Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has described the UK’s reliance on cheap goods from the “brutal, dictatorial” Chinese regime as a “trade-off of human lives”.
Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Sir Iain said he did not believe the relaxation of lockdown rules in China following recent protests was a sign of change in the world’s largest manufacturing economy.
He said: “With China, this is a brutal, dictatorial government which thinks nothing of incarcerating people, it’s carrying out genocide amongst the Uighur in Xinjiang, slave labour – products we buy has slave labour – this is a government which thinks nothing of cracking down.
“Their control is total, they use technology in a way that we couldn’t just imagine over here, all of which tells me they aren’t going anywhere soon, they are determined their form of government is right.
“I don’t think we should over-read this, President Xi is absolutely determined that the form of government he has is the right form of government for everywhere and he’s selling it to the developing world right now.”
Sir Iain highlighted the presence of “illegal Chinese police stations” in the UK and across Europe, the dependence of the UK economy on China including universities, and the proposed new Chinese embassy in London as areas of concern.
He called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to take a tougher stance against China by declaring it a “systemic threat”, a move which could then influence all areas of Government policy regarding the Asian country.
He said: “I am deeply disappointed in my Government over this particular area. The Prime Minister said over the summer that he thought that China represented a systemic threat but he recently shifted that to systemic challenge and the problem with ‘challenge’ is it seems weak.”
Sir Iain said the reliance on cheap goods from China to help avoid a recession in the UK was a “trade-off of human lives”.
He said: “I think this is a trade-off of human lives. For me the Uighur being incarcerated, the women being forcefully sterilised, often raped, we have children in re-education camps, Christian churches being cracked down on, arrests taking place; in Hong Kong people being arrested for their democracy campaign.
“Where do you draw the line? Do we turn a blind eye to all of that, do we keep going on making money out of China?
“My answer is we diversify, bring some of these technologies back to Europe, to Britain, to America, start looking at India and others to invest more to develop them more as a counterbalance.
“We can’t keep go on turning a blind eye to the fact that our cheaper products come from countries that use slave labour, it’s not on.”
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