Labour tells China it will act on interference in UK democracy


Labour has warned China that it will respond to any interference in UK democracy after the government announced fresh sanctions against hackers linked to Beijing.
The warning came at the party’s first public meeting with the Chinese government since Keir Starmer became Labour leader.
Catherine West, the shadow Asia minister, travelled to Beijing last week as part of a delegation of British MPs for meetings with senior Chinese government figures and businesses.
On Thursday and Friday, West attended meetings with Wang Huning, one of Xi Jinping’s appointees to China’s powerful seven-member politburo, and the vice-foreign minister, Deng Li.
West told the Guardian she had raised Labour’s concerns about Chinese interference in British democracy and national security, underlining that “this is something we will act on in government”.
It was the first public meeting between a Labour shadow minister and a Chinese government representative to take place since Starmer became leader of the party. Labour has said it will take a “clear-eyed” approach to China and has committed to conducting a cross-government audit of UK-China relations.
West told the Guardian: “The next Labour government will take a strong, clear-eyed and consistent approach to China. As part of this, it is vital that we raise issues of concern with the Chinese leadership – particularly on national security and human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong – when we have the chance to do so.
“That’s why it was so important for me to visit Beijing ahead of the election, and meet with senior Chinese leaders, to put on record our concerns about human rights, national security, and interference in our democracy and make it clear this is something we will act on in government.”
“Where it is in our interests, we must engage with China, and I was pleased to talk with Chinese counterparts and the business community as part of this visit to set out our determination to see global cooperation on the climate crisis and our commitment to work with and support British business in the world’s second largest economy.”
West was part of a cross-party delegation of MPs including the Conservatives Richard Graham, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on China, Mark Logan, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and Jonathan Djanogly.
The delegation was led by David Lidington, the former senior Tory cabinet minister who is now honorary president of the Great Britain China Centre, an FCDO arm’s-length body that conducts dialogue with Beijing.
The delegation stressed that China’s interference in democratic processes was of particular concern given Russia’s extensive interference through disinformation campaigns.
On Monday, the government announced sanctions against two members of a Beijing-linked hacking group and summoned the Chinese ambassador over cyber-attacks on the elections watchdog and several parliamentarians.
As well as security issues, West raised Labour’s human rights concerns, including the treatment of the Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang region in the north-west of China and the erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong.
The delegation she was part of also met businesses at a reception in Beijing held by the China-Britain Business Council and the British Chamber of Commerce in China.


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