'We must continue to stand up to China and their abuse of human rights': Harborough MP speaks out after he was personally targeted by the Chinese

In his own words, Harborough MP Neil O’Brien tell us about the bizarre sanctions imposed on him - and why China will be one of our biggest challenges over the next few years

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 10:31 am
Updated Thursday, 8th April 2021, 10:32 am
Harborough MP Neil O’Brien made huge headlines both at home and around the world when he was suddenly hit with hardline sanctions by China – and banned from going there.

Harborough MP Neil O’Brien made huge headlines both at home and around the world when he was suddenly hit with hardline sanctions by China – and banned from going there. Our local MP was backed by both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden as he was one of nine British people and four institutions targeted by the “communist superpower”. Beijing acted four days after the UK, US, Canada and European Union slapped sanctions on Chinese officials accused of human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in the country's autonomous north-west territory Xinjiang. In his own words, Neil here tells the Harborough Mail what the UK and the west has to do now to counter and combat an increasingly “aggressive and bullying” Chinese regime.

People regularly ask me what a typical day in the life of an MP is like, to which I often say ‘unpredictable’.

This was certainly the case last week when I found I was the target of sanctions by the Chinese government.

I’m one of nine people personally targeted by the communist superpower, including four other MPs.

Our supposed crime? Highlighting human rights abuses taking place in the Xinjiang province in China, where the Uyghur Muslim population are being herded into detention camps and subject to disgusting forms of torture which echo the darkest moments of the Second World War.

The sanctions make no difference to me personally.

I own no assets in China and wasn’t planning on visiting any time soon, not least because they recently kidnapped two prominent Canadian citizens.

But their threat isn’t really aimed at me anyway – but instead, at business people and others.

The message is - don’t speak out about what we do, no matter how abhorrent, or you’ll face the consequences.

We’ve seen various attempts like this to silence criticism from a number of countries over recent decades - but not from an economic superpower that is currently the world’s second largest economy.

We’ve seen increasing Chinese aggression and attempts to bully and intimidate other countries over recent years, such as Australia, Canada and Sweden,” said Neil.

The growing threat is not one that the UK or any other country should ignore.

International alliances will be crucial in putting forward a united front to show that, despite the ever-growing economic power of China, nations will not be scared into silence or turning a blind eye to genocide in order to keep the Chinese Communist Party happy.

We have to work together with other democracies to protect our jobs and living standards too.

China has ripped off our technology, and uses unfair subsidies to undercut companies in Britain and across the west.

That’s why I was one of the founders of the China Research Group of MPs, which aims to work out how to respond to China’s growing aggression and the threat posed to democracy and free speech.

The USA is under new leadership.

And one of the reasons I was sanctioned is that democracies around the world are now starting to work together to take action against human rights abuses by the Chinese government – and Beijing is stung by that.

Figuring out how we and our allies respond to this, is one of the greatest global challenges we will face in the years to come.