I Hope to Live Long Enough to See Freedom Restored in China: Duncan Smith

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, former Conservative Party leader in the UK, on Wednesday said he hopes to see the day when freedom and common sense are restored in China.

Speaking at a webinar that marks the launch of “Darkness Deepened“—a report (pdf) by the Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission on the worsening human rights situation in China, the Conservative backbencher said that governments of the free world have to take a stand over human rights abuses in China.

Duncan Smith recalled the start of the so-called “Golden decade” of Sino-British relations, when he was a government minister.

“I had my suspicions that there was something fundamentally wrong with this, it was as though we wanted to invent a concept of China that didn’t exist, and then trade with that, rather than trade with the reality.”

Duncan Smith said he sat through “a lecture” in Parliament that was given by the visiting Chinese leader.

“He really lectured us all about how basically we weren’t democratic in the sense that he considered China to be democratic, which I thought was really rather absurd,” he recalled.

“And we got a lecture about how we shouldn’t meddle in other people’s affairs, and how this relationship will be based on the basis that we didn’t interfere in what was going on.”

Duncan Smith said he almost stood up and walked out, but was persuaded to remain seated to avoid embarrassing the then-Prime Minister.

“The one regret that I had is I never walked out on that particular performance,” he said.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping addresses the UK Parliament during a state visit, in Westminster, London, on Oct. 20, 2015. (Parliamentlive.tv/Screenshot)

Duncan Smith said the West has to stop divorcing elements that benefit the Chinese regime, such as trade and finance, from the reality of what happens to the people in China.

“Surely, we don’t want to interfere in the workings of every country. But there are moments when countries cross the line,” he said, adding that the moment is when the citizens of a country are no longer in power and don’t have the right of free speech.

Rahima Mahmut, representative of the World Uyghur Congress, is one of the speakers in the webinar.

Mahmut said that she worked as a consultant and a translator for the documentary film “Undercover: Inside China’s Digital Gulag,” which was broadcasted on ITV in July 2019.

“I was horrified when a Chinese official was asked whether he felt Uygher’s human rights were being violated. And he responded by saying: ‘they don’t have human rights. It is not about violations, they just don’t have human rights,’” Mahmut recalled him saying.

“And this is a situation that our very basic rights are taken away from us by this brutal, cruel regime,” she said.

“Where have we heard that before?” Duncan Smith asked rhetorically.

“Oh, that would be back in the 1940s, when the Germans, the Nazi Party decided that the Jews were ‘Untermensch’, subspecies, people that should be herded, and used, and then got rid of. And we didn’t pay any attention to it,” he said.

A farmer picks cotton from a field in Hami, Xinjiang, on Nov. 1, 2012. (China Daily/Reuters)

Duncan Smith said it had been impossible to deal with genocides because they had to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the UN Security Council. However, the referrals would never happen because they will always be vetoed, often by China and Russia.

Therefore, “for 80 years, we have spent our time condemning genocide, but doing absolutely nothing about it,” he said.

“The list of countries that has continued to abuse its people and to commit genocide is quite a long one, and not once have we held them to account on the basis that it is genocide.”

Duncan Smith urged MPs to support an amendment to the Financial Services Bill, which he said, “would be the first time that a government has given the power to a domestic court to rule on whether or not genocide is happening in a particular country.”

Duncan Smith said he believed that even if the bill doesn’t have an immediate effect, it would send a signal.

“So if we can pass this amendment, I think we will fire a shot,” he said, “a shot I hope will resonate around the world, that we can no longer turn a blind eye or tolerate these abuses that leave human beings in such desperate circumstances. No matter where they live and no matter how far away from us that they live. They are part of the human race, and we need to stand up for them.”

Duncan Smith said that he heard the United States was considering similar legislation.

“And then who knows, maybe we can persuade the Europeans and others to follow suit,” he added.

“I hope to live long enough to see the day when we see those freedoms restored, and the common sense of man restored in China again.”

No One Is Safe

While introducing the report, Benedict Rogers, co-founder and deputy chair of the Commission, said that it is significant for a number of reasons.

Benedict Rogers talks to The Epoch Times’ American Thought Leaders program in July 2019. (The Epoch Times)

“Firstly, it illustrates a massive deterioration in the human rights situation in recent years, reaching the levels of, increasingly experts argue, of genocide in the case of the Uyghurs; and serious breaches of an international treaty in the case of Hong Kong.”

Apart from Uyghurs and Hongkongers, Rogers said that the persecution against Christians, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners are also severe, and the elimination of “any form of dissent” including human rights defenders, lawyers, bloggers, citizen journalists, whistleblowers demonstrated that “no one today is safe,” including foreign nationals such as Simon Cheng and Gui Minhai.

“Secondly, what we found is that the regime has developed in recent years, new tools of repression,” Rogers said,

These tools include the “endemic slave labor, the development of surveillance technologies to create essentially an Orwellian surveillance state, the use of forced televised confessions, the implementation of new laws that allow within the so-called legal system for arbitrary detentions and disappearances, and the continued widespread use of torture and forced organ harvesting.”

Calling on the UK government to conduct a “wholesale and comprehensive review” of its relationship with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime, Rogers said those who interact with the regime “should do so in the knowledge that they are ‘interacting with a criminal state,’” as Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, chair of China Tribunal, said.