LONDON — A British political party report into human rights violations in China released last Thursday aims to show the true extent of state-sponsored abuses of millions of Chinese citizens and argues for international sanctions and other measures to be taken against the communist regime.
The 87-page report called The Darkness Deepens — The Crackdown on Human Rights in China 2016-2020 and published by The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, produces evidence of widespread human rights abuses and atrocities including ethnic cleansing, organ harvesting, forced labor (helped to a large degree by global brands), torture, arbitrary arrest, clampdowns on religious freedom and forced confessions.
The document was published a few days before a vote today in the House of Commons on a post-Brexit trade bill which some UK parliamentarians wanted amended to forbid any trade with states accused of committing genocide. The amendment attempt was defeated in a 319-308 vote.
Hong Kong’s last governor of the former British colony, Lord Christopher Patten, called the report a “deeply researched and exceptionally well-informed report” that “gives a terrifying view of the cruelty of Xi Jinping’s brutal regime.”
“To preserve its grip on power, the Chinese Communist Party has assaulted any sign of dissent and has set about building a totalitarian surveillance state beyond George Orwell’s imaginings,” said Patten, a Catholic who helped reform Vatican communications in the 2010s. He added that the report “demonstrates exactly why we must be on our guard in democracies to protect our freedoms and values.”
The report contains testimonies of Chinese citizens, pro-democracy and human rights activists who have had first-hand experience of the brutalities of the regime. At the launch event broadcast online on Thursday, four Chinese citizens living in exile recounted their experiences and views of the situation.
Rahima Mahmut, representative of the World Uyghur Congress now living in exile in London and separated from her family, said the last time she spoke to her brother living in Xinjiang, the Muslim Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China, was on Jan. 3. “He told me in a trembling voice, ‘Please leave us in the hands of God and we will also leave you in God’s hands,’” she said, before recalling the following concerning first-hand accounts she has received from fellow Uyghurs:
“These accounts are from 21st century concentration camps, heart-rending accounts of people who’ve lost loved ones, young and old. Every Uyghur has a similar story, each more horrifying than the other — the effects of the brutal ethnic cleansing and genocide that has been taking place there since 2017 while the world has closed its eyes to the suffering. The most painful part is not being able to offer words of comfort and hope in the midst of the torment. Since August 2018, when the UN acknowledged that one million had been interned in what China called ‘re-education camps,’ growing numbers of courageous individuals have been working to expose truth. They don’t have human rights. It is not about violations. They just don’t have human rights. Our basic human rights are taken away from us by this brutal, cruel regime. Just before I started, I received a message from someone whose mother, a doctor, disappeared two years ago and they recently learned she was sentenced to 20 years in prison. So there are millions of my people suffering at the moment unbearable pain and I am, too.”
A compelling first-hand testimony came from Simon Cheng, a former local employee of the British Consulate-General in Hong Kong, who recalled on Thursday how he was arrested on Hong Kong soil by Chinese state security in August 2019 as he returned from a business trip, and then detained and tortured for 15 days:
“I was held for two weeks accused of being a spy for the UK. I was tortured and forced to make a false confession of solicited prostitution and later, treason. I’m currently a refugee … one of those on the wanted list by national security police… The Chinese police give no reason for the arrest, show no badges, and breach personal privacy of citizens. They extract biometric information from people, detain and interrogate people in small cages, and have them placed in a tiger chair [a seat specially designed to restrain detainees]. They carry out brazen interrogations about political opinions, try to frighten citizens with mainland Chinese laws for criticizing the government of Hong Kong, systematically detain Hong Kong protesters and breach the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. This happened to me in August 2019, long before the National Security Law was imposed by in Hong Kong by Beijing… They try to frighten citizens using draconian rules as excuses to further extend detention and to execute persecution. They can detain you for two years without trial and the support of lawyers. They place you in 14 days solitary confinement, part of psychological torture, where there are no hours for exercise, they exclude rights to purchase daily necessities and toiletries. They force confessions, force you to stand and squat for long hours.”
In a detailed submission for the report, Cheng described how he was “handcuffed and shackled on a steep X-Cross doing a spread-eagled pose for hours after hours” and “forced to keep my hands up, so blood cannot be pumped up my arms.” Further torture included sleep deprivation followed by “politically correctional education.”
The commission report noted that “if the Chinese Communist Party regime tortures an employee of the British Consulate-General in Hong Kong in this way, one can only imagine how much worse the use of torture is against unknown mainland Chinese activists who have little hope of any voice in the international community.”
Chinese law professor Teng Biao, himself a victim of “severe torture” at the hands of Chinese authorities, spoke of crackdowns against human rights lawyers in China and how “hundreds” of them have “disappeared” over the past five years, while many NGOs and churches have been “shut down” or “destroyed.”
“All religions are being persecuted, especially Muslims, the Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhists and underground Christians,” he said. “Torture is rampant — almost all criminal suspects and detainees including political prisoners are tortured” and what is happening to the Uyghurs is “literally genocide.”
Biao added: “The Chinese government has utilized methods to tighten control on society, and it is a huge threat to privacy. High tech social media, big data and modern telecommunications make it easier for the Chinese Communist Party to keep people under total surveillance. Internet is used as an effective tool for censorship, propaganda and brainwashing.”
He said he could give “countless examples” of human rights violations not only in China “but beyond its borders,” and gave as an example Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen and book publisher who was living in Thailand. Minhai was kidnapped in 2015 by Chinese police, sent back to China, and forced to reapply for a Chinese passport because he “published books on China’s top leaders,” including an alleged sex scandal involving President Xi Jinping.
The launch seminar also heard from Nathan Law Kwun-chung who at 23 became the youngest legislator for Hong Kong in 2016 but was soon disqualified when he quotedMahatma Gandhi when taking his oath of office and said he would rather “stand by my principles and use my conscience to defend Hong Kong.” Law, who stressed the West must cease propping up such authoritarian regimes, said he was jailed, became a political prisoner, and “had to leave Hong Kong to protect myself and to continue speaking for the Hong Kong people.”
China is a “criminal state,” former Conservative Party Leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said in closing the seminar, adding that the Western world in particular has slowly come to realize this reality.
“These are all testimonies of a state we’ve seen and experienced many times before in the past,” said Duncan Smith, a Catholic. “In many of those cases, we’ve done absolutely nothing, and we’ve seen what happens as a result: they are emboldened by the inaction of members of the free world and they think they can get away with anything.”