International cooperation is needed to protect democratic values from an increasingly assertive communist China, a new group made up of lawmakers from eight countries and the EU parliament has said.
The legislators, representing parties across the political spectrum, have formed a global alliance, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, to push their governments to take a stronger stance on relations with the country.
In Britain, the group will be co-chaired by the Labour peer Helena Kennedy and the former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan-Smith. The other members of the group are Japan, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Australia and the European Union, as well as the US. The US senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez are co-chairs.
“China under the rule of the Chinese Communist party represents a global challenge,” the co-chairs said in a statement. “When countries have stood up for the values and human rights, they have done so alone, sometimes, at great cost. No country should have to shoulder this burden on their own.”
They added that “no nation should be able to freely jeopardise global values and human rights”.
The alliance comes at a time of rising tensions between Beijing and other major global powers, over everything from the status of Hong Kong and the origins of Covid-19 to the technology firm Huawei and China’s mass incarceration of Muslim minorities in its far-west Xinjiang region.
Beijing last month accused Washington of pushing the two countries towards a new cold war. This week it has repeatedly warned the UK of “consequences” for Boris Johnson’s offer of a path to citizenship for millions of Hong Kong residents, made in response to Beijing’s draconian new security law for the territory.
China’s increasingly authoritarian direction under Xi Jinping has undermined the belief that drove decades of engagement by democratic countries: that as the country became wealthier, it would open up politically.
The group said in a statement: “The assumptions that once underpinned our engagement with Beijing no longer correspond to the reality.
“The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China has been created to promote a coordinated response between democratic states to challenges posed by the present conduct and future ambitions of the People’s Republic of China.”
“By developing a common set of principles and frameworks that transcend domestic party divisions and international borders, our democracies will be able to keep the rules-based and human rights systems true to their founding purposes.”
A senior Chinese diplomat dismissed the group. “Its a misinterpretation of China’s foreign policy and a misreading of the current world situation,” Chen Wen, minister at the Chinese embassy in London told the BBC. “China is a force for positive change.”