UK-China relations: The good, bad and ugly
By Saff Silvester, 9 May 2021
Hi, my name is Saff and I took part in work experience with I have a voice. I had the opportunity to gain a valuable insight into the world of politics that I don’t believe I could have gotten otherwise. For this experience we were divided in groups where we had the opportunity to articulate and debate our views on modern political issues and create a campaign. My group chose to focus of Chinese Politics. This is an overview of our campaign and how you can take action!
We decided to split it into three main categories: Uyghur Muslim Camps; Chinese rule and lack of liberty in Hong Kong; and my area, China’s push for a transarctic shipping route. Once divided, we set off to conduct research and create a lasting campaign that the public can be involved in. One of our priorities was to ensure our campaign was accessible and that everyone can be involved, leading to our motto, One World: Our Voices, Our Problems.
In 1842 China signed Hong Kong island to Britain after the First Opium War and in 1898 China officially leased the New Territories together with 235 islands to Britain for 99 years from 1 July. Over the decades, thousands of Chinese migrants fleeing domestic upheavals settled in the colony, and by the approach of the handover date, Hong Kong was established as an economic powerhouse in Asia. Handover talks began in 1982 and by 1984 Britain and China signed the Joint Declaration on how Hong Kong would revert to Chinese rule in 1997.
Under the "one country, two systems" formula, Hong Kong would become part of one communist-led country but retain its capitalist economic system and partially democratic political system for 50 years after the handover (expiring in 2047). So in 1997 Hong Kong was officially handed back to Chinese authorities.
Throughout the 2000s there were many pro-democracy Hong Kong protests and calls for more democratic reforms to pressure China to grant full democracy to the territory. By August 2014 Chinese government announced that for the 2017 election, only candidates approved by Beijing would be allowed to run, this led to the Umbrella Movement of mass pro-democracy demonstrations, with the city centre occupied for weeks. Over the following years these protests continued against Chinese influence in Hong Kong, opposing various Chinese attempts to limit democracy and autonomy.
Then last year, 2020, China, not Hong Kong’s Council, passed a security law that punishes protesters. This leads to a cycle of entrapment, when harsher legislation comes into place, Hong Kong citizens aren’t able to protest for their desired rights without being shut down.
Moreover, immigration from Hong Kong has been made exceedingly difficult, as to leave the country, people must go to court and be granted the right to leave. Fortunately, the UK has opened up a five-year citizenship for Hong Kong residents with a British National (Overseas) passport. But to turn it on it’s head, China has said they won’t recognise it.
We're also concerned that if people do manage to leave, there will be limited support available for them people once they arrive in the UK. This has been debated by our government.
Use our template to write to your MP, requesting support for integration schemes, as well as taking economic action to sanction China for breaking the terms of the 1997 handover. This was written by Laura.
The Polar Silk Road
My focus was on the Trans Arctic Shipping Route. This route, also known as, the Polar Silk Road, is a shipping route that will cut directly through the Arctic when it inevitably melts. China, though not an Arctic State, has control over the Arctic Shipping Routes. My argument is, that instead of pushing for the Arctic to melt, we should focus on preservation. This shipping route would endanger humans as well as animals, by rising sea levels, causing shipping pollution and killing of Arctic species and human inhabitants.
Almost 4 million people live in the Arctic. To put that into perspective, that’s the population of state secondary schools in England, or close to the entire population of Croatia. Worrying statistics like extinction rates have increased by 68% since 1970 (WWF), and only 0.5% of our oceans being effectively monitored (Seaspiracy, Netflix) proves the prevalence with minimal emphasis. I also compiled some ways to protect the Arctic too. Joining the CPTPP trade agreement would allow for better relations with Canada, an Arctic State, that has had marine wildlife protection at its heart since signing the AWPPA in the 1970s. Other prevention strategies lie in using the COP26 meeting being held by the UK in November to raise this issue and push back against future trade plans reliant on Arctic melting.
The UK could also seek to influence China directly, we already have a Clean Energy Partnership with China, but the focus is swayed. My proposal requires a focus on a specific plan and timeline instead of the current broader ones, for example, clean shipping. In turn, it would mean that China has a lesser need for the Polar Silk Road and can focus on clean transport, whilst also supporting the UK’s economy after leaving the EU, and both stay on path to meet the Paris
Agreement. Like Laura, I constructed a draft email, supported by statistics that you can email to your MP and get them to speak up on issue.
The 're-education' of Uyghur Muslims
Angel and Niamh felt passionately about the ‘re-education camps’ that are holding the Uyghur Muslims captive. They found that over 1 million people are currently being detained and separated from their families. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute found more than 380of these ‘re-education camps’ in Xinjiang, an increase of 40% on previous estimates. The treatment of these Muslims is thought to be inhumane and people who have managed to escape the camps have reported physical, mental, and sexual torture - women have spoken of accounts of systematic mass rape, sexually abused, and torture. There is evidence that China has been forcing birth control by forcibly mass sterilising Uighur women and through forced vasectomies for males in order to suppress the population. This is simply unacceptable.
Angel and Niamh found this issue hit closer to home than expected; the ‘BBC said half a million people were being forced and sent on mass into the cotton fields to pick cotton. The evidence suggests that China's cotton crop – one-fifth (20%) of the world’s supply is used widely throughout the global fashion industry’. These people’s religion and culture is being diminished and reconstructed for the benefit of China’s economy. Niamh and Angel suggested boycotting the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and cutting off some trade to impact China’s economy. What do you think about boysoctting the Olympics?
What can you do to help this issue? Well, to start thin about your favourite clothes shops, can they definitively say that none of the cotton used in their garments is from the Xinjiang region. If they can't guarantee that slave labour isn’t being used in the manufacturing, then try not to purchase from them, and educate those around you about the impact it’ll have if they do too.
The last significant and vital part of our campaign, referenced multiple times above, is the websitehttps://ourvoicesourproblems.wixsite.com/oneworld. Savina used her IT skills to create a lasting presentation of our efforts. It shows, in detail, our focuses and current progress, whilst also providing details of each focus group. We would love for you to take a moment to read over our website and feel inspired to take action. After all, it’s One World: Our Voices, Our Problems.
WWF Living Planet Report: https://livingplanet.panda.org/en-gb/