What does the chair of the Australian parliament’s Intelligence Committee have in common with a Greens MP, a former Japanese Defence Minister, and a former Liberal Canadian attorney-general?
The answer is China.
Today, a group of 19 MPs from eight countries and the European Parliament, representing a swathe of parties from right across the political spectrum have announced a new international coalition of legislators who want their governments to take a tougher and collective stance towards China.
The founder of the group – former Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith – said the business community should also take notice of the new international coalition of legislators, singling out HSBC bank for its “appalling” backing of China’s new security law cracking down on Hong Kong.
“They will be in the firing line,” Duncan Smith told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Victorian Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching and the Liberal MP and chair of Parliament’s Intelligence committee, Andrew Hastie, are co-chairing the Australian branch.
Kitching said it was “heartening” to be joining forces with “like-minded parliamentarians.”
“The world is seeing an increasingly assertive China; and in Australia, we have become increasingly aware that the way we deal with authoritarian regimes cannot be the same as the way we deal with democracies,” the Senator said.
Miriam Lexmann, a Member of the European Parliament from the centre-right EPP, said the EU’s foreign policy towards the People’s Republic of China had to be “values-based” if the EU was to have any credibility at home and abroad.
“To deal with the risks emanating from China´s authoritarian and assertive policies, EU leaders and policymakers must realise that our values do not hinder our policies – but policies that ignore our values do,” Lexmann said.
“If the EU wants to have credibility at home and abroad, we must ensure a consistent value-based foreign policy towards the People’s Republic of China.”
China’s treatment of Australia key
The group has been in the works for five weeks.
Duncan Smith told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that he was “astonished” at the level of interest in joining the coalition, particularly from Sweden and Germany.
“Some countries – we hadn’t even asked – had heard about it and then jumped in,” he said, citing Norway and Sweden.
“It astonished me that they should feel so strongly about it.
“What we’ve discovered is that underneath the surface there is genuine concern about China.”
Duncan Smith was adamant that the international coalition should be extended beyond the Five Eyes Anglo-Saxon intelligence sharing club comprising the UK, Australia, US, New Zealand and Canada.
Duncan Smith has been at the forefront of the backbench rebellion against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s green light for Chinese vendor Huawei to supply Britain’s 5G networks.
That decision is facing likely defeat in the Commons by government backbenchers; to prevent a humiliating loss, Johnson has now subjected his January decision to a new review ahead of an expected smackdown.
Business also on notice
Duncan Smith also warned business leaders to take notice of the grouping.
This week, HSBC backed China’s new security law for Hong Kong, which Britain says is a violation of the 1984 Britain and China signed, guaranteeing Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing.
“We respect and support laws and regulations that will enable HK to recover and rebuild the economy and, at the same time, maintain the principle of ‘one country two systems’,” a company statement said.
Duncan Smith said Conservative MPs had expressed “fury” with the UK-headquartered bank on the group WhatsApp chat.
“What I would say to HSBC is that you have greater responsibilities than just to your bottom line. The people of HK are crying out for support in terms of this challenge and the first thing you do is say ‘no actually, we’re siding with the oppressors.'”
MPs in Australia have complained that some business leaders are appeasing China’s actions and undermining the government’s foreign policy, which enjoys bipartisan support.
Co-chairs of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China:
- Australia: Liberal MP Andrew Hastie and Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching
- United Kingdom: Labour peer Baroness Helena Kennedy and Conservative MP Iain Duncan-Smith
- United States: Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democrat Senator Robert Menendez
- Germany: Greens MP Margarete Bause and Christian Democratic Union MP Michael Brand
- Japan: Independent MP Shiori Yamao and Liberal Democrat MP Gen Nakatani
- Canada: Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, Liberal MP John McKay and former Liberal attorney-general Irwin Cotler
- Norway: Liberal leader Trine Skei Grande and Conservative MP Michael Tetzschner
- Sweden: Liberal People’s Party MP Fredrik Malm and Christian Democrats Councillor Elisabet Lann
- The European Parliament: Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer and European People’s Party MP Miriam Lexmann