83 Global Brands Tied to Forced Labor in China—Benedict Rogers | American Thought Leaders


In China, we are seeing  forced televised confessions,   a mass surveillance state, the killing of  Falun Gong practitioners for their organs,   and what many are calling a  genocide of the Uyghur people.
These are the worst possible crimes.
83 global brands, including major U.S. companies,  are tied to Uyghur forced labor in China. We’ve had our heads in the sand for too long.
Over in Hong Kong, 53 pro-democracy activists,   lawmakers, and lawyers were arrested on Jan.  6 under the draconian national security law.
Today, there is no freedom in Hong Kong.
Despite all this, the EU recently  announced a major trade deal with China.
Today, we sit down with human rights  activist and writer Benedict Rogers,   founder of Hong Kong Watch and deputy chair of the  UK Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission,   to discuss the commission’s new  report: “The Darkness Deepens.” This is American Thought  Leaders, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Benedict Rogers, it’s so great to have  you back on American Thought Leaders.   Thank you. It’s a great  privilege to be with you again.   Ben, you’ve put out this incredible report,   “The Darkness Deepens.” Frankly, it’s one of  the most comprehensive reports on human rights   in China that I’ve come across, and this is  a follow up from your report four years ago   that the Conservative Party Human Rights  Commission put out, “The Darkest Moment.”   Incredible work—for starters, I have to say that.   Why don’t you tell me briefly, what were the  key most important findings in your mind?   I think the key findings are that in the last  four years since that previous inquiry and report,   firstly, the situation across the board  has deteriorated dramatically further,   and I almost didn’t think that was possible  because as you’ve just said, the report four   years ago was called, “The Darkest Moment.” In other words, the situation was pretty   terrible then. But across the board, things  have worsened significantly. We’ve seen the   dismantling of democracy and freedoms in Hong  Kong; we see what people are increasingly   recognizing as a genocide of the Uyghurs. Those two issues have had quite a lot of   attention and deservedly so, but what we  found is that situation for Christians,   for Falun Gong practitioners, for the situation  in Tibet, for human rights defenders, bloggers,   lawyers, across the board, the situation has  worsened significantly. That’s the main finding.   But also, I think the Chinese Communist Party  regime is finding new and increasingly brutal   forms of repression. The growth of  surveillance technology is one example.   The use of forced labor, which we call modern  day slavery, probably was going on before   but it’s certainly much more extensive now.  And the use of forced televised confessions   and the increasing number of arrests of foreign  nationals so it shows that no one is safe   from the long arm of the CCP [Chinese  Communist Party]. It’s not just   nationals of the PRC [People’s Republic  of China] but foreign nationals that   have been arrested and jailed, disappeared,  forced to confess on national television.   It seems to me like the Chinese Communist Party  is taking advantage of this chaotic situation   around the U.S. election to do some bad stuff, so  to speak. One of these things is the mass arrests   of pro-democracy politicians on January  6. Actually, four guests from this show   were among those that were arrested that day.  Why don’t you tell me what you think about this,   what the realities are, and how  things have come since January 6?   The mass arrests of 53 pro-democracy activists  were the single largest swoop by the Hong Kong   police of activists in Hong Kong in recent memory.  Obviously, there have been quite a number of other   arrests in previous months, but there’s been  nowhere near as large a number in one morning.   Essentially, what they’re charged with is  nothing more than the “crime” of having dared   to carry out a democratic exercise. They either  were candidates or organizers or pollsters in   a primary election, something that here in  the United States is the absolute norm. But a   primary election to choose the candidates for the  pro-democracy camp in what should have been the   elections to the legislature in Hong Kong [was]  of course subsequently postponed using the excuse   of the pandemic. But now these individuals have  been arrested, charged with subversion under the   national security law, for having carried out that  exercise last summer to choose their candidates.   I want to just briefly recap. This national  security law seems to give the Chinese   Communist Party—actually, the Hong Kong  government, with the Chinese Communist   Party kind of standing behind it—virtually  carte blanche to do whatever it wants.   Absolutely. It is probably the most draconian and  vaguely worded and extensive, repressive law that   that I’ve really ever seen. Some of the concepts  that it criminalizes, things like collusion with   foreign political forces, basically means it’s  now a crime for a person in Hong Kong to talk to   a foreign politician, foreign media, someone  like me, a foreign activist. [In the law]   acts of subversion are interpreted as, for  example, carrying out a primary election   to choose candidates, and really any form of  criticism of the regime in Beijing. Crucially,   this law also has an extra-territorial clause in  it, which, in principle, essentially says that,   it doesn’t matter if you’re a Hong-Konger or not,  and it doesn’t matter where you are in the world.   Anyone, anywhere in the world can breach  the national security law. Now, obviously,   enforcing that for foreigners outside  Hong Kong is probably not very practical,   at least in the Western world. But it  does make Hong-Kongers who are in other   parts of the world much more vulnerable  if they want to go back to Hong Kong.   Let’s look at the difference from four years  ago. How has Hong Kong changed, bottom line?   Bottom line is it’s changed massively. Four years  ago, freedom was under pressure. There were signs   of erosion and worrying signs of erosion.  Today, there is no freedom in Hong Kong.   Let’s jump to the second issue that we discussed.  You mentioned this modern day slavery, forced   labor. I recently produced a film, a Holocaust  documentary, which involved us going to Europe,   and one of the things I discovered which I hadn’t  realized, actually, entirely, was how important   the slave labor of the Jewish people was to the  Nazi war machine, so to speak, to the functioning   of the Nazi regime. It’s just something that seems  to be glossed over because of the horrors of the   Holocaust. But I saw that this is something that’s  new in your report. You didn’t have a section on   modern day slavery in the previous report.  Why is this figuring in so prominently now?   I think that a lot more evidence has come  to light, and I think the use of slave labor   has been much more extensive over the last  few years. Crucially, it’s featuring a very   significant role in the supply chains of  at least 83 or more international brands,   companies that consumers will all be  familiar with throughout the Western world.   You are right to make the connection with  the Holocaust because what’s very significant   about this situation is that among religious  communities speaking out on the Uyghur situation,   it’s actually been the Jewish community that has  been taking a lead. The former chief rabbi in my   country, the United Kingdom, the current chief  rabbi, the president of the Board of Deputies   of British Jews, the Jewish newspaper, and  other Jewish groups have really been courageous   in making the comparison with the Holocaust, which  is a very rare and sensitive thing for the Jewish   community to do but they’ve been doing it. Why don’t you tell me briefly why that is,   and of course, we know some of this  but why is that apt in your mind?   I think it’s very apt because many of the  hallmarks of the Holocaust are there. Not   only the slave labor but evidence of the  campaign of forced sterilization, scenes of   people with their heads shaved [and] being  loaded onto trains, and of course, the extensive   concentration camps in the Xinjiang region  where it’s said that at least a million,   perhaps as many as 3 million, are incarcerated  or severely tortured, subjected to   sexual violence, and other abuses. So the parallels really are there with   things that we haven’t seen on that scale for  a very long time. Of course, we’ve seen, sadly,   other genocides over the years and plenty of other  mass atrocities in different parts of the world,   but I don’t think we’ve seen anything quite  as extensive as this for a long time.   A Canadian parliamentary committee came up with a  genocide designation for what is happening there   in Xinjiang to the Uyghur people. I think the  State Department in the U.S. is also considering   that as we speak. Something that comes  to mind when it comes to Xinjiang   is the importance or the use of surveillance  technology. This is something that also figures   prominently in your report and again, this is  something that I would love to compare today to   four years ago, if you could do that, because it  seems to be such a central issue that might not   necessarily be obvious to people and playing a key  role in this repression that we just discussed.   Absolutely. I think that it was  beginning to develop a few years ago,   but you’re correct that it didn’t really feature  in our previous report, and that shows that it has   rapidly developed in the last few years. Key to  the development of this have been the Chinese   tech companies, well known brands like Huawei  and Hikvision, that are directly complicit with   creating this Orwellian surveillance state. The extent of the technology is terrifying:   the use of facial recognition technology, of  drones, and other artificial intelligence. But   that’s also combined with more traditional forms  of surveillance that also continue: the use of   informants, the CCP sending Han Chinese [CCP]  officials to live in the houses of Uyghurs,   those Uyghurs that aren’t in the prison camps,  to monitor them 24 hours a day. So these crude   traditional forms of personal surveillance mixed  with the use and development of technology.   The fact that companies that  are well known globally now,   thankfully, many Western democracies are waking up  to the dangers of Huawei and the others, but there   are many countries that haven’t woken up to that,  and we should not forget that these companies are   directly at the heart of this surveillance state. This technology, whether it’s Hikvision or Huawei,   it’s not just deployed in China and presumably,  can be used exactly the same way elsewhere.   That’s exactly right. Firstly, the regime is,  of course, transferring this technology to other   brutal dictatorships, so that poses a danger in  other repressive states. But of course, it can   use that technology in Western free societies,  and that poses a direct threat to our freedoms.   Ben, I asked this question of  Secretary Pompeo in a recent interview.   He was more bullish on this than I am personally.  We have this EU-China trade deal that’s, as   far as I can tell, moving full steam ahead  unless there’s some kind of block in the   European Council or something like that which  occurs. I don’t know if that’s going to happen.   With the knowledge that all of these realities  are happening, that has me scratching my head.   How does this work given even just the  few realities that you laid out to me?   Yes, it has me scratching my head as well,  particularly as the announcement came just   a few days after the European Parliament passed  a resolution that called for access to Xinjiang   to inspect the camps. It called for sanctions,  targeted sanctions on those responsible for the   atrocities against the Uyghurs. It called,  crucially, for any further investment deals   to have protections for labor rights and labor  standards. Just a few days later, the EU went   ahead with this deal with none of those things.  Then, of course, the other thing that happened,   I forget the exact timeframe, but just  a matter of days beforehand, was the   arrest of the 53 in Hong Kong. Also it was a decision made   when the US is in transition, and you would have  thought the EU, as an ally of the United States,   would not undermine either the relationship with  the existing administration in its final days   or undercut the new administration before it’s  had a chance to make its position clear. So for   all those reasons, it was an extraordinary  decision for the EU to rush into. And it’s   been roundly condemned by people like Chris  Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong,   who is a former EU Commissioner, as well  as being the last governor of Hong Kong.   He is usually not a critic of the EU. He’s one  of the people in British politics, who’s very   much a supporter of the EU, but he made comments  that were quite rightly, extremely critical.   You mentioned the U.S. policy implications, or  how this kind of decision might impact the EU’s   relationship with the U.S. Let’s talk a little bit  about U.S. policy, broadly speaking. Right now,   roughly, the approach of the U.S.  to the Chinese Communist Party   is “distrust and verify.” That’s  the three-word summary. How has U.S.   policy changed in these last four  years, or perhaps even further back?   I think it’s changed significantly. Whatever  other observations or criticisms of the outgoing   president and administration people may have, the  one policy area that I would really give him and   the administration great credit for, is having the  courage to see the danger of the Chinese regime,   the repressiveness of that regime, and not just  the courage to see that and to say so, but to   change policy as a result. I really applaud  many of the things that administration has done   to move away from this naive idea that you  can just engage with such a repressive regime   behind closed doors only with words. Actually  what you need to get the message across   is punitive measures, the kind of sanctions that  the U.S. has introduced. I hope very much that the   new administration will continue that approach. My impression from people I talk to   in recent months in the United States, is that  broadly, that will be the case. Perhaps one of the   few areas of bipartisan consensus is on the China  question. Perhaps the one difference in the Biden   administration, and I’m a foreigner, so I speak  with all humility on this, but my understanding   is that perhaps the only change will be that  the new administration may try to take a more   multilateral approach, to try to build alliances  with other democracies to stand together on this.   I think that’s a good thing. I think the free  world needs to stand together and form a united   front to confront China’s United Front, as long as  that isn’t a lowest-common-denominator approach,   as long as it’s a robust approach. But yes,  policy has changed significantly in recent years   in the United States, and it’s starting  to in other parts of the free world.   Then this goes back to the previous question: How  can the US with its multiple direct approaches and   sanctions collaborate with the EU, which,  at least on the surface in my reading,   appears to be making a major trade deal with no  actual requirements, measurable requirements?   Absolutely. The deal certainly is a  setback. On the other hand—and it’s a   slightly confusing situation, because around the  same time as this deal, just slightly before,   the European Parliament voted on  legislation for targeted sanctions,   what we might call Magnitsky-style sanctions,  not in application to China, but as a   piece of legislation in general that they can  deploy against any human rights abusing regime   that meets the criteria. That’s a very welcome  step. Some of the statements that have come from   some European leaders have been much more robust  in the last year than was the case previously.   So I think there is common ground. We need to find  that common ground and recognize our common values   of democracy and human rights, and try to find  a way to work together to defend those values.   On this realm of multilateralism, I  just came across a report today that   reminded me that it appears that New Zealand is  embracing China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,”   and through that stepping away from—I don’t know  how well this would work—traditional alliances.   Yes, that’s certainly very concerning,  particularly at a time when its near neighbor and   close friend Australia is A, taking a much more  robust position and B, coming under unprecedented   pressure from China for that. One of the  things we ought to be doing much more of is   standing with each other—particularly  with countries that are not as   wealthy and influential as the United States.  [We should be] standing with our allies   when they come under pressure. We ought to be  walking absolutely in lockstep with Australia.   It’s unfortunate that New Zealand appears  to be taking that alternative position.   Something that’s really important to both you  and I, and this is something that has been a   centerpiece of the U.S. policy over the last four  years, is this question of freedom of belief,   freedom of religion, you described in the  report as freedom of religion and belief,   I’m not sure the exact distinction.  You describe this as having   gotten much, much worse over the last four  years. You’ve described the Uyghur situation.   Can you expand on this a little bit?  It’s very important to me personally.   Absolutely. There’s no doubt that the situation  across the board for freedom of religion   has deteriorated and continues to deteriorate very  significantly. I would say it’s probably the worst   time for religious freedom since the Cultural  Revolution. That’s the case for Christians.   We see growing numbers of churches over the last  few years being destroyed, crosses torn down. In   some cases, churches even blown up, dynamited. And even the state-approved, state-controlled   churches in some cases have been closed or  destroyed. In other cases, [they] are coming under   intense surveillance: surveillance cameras at the  altar recording every worshipper that’s there;   the imposition of CCP propaganda and portraits  of Xi Jinping and other leaders alongside—or in   some cases, even instead of—religious imagery;  prohibition of people under the age of 18 from   going to places of worship; and the list goes on. That’s all in the context or with the backdrop   of the Vatican having reached an agreement with  the Chinese regime in 2018, which it renewed   last year. That agreement was presumably designed  with the intention of improving the situation, but   the situation has absolutely worsened. On top of that, the continued persecution of   Falun Gong practitioners, intense  repression of Tibetan Buddhism,   and even your Taoists and other Buddhists  throughout the country, some of their temples   and places of worship have also been restricted  or targeted. So it is across the board.   The other thing that also is important to  say is that in the past, certainly more   before Xi Jinping—whilst the persecution  of Falun Gong practitioners was certainly   directed at a national level under Jiang  Zemin, in the case of Christians, for example—a   lot of it was left to a provincial or local  level. So you did see variations, depending on   the attitude of the local authorities. There were  national regulations, but they were implemented   sometimes leniently, sometimes more harshly. You  could see in some parts of China at that time   that gatherings of Christians could take place  as long as they weren’t in huge numbers and as   long as they weren’t regarded as a threat to the  authorities, if the authorities were a bit more   lenient in attitude. Today, policy across the   board is very much directed from the center.  Xi Jinping has taken part in a number of   conferences and meetings on religion policy,  issued a number of directives and speeches.   That hard line, centralized approach  has occurred under his leadership.   It’s very interesting. We, at the Epoch Times have  charted over those last 21 years of the Falun Gong   persecution, for example, how the technology  has changed, and [how they] used Falun Gong   practitioners effectively as a kind of  crucible for developing these technologies,   which they then applied full bore in Xinjiang,  and as I understand it, Tibet as well,   to basically persecute these  discrete geographical populations.   That’s right, but I think there’s also signs that  they’re rolling that out throughout the country.   One of the people who gave evidence to us for  this inquiry and described Xinjiang as the   laboratory for repressive surveillance. So  yes, it’s absolutely most repressively deployed   in Xinjiang and in Tibet, but I think  that’s with a view to rolling it out   throughout the country. The person who gave  that evidence, he actually titled his submission   to our inquiry, “Virtual Gulag,” and the  meaning is clear in both those words.   It’s interesting. I recently took it upon  myself to reread “The Gulag Archipelago,”   such an important work to understand the  reality of communist regimes. This is now   a little bit of my commentary, but as I’m  reading it, I’m seeing analogies not even just in   authoritarian regimes where things could be  going the wrong way, even in democracies.   Absolutely. Technology brings so many benefits to  it—the ability to communicate ideas, good ideas,   on social media, the ability to use technology  to try to track and constrain the virus during   this pandemic. But equally, it can  be hugely misused to silence dissent,   and to stir debate in an unhelpful way.  So it is a worrying time in that regard.   One of the areas that you focus on in the  report is the forced organ harvesting,   this murder for organs business in China. For  the uninitiated, we’ve talked about this before.   It’s something I’ve reported on since 2006,  when we first realized that it was real and not   the crazy idea that it sounds like it should  be. How has our understanding of the reality   of this murder for organs business in  China changed over the last four years?   I think it’s changed quite significantly.  When we carried out our inquiry in 2016,   that was the first time that I was presented  with detailed evidence. Obviously the evidence   was there prior to that, but it was the  first time I’d really encountered it.   I would admit that I was probably myself—I didn’t  dismiss it—but I was certainly a bit skeptical   because the claims were so, so shocking. But the more I talked to people who   had done expert research in this, the  more credible I found them to be. So we,   in our inquiry in 2016, after hearing it in  our first inquiry, we then held a separate   second inquiry, specifically on forced  organ harvesting. We were, as a commission,   convinced by what we heard and came out  with a short report and started raising   this with the British government and others. Then of course, there was the China Tribunal   chaired by Geoffrey Nice, QC, a man who led  the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic. [He]   knows atrocity crimes when he sees them and is  not someone who’s going to be easily persuaded by   unconvincing evidence. Plus, I would say  about that tribunal, that the panel members   were all very distinguished leaders and experts in  their field, but none of them were people who had   a prior agenda on human rights in China. In fact, most of them had no   prior involvement in China and certainly not with  the issue of organ harvesting, or with Falun Gong.   They came out with this incredibly strong  judgment, convinced that forced organ harvesting   continues to happen, and that it’s a crime  against humanity. I think that tribunal,   although it hasn’t resulted yet in the kind of  policy change at a government level that I would   hope still to see, I think it has changed  the debate. It’s made it much harder for   skeptics to dismiss the claims. We summarize the tribunal judgment   in this latest report. We’ll continue to call for  international action. I would also say the growing   evidence of forced organ harvesting, not only  from Falun Gong practitioners, but from Uyghurs   and others—I think all of that strengthens the  case, and it makes it really irrefutable, or   certainly very difficult to refute for  someone who’s particularly skeptical.   From reading in the report, and I didn’t realize  this earlier, I understand that Sir Geoffrey Nice,   because of the successful work of the China  Tribunal, is now going to be convening a similar   tribunal on the Uyghur question, is that right? That’s correct. He’s been   asked by the Uyghur community to carry that  out, to address specifically the question   of whether what’s happening amounts to genocide  because increasingly, people are saying that   it is. But again, as with the forced organ  harvesting issue, there are skeptics. In a way,   that’s understandable because genocide is an  extremely strong and a very specific legal term.   Although I think the indicators of genocide are  pretty substantial, it’s very welcome that a   group of legal experts are going to look at it and  answer the question from a legal point of view.   I’m just remembering from reading  the China Tribunal report,   they were looking at the question of  whether this forced organ harvesting   constitutes a genocide against Falun  Gong practitioners. They concluded   not necessarily because there’s this huge profit  motive, because of the scale of the harvesting and   it makes it a billion-dollar industry.  This juxtaposition, I didn’t know   what I should think at this moment because  what do you say to that? It’s almost genocide   but because of the profit motive, it’s  not just pure wholesale destruction.   Yes, and I can understand that, and that’s why  I think it’s important to hold, if you like,   two positions in tandem. The first is that if  something is a genocide, we should call it by   its name and that’s why I think we should  demand of the international community that   it answers the question: Is what’s  happening to the Uyghurs a genocide?   But on the other hand, any legal judgment  that says, perhaps it’s not quite a genocide   in legal terms, certainly doesn’t excuse us  from recognizing it as a set of extremely   egregious, grave, atrocities, crimes, and “crimes  against humanity” is probably the other term   that one should use in international law. So if a  genocide determination in legal terms isn’t made,   that certainly shouldn’t let anyone off the hook.  These are the worst possible crimes, whatever name   you give to them. But if they do meet the criteria  of genocide, then we should name it as such.   I have to talk about this. I’ve avoided doing  this for years. I have a father-in-law that’s   a Holocaust survivor. As I said,  we’ve made this film about him,   and I’m aware of the sensitivities of the issue  of the Holocaust. But the more I think about the   Chinese Communist regime, there are just so many  parallels to the realities of the Nazi regime,   including all these Western companies working with  that regime back in the 30s and 40s, and frankly,   through the war even. This is a touchy area.  I don’t know if you want to comment on this.   I think I’d make two comments. I think there  are certainly parallels with the Nazi period   but there are equally parallels of course  with the Soviet era, especially Stalin   and Stalin’s gulag. So I think we should be  careful about aligning it to one particular   horrific, repressive dictatorship in time  when it has parallels with a number of them.   But where I think the analogy is  particularly strong, and you’ve said this,   is the complicity of Western companies,  which you didn’t have with the Soviet Union.   In fact, there was a debate about a year ago  that was introduced in the British Parliament   by Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of the  Conservative Party, who in fact has endorsed our   report and has been very outspoken on these  issues. He made the point that actually,   if we knew that at the time in the Holocaust that  German corporations were providing the cameras,   or the fencing, or the other equipment in  Auschwitz, would we be doing business with them?   We probably were [doing business with them],  but I’m not sure we would have if we’d   been more conscious at the time, and  certainly, we weren’t doing that with   Soviet companies that were building Stalin’s  gulag. So I think that there is a parallel there   and that’s where we need more pressure on  Western corporations to make sure that either   [they] stop doing business with this regime or at  a minimum, to make sure that their supply chains,   as far as possible, are not built on slave  labor and that we’re not using technology   from these Chinese tech companies that are at the  heart of the Orwellian surveillance system.   Ben, you mentioned you’re an advocate for  multilateralism, basically working with   some of these international institutions,  multiple countries working together to   form this united front. One of the things that’s  actually mentioned in your report, which I think   is incredibly important, is the Chinese Communist  Party’s subversion of multilateral institutions   like multiple agencies of the UN. China’s sitting on top of the UN Human   Rights Council, which a lot of human rights  activists see as a complete affront to the   organization. And not the only human rights  abuser, I think there’s many, many of them there.   Tell me about this. How has China subverted the  multilateral organizations? You describe it as the   rules-based order in the world. Then we  can talk a bit more about what to do.   Well, the subversion is certainly extensive.   I don’t have the figures on  hand, but a significant number of   Chinese Communist Party officials have taken up  key positions in the UN bureaucracy, as well as   the things you’ve already mentioned, their seats  on the Human Rights Council and their influence   over the World Health Organization. We’ve seen  that in the course of the pandemic, even having   within the period that we were carrying out this  inquiry or the period that we were looking at,   China had the head of Interpol. They managed  to just disappear the head of Interpol,   which was quite an extraordinary thing. So it’s definitely extensive. We’ve seen at the   UN, for example, China’s influence in being able  to veto NGOs [non-government organizations] that   it doesn’t like, human rights organizations,  from having representative status at the UN.   We’ve seen multiple times, Chinese delegates  at the Human Rights Council trying to   cut off or silence human rights critics,  during the various dialogues that take place   between NGOs and member states. We even see  intimidation at the Human Rights Council of   China-focused human rights groups. The  Chinese delegation comes and photographs   them or harasses them. These things  have been going on for some time.   My own view is two things really. First,  that however flawed and bad the system is,   it’s in the interest of the free and  democratic world to get back in there   and take it back and take influence back, rather  than just cede that influence to China where they   can continue to wreak havoc. That’s not going  to be easy, but I think it’s worth trying.   The second thing I would say is that  multilateralism shouldn’t be at the   expense of unilateral action, where that’s  necessary and justified and the only   option. In other words, I think I said earlier,  it shouldn’t be the lowest common denominator.   We should try to work together with allies  across free countries, as much as possible,   but that shouldn’t excuse the countries from  taking their own action, where that’s necessary.   I have to mention this. We published a  report today looking at various FARA filings,   the Foreign Agent Registration  Act filings here in the US.   Since 2009, there were 120 journalists across  50 news organizations, our journalists found,   that were wined and dined by the China  United States Exchange Foundation,   which is run by a Chinese Communist Party agent,  and basically part of the United Front operation   to make the western journalists and media  as friendly as possible to the regime.   This isn’t just happening in the US, I’m sure.  There are other reports of a similar nature.   Frankly we’re seeing this kind of thing—this  is just the journalism profession.   This is across the board in academia, in local  government, in national government. You’ve heard   about Christine Fang infiltrating congressional  offices, it goes on and on. How does the west,   the UK, Canada, the U.S., deal with this  ever-present infiltration and subversion?   It’s particularly well documented in a book,  I’m sure you’re very familiar with, called   “Hidden Hand” which really details the extent of  this across the democratic world. I should say,   I’ve had my own very small experience of this  in that I’ve had at least four different British   members of parliament on four different occasions  telling me that they have been directly lobbied   by the Chinese embassy to tell me to stop doing  what I’m doing, to tell me to stop speaking.   To their credit, all four members of parliament  made it clear to me that they were not telling me   to stop doing what I’m doing. They were just  alerting me to the fact that they had been   lobbied. So if that’s going on just with me,  I wonder what the full extent of it is.   In terms of what to do, I think it’s  not an easy balance to achieve because,   on the one hand, I think we’ve been naive.  We’ve had our heads in the sand for too long.   That’s how we’re in this  situation. On the other hand,   we can’t seriously say that we’re going to  exclude all Chinese students. Well, we could,   but I don’t think it would be the right path to  say we’re going to exclude all Chinese students,   or we’re going to cut off all ties with China,  or we’re going to expel any Chinese person.   The danger with that is it plays into the  Chinese regime’s narrative about the West,   which is that this is an anti-China or sinophobic  attitude. I think we need to be very clear that   [it’s] far from being anti-the  people of China. I’m deeply pro-China   as a country, as a people, as a culture. I’ve  spent most of my adult life in and around China,   have many Chinese friends. [I] speak a few words  of Chinese and write a few Chinese characters, but   not much more than that. The point is, we must send the message   to the people of China that we are pro-them, we’re  anti-the Chinese Communist Party regime. So to get   that message across, and to get that balance, I  think we need to navigate this quite carefully.   We should look into more stringent background  checks and security checks. We should look at   whether we have Chinese students studying  in our universities who are studying certain   disciplines that could be advantageous to the  Chinese state in terms of technology and so on.   And crucially, we should look at institutions like  the Confucius Institutes and other bodies that are   part of the regime’s propaganda apparatus. We  should stand up for our values in our academic   institutions and other bodies. We will talk to the  Chinese, but we should not allow ourselves to be   compromised by … funding or entertainment. I know one or two individuals who on other issues   have taken—in other parts of the world—a very good  and strong line on human rights, but who happened   to have been given an honorary professorship at  Beijing University. The moment they’re given that   their ego is flattered, and they lose  all sense of defending their values. So,   we need to be much more robust at resisting those  sort of temptations and defend our values.   There’s a lot of thought and detail that  needs to go into how to navigate that balance   and how to communicate that message that we’re  for the people of China. We need to defend   our freedoms and national security and stand  up for theirs against the Chinese regime.   I agree with you. I think this is an incredibly  difficult question and I look forward to seeing   policy with teeth, so to speak, being  developed further in the UK and Canada,   I hope in the U.S. ongoing. So you mentioned the  “Hidden Hand.” The publisher of the “Hidden Hand”   is organizing a panel along with one of the  think tanks that I often look to in Canada,   the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.  You’re going to be on it tomorrow.   Tell me about this panel, what  are we going to see there?   It’s a very extensive panel looking at the  whole question of human rights in China. It   follows a panel that we had last September  that looked specifically at Hong Kong.   It’s a panel that brings together a  number of activists from China. There’s a   Uyghur speaker, there’s a very prominent Chinese  dissidents lawyer, but also politicians from   across the world, and academics and experts. Crucially, I think one of the things that’s   very interesting about it is that it includes a  very bipartisan range of speakers. Personally,   I’m a human rights activist and I work in a  very bipartisan way but obviously, I’m also   in the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission.  This panel is taking place tomorrow, the day after   [we] have launched this report. On the same panel are the leader of the   German Green Party in the European Parliament,  Reinhard Bütikofer, who is a tremendously vocal   and strong advocate for human rights in China, and   the British Labour Party’s Shadow Minister for  Asia, Stephen Kinnock, who equally has been very   courageous in speaking out on these issues, and  Carolyn Bartholomew, who’s Nancy Pelosi’s former   Chief of Staff and holds a key position  in a congressional commission. She’s the   chair of one of the commissions on China. So it really is a bipartisan mix, and I think   the bipartisan message and the international or  multilateral message are the two messages that   need to be heard in Beijing. Beijing is not going  to divide us—or shouldn’t be able to divide us—by   country or by political preference. We all  stand on the side of freedom and human rights,   and if we can get that message across and use  that platform to strengthen an alliance across   the free world to confront a growing danger of the  CCP, then it will be very valuable to our panel.   We’re going to finish up shortly. Any final  thoughts before we do? Once again, give me the   bottom line on China under the Chinese Communist  Party right now and what people should know?   I think the bottom line is that China has gone  significantly backwards under Xi Jinping in   respect to human rights. No one is safe in China  now. We see that with even Jack Ma [co-founder and   former executive chairman of Alibaba Group], we’re  not sure where he is and what’s happened to him.   The Chinese Communist Party has always been, of  course, very repressive but ten, twenty years ago,   there was a degree of space. There were human  rights lawyers who could take up human rights   cases. Of course, they were under pressure but  they had a certain space to do what they did.   Christians had a certain space if they didn’t  step over the line. That space is gone now. The   red lines that used to exist are no longer there  and nobody has any freedom at all in China, and I   think the free world needs to wake up to that. I hope that this report that we’ve published will   serve not just as a wake-up call and a set of  recommendations for the British government and   politicians here but actually, for other  governments as well, that it will show that   the repression is so comprehensive, so pervasive,  affecting everybody in China, and not just   affecting people in China, but affecting people  beyond China’s borders as well. The sooner we wake   up to that … I think people are waking up to  it, but we need to act fast before it’s too late.   Final question: why does it matter to the fellow  sitting watching in the UK, sitting watching in   the US, sitting watching in Canada, that doesn’t  interact with China very much in any way?   I think it matters in a number of ways.  First of all, do you really want to be buying   clothes or car parts, or computers or telephones  that have been made by not just slave labor, but   as we’ve talked in this program, people who are in  a situation that has parallels with the Holocaust?   If we know that’s happening, do we want to be  doing that? Most ordinary people anywhere in the   free world would answer that question, “No.” Of  course, we want our clothes and our computers and   so on. But we want them to be made ethically and  not by such horrific and extensive slave labor.   Secondly, do we want to defend our freedoms?  Do we believe in our liberties? If we do,   then we need to recognize that they’re threatened  by this regime. They’re threatened by the regime   most immediately by infiltration, by  the use of technology and surveillance.   But further down the line, if we don’t  stand up to what this regime is doing   to the Uyghurs, its dismantling of freedom in  Hong Kong, its total breach of an international   treaty in Hong Kong—if we allow them to get away  with breaking international treaties with no   consequences— then, not only is Taiwan  going to be next, but after Taiwan,   they’re not going to stop there. For that  reason, it’s in our interest to stand up.   Again, to draw a parallel with the period of  history that we’ve touched on a number of times,   we see what happens, what the consequences are  when we don’t respond early on—Sudetenland,   Czechoslovakia, Poland, and then we  found ourselves in a world war. Now, I’m   neither advocating nor predicting a world war.  But I think that history shows the trajectory   is there if we allow such a regime to continue  on with impunity, and not just with impunity,   but with our own complicity. Sooner  or later, the consequences are clear,   and that’s why we need to act. Benedict Rogers, such a pleasure   to have you on again. Thank you very much.

Source : Youtube

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *