MP complains of being ‘bombarded’ by China on social media over Uighur report

Minister says intimidatory tweets are ‘totally unacceptable’

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 22 March 2021 19:36
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China has been accused of “bombarding” an MP with intimidating messages on social media after a parliamentary committee on which she serves issued a critical report on Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

The House of Commons Business Committee last week released a report which said thatBritish firms should be subject to sanctions if they cannot show they are not complicit in the use of forced labour in the region, where China faces allegations - which it denies - of repression of the Uighurs.

Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani told the Commons today that the publication was followed by a flood of hostile messages.

And she was backed by international trade minister Greg Hands, who said that “the apparent targeting of her by anybody in an intimidatory way, including by foreign embassies, is totally unacceptable”.

Ms Ghani, who has been a vocal critic of Beijing’s activities in Xinjiang, told the Commons: “Officials from the Chinese Embassy in London are accusing Members of Parliament, the committee - and, I therefore believe, the House - of lies.”

She said she had been “bombarded with tweets”, including accusations suggesting that “some politicians choose to believe the lies made up by a few’” or “choose a dance with anti-China elements in their clumsy dramas” and stating that by getting involved in “frivolous and preposterous farces aiming to discredit and smear China” MPs “will only end up undercutting their own reputation as a laughing stock”.

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One tweet suggested that this could result in them “facing the reckoning of justice”, she said.

Ms Ghani asked deputy speaker Rosie Winterton to rule on whether an accusation of a committee report being full of lies could be viewed as contempt of Parliament.

And she said: “This goes against the grain of allowing MPs to conduct their work without fear. Whether accusing a select committee report of being full of lies is also contempt of Parliament.

“Colleagues have noted, to me that the language used publicly that I’ve been subjected to could be considered as threatening 

“I hope that you agree with me we should not allow foreign interference to challenge the house, or any select committees or any MP, doing what they’ve been elected to do.”

Ms Ghani was backed by the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Julian Lewis, who called on the Speaker to make representations to the Chinese Embassy.

“Somebody attached to a foreign embassy sending an electronic message directly to the Twitter account of a parliamentarian would make anybody feel intimidated,” said Dr Lewis.

Ms Winterton responded: “It is clearly unacceptable that members of committees of this House should feel in any way threatened as a result of the views they express.

“Any kind of intimidatory behaviour directed at members of a committee is wrong and this House should take it very seriously.”

Ms Winterton said that she understood that the official involved “has stated that he is not seeking to be threatening” but said Ms Ghani should raise the issue with the House authorities if she does not feel the matter is resolved.

Mr Hands said he would raise Ms Ghani’s complaints with foreign secretary Dominic Raab.

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