The detention of hundreds of Chinese human rights lawyers and defenders will be the subject of an urgent House of Commons debate today on the deteriorating human rights situation in China, as President Xi Jinping continues his four-day state visit to the UK.
Fiona Bruce MP, chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, will ask Philip Hammond "if he will make a statement on human rights in China, following reports that human rights lawyer Zhang Kai imminently faces a severe prison sentence or the death penalty, for defending civil liberties."
Zhang Kai, a Christian Beijing-based attorney, is currently serving a six month sentence in 'black jail' on suspicion of endangering state security and disturbing the public order. He had been representing churches fighting orders to remove their crosses amid a crackdown on places of worship in the Zhejiang province in the east of China.
Up to 1,700 churches in the region have been demolished or had their crosses removed as part of a three-year 'Three Rectifications and One Demolition' campaign, supposedly with the aim of exposing and removing "illegal structures". However, it is widely seen as a move to combat the increasing influence of Christianity in the country.
A statement from Bruce's office said that Zhang Kai is one of almost 300 human rights lawyers to be arrested in China since July 10, and there are concerns that he may receive a closed trial. Other lawyers have been tortured and abused in jail.
Human rights groups have highlighted the extensive abuses in China under President Xi's leadership, and have criticised the lavish welcome he received as he arrived in London earlier this week. There are concerns that Britain is turning a blind eye to the abuses committed by the Communist regime in favour of strengthening diplomatic and economic ties – ministers are expecting more than £30bn of trade ad investment deals to be secured during Xi's trip.
"China is in the middle of its most intense crackdown on human rights for years and the human rights of ordinary Chinese citizens – including that growing middle class – must not be ignored in order to secure trade deals," a statement on Amnesty International's website read.
Bruce will today challenge Cameron's government on the accusations that it is prioritising business over human rights.
"Given the announcement yesterday of billions of pounds of investment from China in the UK, and British trade and investment in China, is it not vital that we ensure that human rights and the rule of law are promoted and protected in China? Not only is this important for the people of China, and therefore a moral imperative, but it is also surely in our own national interest."
According to the statement, Bruce will recognise the importance of the UK's business relationship with China, but "hopes that promoting human rights and the rule of law will also be at the centre of this relationship."
She will also invite other Members to raise further concerns on China's human rights record.
Chinese civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng yesterday accused the UK government of "kowtowing" to Xi's party, and warned that the UK will "harvest serious consequences" in the future if it aligns itself with China too closely. "My message to David Cameron is that our own experience already told us that the regime is not even taking seriously the care of its own citizens," he told Christian Today. "How do you expect Xi to honour his pledges or whatever he says?"
President and founder of China Aid, Bob Fu, said that more activists and lawyers have been arrested in the past two years than in the previous two decades combined. He estimated the true number of those targeted in the past three months alone to be between 2,000-3,000.
"Where is the backbone of David Cameron's government when all of the actions of the Chinese government are in absolute violation of the 1984 UK-China declaration?" Fu asked, specifically condemning Chancellor George Osbourne's failure to mention "a single word on human rights" during his recent trip to China.
"Why are they keeping silent? What are they afraid of?"