The UK’s Conservative Party Human Rights Commission is calling on the British government to reconsider its China policy in the light of China’s recent crackdown on human rights.

The commission will launch a new report on Tuesday on China’s deteriorating human rights record since 2013, and ask the UK government to reconsider its relationship with China in light of the findings, according to a press release.

The report, entitled The Darkest Moment: The Crackdown on Human Rights in China 2013-2016, details China’s treatment of human rights lawyers, use of torture, its detention of Hong Kong booksellers, the crackdown on freedom of expression, and the situation in Tibet and Hong Kong, among other issues.

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping during his state visit in 2015. Photo: UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

It is critical of the UK’s current relationship with China, stating: “Given the overwhelming evidence of a very grave deterioration in the human rights situation over the past three years, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned about the UK Government’s decision to develop a friendship with the government of the People’s Republic of China, without this being an appropriately critical friendship, particularly at this juncture and especially in the manner in which the relationship has been presented, described and calibrated.”

It contains evidence from Joshua Wong, leader of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, Anastasia Lin, the winner of Miss World Canada who was banned from China for her human rights work, and Chen Guangcheng, the blind human rights activist. Former Hong Kong Chief Secretary Anson Chan and the founder of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party Martin Lee also co-wrote a submission to the inquiry.

Chen Guangcheng, Anson Chan, Anastasia Lin, Joshua Wong, Angela Gui.

The report will be launched by Chris Patten, the former Governor of Hong Kong.

“This is a comprehensive and well researched analysis of China’s increasingly deplorable human rights record. I am obviously concerned about what has been happening in Hong Kong. The British Government must take account of this first-class piece of work,” he said ahead of the launch.

Former Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten. File Photo: Wikimedia.

Fiona Bruce, chair of the commission, said: “Without exception, every submission to our inquiry detailed a severe deterioration in human rights in China since 2013 and revealed a situation which is the worst China has seen for many years, possibly since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Witnesses told us that many recent developments were ‘unprecedented.’”

“In light of this, we believe it is time for the UK Government to rethink its approach to China, to speak out publicly and consistently on human rights, and consider ways it can more effectively promote and protect basic rights that are being gravely violated in mainland China and in Hong Kong.”

Relations between the UK and China have improved significantly in recent years, with British politicians explicitly stating a desire to become “China’s best partner in the West.” During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the UK last year, China and the UK cemented several large trade deals, including a deal for a Chinese nuclear power plant on British soil, entering a “golden era” of bilateral relations.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.