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Lawmakers from 18 countries form group for global response to ‘defining challenge’ of China

President of China Xi Jinping. (Kremlin/Released)
June 09, 2020

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Lawmakers from 18 countries have allied to create collective responses to Chinese trade, security and human rights policies, a project the politicians called the “defining challenge for the world’s democratic states”

The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) consists of 18 China-skeptic lawmakers from the United States, the European Union, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Germany, and Japan.

The group was formed amid widespread concerns about China’s decision to impose a national security law in Hong Kong, its lack of transparency in handling the Covid-19 pandemic, its assertive behavior in the South China Sea and Chinese influence in domestic politics of democratic countries.

“Developing a coherent response to the rise of the People’s Republic of China as led by the Chinese Communist Party is a defining challenge for the world’s democratic states,” said the group, which launched on June 5.

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Leading figures in the group include U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez and Iain Duncan Smith, a former leader of the Conservative Party in Britain.

“The assumptions that once underpinned our engagement with Beijing no longer correspond to the reality. The Chinese Communist Party repeatedly and explicitly states its intention to expand its global influence. As a direct result, democratic values and practices have come under increasing pressure,” IPAC said in a statement.

Rubio and Menendez have pushed legislative efforts in Congress to confront China on issues including the treatment of Tibetans and Uyghurs and the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, the first legislation by any government to target China for its persecution of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), awaits the signature of President Donald Trump.

The bill would sanction Chinese government officials responsible for arbitrary incarceration, forced labor and other abuses in the XUAR, home to internment camps holding as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslims.

Rubio and Menendez were also backers of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which calls for Washington to reevaluate the city’s special status as a separate legal jurisdiction and trading entity.

The Trump administration announced on May 29 it would begin the process of taking away the special trade and investment status it grants Hong Kong, in response to China’s decision to impose a national security law that ends the city’s status as a separate legal jurisdiction.

Rubio–co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, an influential panel on rights and rule of law—told RFA “the Chinese Government and the Chinese Communist Party pose serious threats to the international rules-based system and human rights and these challenges demand a global response.”

The Uyghur Human Rights Project, a Washington-based advocacy group, called the alliance “exactly the kind of cooperation and joint action that the response to the crimes against humanity by the Chinese government against Uyghurs and to the human rights situation in China more broadly has lacked.”

“The Chinese government has sought to divide and silence states and government officials, using its power and influence to stifle criticism and concrete action on the issue,” it said in a statement.

Ngodup Tsering, Representative of the Dalai Lama in Washington told RFA’s Tibetan Service the alliance was “a great development” that he hoped would make a “forceful global impact.”

Greater focus on Beijing’s policies by democracies is “very positive for Tibet as China has constantly abused and deprived Tibetans of all forms of human rights,” he said.

Writing in The Diplomat, Benedict Rogers, an IPAC advisor and activist at the international human rights organization CSW said politicians across the spectrum had united to address “the question of how to deal with Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime” and would have different approaches.

“Some may choose to focus on human rights or economic “decoupling”; others might pursue climate change or security,” Rogers wrote.

“Some might call for targeted Magnitsky-style sanctions or a “life boat” rescue package to offer sanctuary for pro-democracy activists in grave danger in Hong Kong, while others may prefer to pursue constructive engagement with China on the issues where we have no choice but to try to work with the CCP, such as climate change,” he added,

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the alliance represented “cold war” thinking.

“We urge a small number of politicians to respect the facts, the basic norms of international relations, abandon the cold war mentality and ideological prejudice, stop using various issues to interfere in China’s internal affair and stop engaging in political manipulation for their own interests,” he told a press conference.