationship with the Chinese is purely one of commerce, but that is wrong. This is not a binary relationship. As we get closer to the Chinese and are seen as a good partner to China on the world stage, and in terms of inward investment and trade between both countries, we can discuss such matters more maturely than many other countries can. It boils down to whether we believe in megaphone diplomacy, or in getting alongside the people we are trying to talk to, and pointing out that the way to do things is the way that we do things.