HC Deb 18 November 1968 vol 773 cc864-7
2. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British subjects are now detained without trial in Communist China; how long each of them has been detained; and how many have recently been visited by his officers.

26. Mr. Onslow

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British subjects are at present detained or believed to be detained in China; and in how many of these cases consular access has been refused.

46. Mr. McMaster

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress he has made in securing the release of British subjects detained by the Chinese.

Mr. M. Stewart

The position remains as stated in the Answer which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State gave to the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on 14th October. All these persons except one, Mr. George Watt, have been detained without trial. Our Mission in Peking has not been granted consular access to any of them recently. As I told the House during the debate on the Address, in our repeated representations to the Chinese we have made no secret of our view of their deplorable behaviour in this matter. We shall continue to press urgently for information and for consular access to those detained.—[Vol. 770, c. 16–17.]

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Is not both this detention and the denial of consular access a complete denial of the normal standards accepted between civilised countries? Does the right hon. Gentleman intend simply to go on protesting, or is it his intention to indicate to the Chinese that if they will behave like barbarians in their own country they cannot expect civilised privileges here?

Mr. Stewart

The answer to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question is "Yes", but if in the second half he is suggesting that some kind of reprisal I can only say that I do not believe that this would serve the purpose that we both have in mind.

Mr. Onslow

What consideration has the Secretary of State given to telling the Chinese that, if they persist in behaving in his barbarous manner, they cannot expect us to go on supporting Peking's application to join the United Nations?

Mr. Stewart

I have considered a great many courses of action, including this one. I do not believe that this would help, because I think that the continued exclusion of the Peking Government from the United Nations is one factor in the whole situation.

Mr. McMaster

Is the Secretary of State aware that, in spite of many protests of this nature over the past 12 months, the situation has been getting worse? Will he not now consider what retaliation the British Government must take to stop the Chinese from acting in this way? What action is he taking to bring to the attention of other British firms the danger to their employees, such as that experienced by Vickers Zimmer, in carrying out contracts which are to the benefit of the Chinese?

Mr. Stewart

With regard to the second half of the supplementary question, I told the House some time ago that we had drawn the attention of business firms to the risks involved by people visiting China. On the first part, though I do not wish in any way to minimise the seriousness of the situation, it is not correct to say that it is getting worse. Since the summer three British subjects have been released. Our Chargé d'Affaires, as the House knows, Sir Donald Hopson, has been able to return, and the conditions of our Mission have improved. I believe this justifies our trying to handle the matter in the way we are.

Mr. McMaster

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the last reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment.

19. Mr. Hastings

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he is taking to secure the release from Peking of Mr. Anthony Grey.

Mr. M. Stewart

We have made repeated representations to the Chinese deploring their unjustified detention of Mr. Grey and will continue to press strongly for his release.

Mr. Grey was detained by the Chinese authorities following the arrest and conviction of a number of journalists in Hong Kong implicated in the violent events which took place there in 1967. Of those journalists mentioned in Chinese publicity at the time of Mr. Grey's detention, the last, Hsueh P'ing, was released on 16th November. In the circumstances we must hope for the speedy release of Mr. Grey.

Mr. Hastings

Is it not true that this unfortunate gentleman has been in prison in one room under armed guard for well over a year without charge and has not seen a member of our Mission since April? Is it not also true that actions speak louder than words? When is the right hon. Gentleman going to rescind the visas of the four journalists of the New China News Agency now in London?

Mr. Stewart

The hon. Gentleman is correct about the circumstances of Mr. Grey's detention. As to the second part of his supplementary question—these and other courses of action were referred to in supplementary questions earlier. I give to him now the answer I gave then. I do not believe that these courses of action would make the release of Mr. Grey or the other detainees more likely.

Mr. Whitaker

Will my right hon. Friend keep up his efforts to find out the whereabouts of my constituents, the Gordon family, who have disappeared without trace in China? Will he seek the assistance of, perhaps, the International Red Cross to act as mediators?

Mr. Stewart

Yes, Sir. We have made endavours to find out about Mr. Gordon and his family and will see if there is anything further that can be done.

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