Debate / Taiwan

17 September 2020
Question

12.48 pm

Asked by

Baroness D’Souza
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of the presence of the Chinese Air Force in Taiwan’s airspace; and what steps they are taking to support the independence of that country.

Debate / Taiwan

Volume 805: debated on Thursday 17 September 2020

12.48pm

Asked by

Baroness D’Souza (CB)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of the presence of the Chinese Air Force in Taiwan’s airspace; and what steps they are taking to support the independence of that country.

The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
(Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
My Lords, the United Kingdom is concerned by any activity that risks destabilising the cross-strait status quo. All sides should refrain from taking provocative Toggle showing location ofColumn 1394actions and resolve their differences through peaceful dialogue. Our long-standing policy on Taiwan has not changed; we have a strong, unofficial relationship with Taiwan based on dynamic commercial, educational and cultural ties.

Baroness D’Souza
I thank the Minister for his response. China clearly rejects international rules and values, as evidenced by events in Hong Kong, on the Sino-Indian border and in the South China Sea, and, most recently, by its repeated aggressive incursions into Taiwan’s airspace. Does not the UK’s reluctance to provide Taiwan with overt political, diplomatic and trade support indicate tolerance for China’s expansionist policies, with particular reference to Taiwan?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
My Lords, we remain very strong in ensuring that, on the basis I have already outlined, we continue to strengthen our wide range of exchanges with Taiwan, including in relation to trade. Where the recognition of a state is not a prerequisite to any involvement or engagement in international bodies, we have stood up for the right of Taiwan to be part of those discussions—we are very much in favour of that.

Lord Blencathra (Con)
Will my noble friend the Minister condemn this further blatant act of aggression by the communist regime in China of threatening its neighbours and stealing islands in the South China Sea? Will he work with all other free, democratic nations to strengthen the military commitment to Taiwan and make it clear that Taiwan is an independent country and not part of the People’s Republic of China?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
My Lords, as I have already outlined, we have repeatedly stood up on the basis of our relationship with Taiwan. On the actual challenges that Taiwan faces in the context of China, we consider that the Taiwan issue is one to be settled peacefully by the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Again, I reiterate to my noble friend that we call out where there are issues of disagreement with China, and anything that seeks to destabilise the current status quo in the Taiwan Strait is a matter of concern for Her Majesty’s Government.

Lord Kilclooney (CB)
My Lords, increasingly China is exercising its economic, military and political influence, as has been mentioned, in the South China Sea, India, Australia and of course Hong Kong, and in some nations in Africa and Latin America. Is it not time that there was a joint meeting of the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom to agree a joint policy towards China before there is a horrible incident?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
My Lords, there are many areas of concern, which I have outlined from the Dispatch Box, in China’s recent behaviour and its exercising particular policies and programmes within the context of the South China Sea, to which the noble Lord referred. We have discussed several times Toggle showing location ofColumn 1395in the Chamber, and I am sure will continue to, the recent concerns we have had over the actions it has taken through the security law in Hong Kong and the continued issue of human rights in mainland China, particularly with regard to the Uighurs. These will remain the subject of discussions with our allies, close friends and partners, as the noble Lord suggests.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
My Lords, the continued campaign to isolate Taiwan by the People’s Republic is limited not just to economic and military issues. There is, obviously, the response by the WHO. Of course, at the time of this pandemic, it is really important that Taiwan is able to input its response into the WHO. We need to ensure that this campaign of isolation does not continue. While I am on the subject of the WHO, what further has the Minister done to raise with it the clear evidence of forced organ harvesting in China? Will the UK argue for an end to self-assessment and a move towards independent verification?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, concerns have been raised with the World Health Organization on the issue of organ harvesting. I know the noble Lord is aware that the evidence does not comply with action in this regard, but I am sure that we will return to those discussions.

On the initial question about the World Health Organization and World Health Assembly, we continue to lobby in that respect. This is an organisation where the criteria that I outlined earlier about statehood not being a prerequisite applies. Given the performance of Taiwan in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, I think that it has an important contribution to make in this regard.

Baroness Northover (LD)
My Lords, the US Mission to the UN has tweeted that the UN

“was founded to serve … all voices”

in the world, and that

“Barring … Taiwan … is an affront not just to the … Taiwanese people, but to UN principles.”

Does the Minister agree?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
My Lords, as I have just said in my previous answer, we regard the relationship with Taiwan as an important one bilaterally. Equally, we believe that Taiwan has a role to play in international organisations where statehood is not a prerequisite. In the current pandemic of Covid-19, Taiwan’s response shows that it can make a valuable contribution. Therefore, we hope that in November, for example, at the World Health Assembly, it is allowed to attend as an observer.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark
My Lords, this country has recognised the Government in Beijing as the legitimate authority in China since January 1950, with a very distinctive status, as the Minister has acknowledged, for Taiwan, which should be discussed peacefully between the authorities in Taipei and those on the mainland. I am glad to hear about the Minister’s lobbying in connection with the World Health Toggle showing location ofColumn 1396Organization. Would he care to comment on this pattern of marked aggression by the current Chinese Government, which has sought to limit options for people at home and abroad and is so damaging?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is right to raise the importance of a peaceful discussion on the issue of Taiwan between people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. I agree with him. Increasingly we have seen human rights issues where China is concerned, and I have spoken on that from the Dispatch Box. Our relationship with China is a strategic one, but that does not prevent us from calling out human rights abuses when they occur.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate (Non-Afl)
My Lords, does the Minister accept that any representations that the UK makes in relation to the violation of Taiwan’s airspace by the PRC exemplify the unnecessary weakening of the UK’s authority and soft power brought about by the Government’s cavalier attitude to the admitted breach of international law by their introduction of the internal market Bill, which seeks to alter the provisions of the withdrawal agreement entered into with the European Union and signed by the Prime Minister?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
My Lords, on the noble Lord’s latter point, I think my right honourable friend the Prime Minister clarified the intent behind the internal market Bill. On the substance of the noble Lord’s question in general, we continue to defend the rights of people around the world, including those in China, where human rights abuses occur and where there are international agreements, as we have talked about before. On the agreements between China and the United Kingdom on Hong Kong, we will continue to lobby to ensure that “one country, two systems” is sustained going forward.

Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD)
My Lords, I recently had the pleasure of visiting Taiwan with the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and the noble Lord, Lord Best. I found there a proud, flourishing, democratic country, constantly bullied and threatened by China. Inexplicably, the UK does not recognise Taiwan. What steps have the Government actually taken to remonstrate with China over the recent unprovoked belligerence, and all the other petty measures that it regularly takes to try to intimidate its neighbour?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness about the vibrancy of the democracy. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary congratulated the president on her election at the time. I share the noble Baroness’s concern: whether we are talking about Taiwan or Hong Kong or mainland China, these are deeply concerning issues and we continue to raise them bilaterally, and where necessary in multilateral fora, to ensure that the issues can be addressed quite directly.

Lord Rogan (UUP) 
My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is united in its condemnation of China’s incursions into Taiwanese airspace, which are clearly acts of provocation. Have Her Majesty’s Toggle showing location ofColumn 1397Government made their opposition to these actions clear to the Chinese ambassador in London? What consideration has been given to supporting Taiwan in strengthening its military defences as a means of demonstrating our revulsion at Beijing’s arrogant aggression?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
My Lords, I can reassure the noble Lord on any attempt to impact the status quo. I say again what I said before: the issue of Taiwan is one to be settled peacefully for both sides. It is important for China to sustain and retain its objective of settling any disputes with Taiwan in a peaceful manner and in the interests of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The Deputy Speaker
(Lord McNicol of West Kilbride) (Lab)
My Lords, the time allocated for this Question has elapsed.

12.59pm
Sitting suspended.

Debate / Taiwan

Volume 804: debated on Tuesday 14 July 2020

12.06pm

Asked by

Baroness D’Souza (CB)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what (1) diplomatic, and (2) practical, assistance they are providing to the government of Taiwan; and what plans they have to formally recognise Taiwan as an independent sovereign state.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development
(Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
My Lords, the United Kingdom’s long-standing policy on Taiwan has not changed. We have no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but a strong unofficial relationship based on dynamic commercial, educational and cultural ties. We regularly lobby in favour of Taiwan’s participation in international organisations where statehood is not a prerequisite, and we make clear our concerns about any activity that risks destabilising the cross-strait status quo. We have no plans to recognise Taiwan as a state.

Baroness D’Souza
I thank the Minister for his sympathetic response. President Xi has made it clear that “one country, two systems” is the plan for Taiwan, and the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2021 has been mentioned as a possible deadline. Will the Government consider taking small but significant steps and work with other like-minded nations less susceptible to Chinese influence to clarify and entrench Taiwan’s de facto independence? Such steps might specifically include inviting Taiwan as a guest to G7 meetings, lobbying for membership of the OECD as well as of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and considering Cabinet-level ministerial visits to Taiwan.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, while noting what the noble Baroness said, I assure her that we continue to work with like-minded partners, particularly on participation for Taiwan in those organisations where statehood is not a prerequisite. Those include the World Health Organization. We also believe that Taiwan has an important role to play in the spheres of education and climate change.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con)
My Lords, Taiwan has been preparing for a pandemic since the SARS epidemic in 2003. As a result, it has been able to tackle the terrible ravages of Covid-19 with great success. But at the World Health Assembly in May, the attendees, including us, were unable to learn about the methods of its success because Taiwan’s attendance as an observer was blocked by China. Will my noble friend please assure me that the diplomatic efforts of the UK will be used to try to prevent such a blocking from happening in the future?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, I share my noble friend’s disappointment and concern. As I have already said, we believe that Taiwan has an important role to play, particularly in how it has dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, we continue to lobby for its participation in meetings such as those convened by the World Health Organization.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
My Lords, can we raise the case of Lee Ming-che, a Taiwanese pro-democracy activist arrested in China and given a five-year prison sentence for posts on social media calling for democratic reforms? His wife, whom I have met, says that he is literally forced to eat rotten food and is denied prison visits. Following the imposition of the new security law in Hong Kong, what does this case say about the future of pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, and in mainland China?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for bringing this case to my attention. I assure him that we are monitoring it through our embassy in Beijing. While we have not raised it with Chinese counterparts, we regularly make known our concerns about the increasing restrictions on civil and political rights and freedom of expression in China. We do the same in Hong Kong.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab) 
My Lords, I remind the House of my interest as the Government’s trade envoy to Taiwan. Will the Minister celebrate with me the 30% increase in trade between Britain and Taiwan over the past three years, and congratulate President Tsai Ing-wen and her Government on not just their triumphant re-election earlier this year in a fair and free contest but on their management of the Covid-19 crisis—that was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay; there have been 447 cases and just seven deaths out of a population of 23.8 million—and their generosity in donating 2 million face masks to the UK? I hope that the Minister will continue to do all he can to ensure that Taiwan is admitted to the WHO so that the whole world can learn from its success and share its expertise.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, I share the noble Lord’s view of the positive elements of the relationship with Taiwan. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary congratulated President Tsai on her victory.

Baroness Northover (LD)
My Lords, when the national security law was imposed on Hong Kong, 53 countries supported China on it at the UN Human Rights Council. Only 27 countries, including only half of EU states and no state in Asia, Africa or South America, supported us. Now that we have left the EU, how are we building a strong alliance to defend Taiwan against any aggression?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to raise this concern. I agree with her figures. As Human Rights Minister, I worked on that proposal. There is much more work to be done but I assure her that we work very closely with European partners, particularly on Hong Kong, and share common interests when it comes to Taiwan.

Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
My Lords, as has already been stated, there was hope that perhaps “one country, two systems” might have been a way of unlocking the Taiwanese issue which has been a problem for so many years. Recent events in Hong Kong show that that was a chimera. We have real problems now with the way China is behaving towards Hong Kong. Chinese behaviour and the statement by Xi Jinping, possibly encouraged by the world’s focus on the Wuhan virus, must be confronted. Does the Minister agree that Taiwan must be shielded and that one way of doing that is its recognition by as many of the G20 as possible? That would send a very strong message to Xi Jinping that the way he is behaving is not helping anyone, least of all China.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, the Government’s position remains that the issue of Taiwan is to be settled by people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. As I said already, we continue to lobby for Taiwan’s participation in key organisations where it has a pivotal role to play.

Lord Bowness (Con)
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for the answers he has given, which suggest that we are very well disposed towards Taiwan. However, that is only one element. In the UK, we have seen the City of London withdraw its invitation to Taiwan to participate in the Lord Mayor’s Show and British Airways rewrite its destination listings so that Taiwan and, indeed, Hong Kong, are listed under China. Does my noble friend agree that we should be giving organisations such as the City and British Airways every support to resist this pressure from China, which is quite improper?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, individual companies and organisations will make their own decisions. The United Kingdom continues to acknowledge Taiwan. Whenever we categorise Taiwan we do so under the designation of country or region, and we will continue to do so. Individual companies will make their own decisions.

Lord Kilclooney (CB)
My Lords, as a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Taiwan and having visited Taiwan on many occasions, I find it a nation which is a great stable democracy. Can the Government of the United Kingdom now consider improving high-level exchanges with Taiwan? For example, are the President of Taiwan, the Vice-President and the Foreign Minister banned from coming to the United Kingdom because of their political positions or are they banned as individuals?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, I have already said that we continue to engage with Taiwan. The most recent visit was by a Trade Minister, so we engage with Taiwan at ministerial level.

Lord Wood of Anfield (Lab) 
My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether it is the Government’s policy to achieve a bilateral trade deal between the UK and Taiwan, as urged by the Foundation for Independence, a think tank very close to senior figures in this Government?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, we continue to work on important common themes with Taiwan, and trade is one of them. Obviously my colleagues at the Department for International Trade will continue to see how we can further strengthen our ties with Taiwan.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Lexden) (Con)
My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has now elapsed.

Debate / Taiwan

10 February 2020
Volume 801

14:52:00

Asked by

Baroness Falkner of Margravine
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their policy towards Taiwan, and in particular on (1) security, and (2) international engagement issues.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
My Lords, the United Kingdom’s long-standing policy on Taiwan is unchanged. The UK and Taiwan have a strong but unofficial relationship based on dynamic commercial, educational and cultural ties. We support Taiwan’s participation in international organisations where statehood is not a prerequisite, and Taiwan can make a valuable contribution. On security, we are concerned by any activity that risks destabilising the status quo. Issues should be settled between people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (Non-Afl)
I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware of fresh Chinese attempts at economic coercion against Taiwan since the re-election of President Tsai Ing-wen last month, including attempts at the United Nations to stop parliamentarians engaging with her Government? Does he agree that when China presents its “one country, two systems” policy to Taiwan alongside military threats, along with the tangible example of Hong Kong, that is more likely to convince the Taiwanese to be rather sceptical of Chinese assurances as to their future?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
On the structure and the relationship with Taiwan, as I said in my original Answer, it remains the Government’s view that it is very much for those on both sides of the Taiwan Strait—representatives in Taiwan and China—to determine the best way forward in the interests of the people of Taiwan. As for the noble Baroness’s broader question on the United Nations, as I have said, for organisations such as ICAO and the World Health Organization, our view is that being a state is not a prerequisite to membership. We remain very clear, with our like-minded partners, that Taiwan’s contribution to those organisations is important and that it has a vital role to play.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab)
My Lords, I declare my interest as the Government’s trade envoy to Taiwan; the Minister will know that this constrains me a little in what I can say in the Chamber. Will the Minister take back to his right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary the very great satisfaction among the friends of Taiwan at the statement made by Mr Raab after the legislative and presidential election? He offered warm congratulations to the people of Taiwan on the smooth conduct of those elections, and to Dr Tsai Ing-wen and her party on her re-election.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, I will of course be pleased to take back those comments to my right honourable friend. It is important that we recognise the democratic process in Taiwan. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the noble Lord’s work on the relationship between the United Kingdom and Taiwan, specifically on trade. It is, I am sure, in part his efforts, alongside those of British companies, that have resulted in a rising level of trade. Indeed, UK exports to Taiwan grew by 40.8% last year.

Baroness Fall (Con)
Does the Minister believe that the President of the United States would feel bound by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act? It states that America will

“consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States”,

and will

“make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.”

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
My Lords, my noble friend will appreciate that it is not for me to comment on United States policy. I can, however, reaffirm that the United Kingdom remains committed to our relationship with Taiwan. As I said in response to an earlier question, we are committed to the importance of trade and culture, and we have seen the prosperity of that: the economy of Taiwan is bigger than that of many Asian economies. It is important that we strengthen our work in this respect. On the wider point of resolving any issues between Taipei and Beijing, it is important that both sides negotiate the issues that need to be addressed. That is the best way forward.

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
My Lords, I agree with the Minister: the ultimate relationship has to be determined by those two entities. However, he mentioned multilateral organisations, in particular the World Health Organization. We are currently facing a global crisis, and it is important that countries and entities such as Taiwan play their full part in it. What representations has he made to the WHO to ensure that Taiwan can play a full part in the work to ensure that the public interest and the people of the world are put first, before politics?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
I agree with the noble Lord. Indeed, in preparing for the Question, I asked how many identifiable cases of coronavirus there are in Taiwan; currently there are eight. It is important that it is part and parcel of the solution. I assure the noble Lord that we continue to support representations that the Department of Health has made directly in lobbying for Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization. We are also working with like-minded countries, including the United States and Australia, to ensure that, at the World Health Assembly which takes place in May this year, Taiwan is represented.

Lord Dholakia (LD)
My Lords, Taiwan is a democracy, and yet it is being denied recognition by many Governments across the world. We now have a situation, as has been pointed out, where the World Health Organization, which prides itself on promoting inclusive health for all humanity, has excluded Taiwan from its membership and does not allow it to participate in the World Health Assembly. What are we doing with the World Health Organization to ensure that Taiwan has at least a slot in the World Health Assembly at this stage?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
I have always wanted to say this from the Dispatch Box: I refer the noble Lord to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Lord Broers (CB)
My Lords, is the Minister aware of Taiwan’s importance when it comes to semiconductor technology? Taiwan leads the world in making semiconductor chips. In fact, it is said that the latest artificial intelligence and machine learning chips can be made only in Taiwan; they cannot be made even in the United States.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
The noble Lord makes a very important point. It is why the United Kingdom is very committed to growing our trading relationship with Taiwan. Currently, more than 300 UK companies are located across a variety of sectors, including the one the noble Lord mentioned.

Debate / Lord Mayor’s Show: Taiwan

Asked by Baroness Barker in Lords Chamber on 1 May 2019:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the decision of the Lord Mayor’s Show 2019 to decline an application to participate by the representative office of the government of Taiwan.

Please read the complete debate on these websites: