Prominent Catholic politicians have vowed to hold China to account over its human rights abuses after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed sanctions on them for spreading what it called “lies and disinformation” about the country.
Crossbench peer Lord David Alton of Liverpool and Tory MPs Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Tom Tugendhat, all of whom are Catholic, were among a list of nine UK citizens to have sanctions imposed on them, including a travel ban preventing them from entering the country.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered his full support to the group, who are among the most vocal critics of China in the UK.
The sanctions follow similar moves by the UK, US, Canada and the EU on China. The CCP has also announced similar sanctions on US and Canadian officials.
However, Lord Alton, a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), pointed out that the CCP’s “imposition of tit for tat sanctions is a crude attempt to silence criticism”.
“The CCP needs to learn that you can’t silence the whole world and that the first duty of a parliamentarian is to use their voice on behalf of those whose voices have been silenced,” he told The Catholic Universe.
“British Parliamentarians will go on speaking truth to power, and truth to tyranny, using their freedoms and raising their voices on behalf of those who are denied such rights and privileges.”
Echoing the peer’s comments, Mr Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee, said the “contrast is clear” when it comes to China’s reasons for imposing sanctions.
“Britain puts sanctions on individuals who violate the human rights of Chinese citizens,” he said. “China puts sanctions on individuals who defend the human rights of Chinese citizens.”
Former Tory leader Sir Iain, an IPAC member, said he would wear the sanctions “as a badge of honour”.
Other IPAC members hit by sanctions include Tory MPs Tim Loughton and Nusrat Ghani and Labour’s Baroness Helena Kennedy.
The other British individuals are Tory MP Neil O’Brien, barrister Geoffrey Nice and academic Joanne Smith Finley.
They are banned from entering China, Hong Kong and Macau, their property in China will be frozen and Chinese citizens are prohibited from doing business with them.
Mr Johnson recently met with the IPAC members in Downing Street’s rose garden to express his solidarity.
“I spoke with some of those who have been shining a light on the gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims,” he said following the meeting. “I stand firmly with them and the other British citizens sanctioned by China.”
In a joint statement the IPAC members said: “We take this opportunity to raise again the plight of the Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and other groups subject to persecution by the Chinese government.”
Picture: Prime Minister Boris Johnson with parliamentarians sanctioned by China. (Andrew Parsons/No 10 Downing Street).