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Human Rights

Volume 673: debated on Tuesday 17 March 2020

The UK is committed to the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide. We are one of the longest standing members of the Human Rights Council, and we are committed to maintaining that record when we stand for re-election this year. The UK’s autonomous global human rights Magnitsky-style sanctions regime is due to come into force in the coming months. That will allow us to impose sanctions in response to serious human rights violations or abuses around the world.

Since June 2019, when the UK became co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition to defend LGBT communities around the world, no additional Commonwealth countries have joined. Even now, there are no Commonwealth members from Africa, Asia or the Caribbean. What can the Minister do to improve that dire situation?

We must tackle all human rights issues through multilateral organisations wherever possible. The UK Government will continue to make that case through our networks and ministerial team, and the hon. Gentleman raises a serious point.

University professor Chan Kin-man said about the 2014 Umbrella protest in Hong Kong:

“The reason we had this protest is that China did not honour a promise to Hong Kong to let it have democracy.”

He now faces seven years in jail for leading that protest. Will the Government stand up for him, or was Chris Patten right to describe their policy towards China as simply “craven”?

I met the Chinese ambassador in the past 10 days, and raised the issue of Hong Kong. We remain concerned about the political situation in Hong Kong, and believe that the underlying causes of the protests have not been addressed. We welcome the peaceful manner in which so many Hong Kong people have expressed their views, and we will continue to call for a robust, credible, and independent investigation into the events in Hong Kong between June 2019 and last January.

I was interested to hear what the Minister said about multilateral institutions, because the European convention on human rights was the brainchild of Winston Churchill. It was drawn up by British lawyers, and the UK was the first country to ratify it in 1951. Instead of being proud of that achievement, why do the Government now want to stand alone with Belarus, Europe’s last remaining dictatorship, in refusing to support the convention?

We continue to work with regional organisations, including the European Union, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the Commonwealth, to strengthen their democracy work. Most recently we have offered support for election monitoring in North Macedonia and Serbia, and we are supportive of the work that human rights defenders do across the world by promoting and protecting democratic values as well as human rights.