John Glen, the MP for Salisbury, has been accused by the ex-leader of his party of ‘kowtowing’ to China
This accusation was made in the Mail on Sunday, a Conservative supporting tabloid paper, in an article on 24 October 2020. Mr Glen, a Treasury Minister, gave a speech at an event organised by the 48 Group Club which was set up to promote Sino-British relations. Mr Glen is alleged to have said that ‘Britain and China are natural partners and that the two sides have broad prospects for cooperation in financial services and the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.’ [No text of the speech is available on the 48 Group Club’s website or on the Treasury site.]
Pursuing increased commercial contact and encouraging greater trade was a creditable endeavour. Greater understanding was always to be supported and many of the 500 or so individuals who are members of the Club are likely to have had that in mind when joining.
But since Xi Jinping came to power, things have changed markedly. China has become a repressive state with a catalogue of infringements against international norms. It’s justice system is plagued by unfair trials and the use of torture. Repression of whole areas of the country including Tibet and Xinjiang is severe. The Government continues to harass, intimidate and prosecute human right defenders. All media and the internet are rigorously censored. There is little religious freedom with churches, mosques and temples destroyed on government orders. China executes more of its citizens than the rest of the world combined.
Over the past year, attention has focused on the treatment of Uighurs, a million of whom are incarcerated in so-called training establishments which nevertheless are surrounded by high walls and watchtowers and are closed to outside observers. Recently, concern has been expressed at the use of forced labour to produce cotton and western companies are being urged to ensure cotton produced using such labour is not used in their products.
In July a book was published by Clive Hamilton and Mareika Ohlberg Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World’ (One World Press) which claims that the 48 Group Club is a hub ‘through which Beijing grooms Britain’s elites’. Looking into the group does seem to reveal some curious issues. It claims many members of the political establishment some of whom say they have no knowledge of joining. Who funds them is not explained on their website.
48 Group is a hub ‘through which Beijing grooms Britain’s elites’ book claims
Mr Glen cannot claim ignorance of the appalling human rights situation in China since many members of the Salisbury Amnesty group have written to him on many occasions. He will be aware of the concerns about China’s increasing bellicose actions against Taiwan and border conflict with India. China has reneged on the Hong Kong agreement and is tightening its grip on the state. However, we know from the They Work for you site that Mr Glen ‘generally voted against laws to promote equality and human rights’. Many countries are beginning to review their relations with the country in view of the policies of the communist regime and the threats they pose.
Mr Duncan Smith claims that the speech was written for him which, as it does not seem to have been published or made available, we cannot know. It does suggest however, that the government is anxious to press on with closer commercial contacts with China despite the increasing risks and despite the appalling human rights situation there. It is perhaps an inevitable result of the Brexit decision (supported by Mr Glen) and the shock that will give to the economy: we must seek business where we may and not be too squeamish about with whom.
That may be so, but for Mr Glen allegedly to praise President Xi, as the Mail on Sunday claims, to a suspect lobbying organisation, raises many uncomfortable questions.
Sources: Mail on Line [accessed 15 December 2020]; Endole; Daily Express; upnewsinfo.com; Amnesty International. Sites searched but with no reference to the speech: Salisbury Journal; Treasury; John Glen MP’s website [all accessed 18 December 2020]