Politics & Security
'The Free World is in Danger': Liz Truss Calls for a Tough Stance on China at Tokyo Conference
The former British prime minister and other global lawmakers gathered in Tokyo on February 17 to send one unifying message: the need to stand up to China.
Liz Truss was noted for her tough line on China when she was Britain's foreign secretary and later, briefly, prime minister.
Since leaving office, but remaining as a Conservative MP, she has continued to warn that the world's democracies are in danger.
"It was the free world which enabled China's rise. It must be the free world which challenges its economic dominance before it's too late," she said in her keynote speech at a conference in Tokyo on February 17th, organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC).
She joined the stage with two other former prime ministers, Australia's Scott Morrison, and Belgium's Guy Verhofstadt, as well as members of parliament from Japan and around the world. The symposium also included delegations from groups which have been suppressed by the Chinese Communist Party.
The Warnings Were Ignored
Ms Truss said that many countries ignored signs of China's rise to power "from the Tiananmen Square massacre to the so-called Uyghur 're-education camps', not to mention the disgraceful dismantling of one country, two systems in Hong Kong."
She called for greater efforts to deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, saying "we need to find ways to elevate Taiwan's status to reflect its global value."
Neither the United Kingdom, nor Japan, nor the United States offers full diplomatic recognition of Taiwan under arrangements with Beijing known as the "One China Policy".
In the view of Ms Truss, "Taiwan is a beacon of freedom in a world where civil liberties and human rights are often suppressed. It's a flourishing democracy with a thriving free press and an independent judiciary and we should be doing all we can to strengthen our ties with Taiwan."
Making a pertinent comparison to Ukraine, Ms Truss asked if a Russian invasion could have been deterred if NATO had taken a stronger position.
"Could we have saved many lives and protected our security?" she asked the audience.
New Style NATO
Other speakers at the IPAC event urged the international community to pay greater attention to the challenges posed by China.
"We all share one conviction: the urgent need to counter the systemic threat that China represents to our democracies and to our rules-based order," said Belgium's Guy Verhofstadt.
He went on to advocate the formation of a "new style" NATO which includes partners in the Indo-Pacific contributing to global security.
"We need to link forces. My plea today is that NATO should evolve from an Atlantic treaty organization into a world treaty organization," said Mr Verhofstadt.
Australia's former Prime Minister Scott Morrison reminded the audience that China used punitive trade sanctions against his country and also against South Korea.
In response, he recommended the use of sanctions to punish human rights abuses by China. At the same time, he also called for an increase in global resistance to political intimidation by the Chinese government.
As the host country, Japan played an active role in the event. The Co-Chair of the Conference - Diet member Akihisa Nagashima - said Japan should consider sanctions against China.
"We will work hard in the debate on sanctions legislation in Japan. In today's discussion we received many hints on how to move the discussion forward," he told JAPAN Forward. Mr Nagashima is part of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Previously he has served as Vice Minister of Defense.
Many of those who attended the symposium have experienced China's intimidatory behavior against their communities.
Rushan Abbas, a Uyghur activist, explained how because of her advocacy activities in the United States, her sister was abducted in the Xinjiang region in 2018.
"The long arm of the Chinese government has taken my sister hostage, leaving me devastated. When Uyghurs speak up around the world, this is what they face," she said.
Other groups represented at the conference included people from Tibet, Hong Kong and Myanmar. They encouraged lawmakers to raise international awareness of their situations and hold China accountable for its actions.
Retepu Afumetto from the Japan Uyghur Association highlighted the way many international companies rely on products which are thought to be connected to the Xinjiang forced labor camps.
He said that experts believe most of the solar panels in Japan are imported from China and most of them are manufactured using the forced labor of Uyghurs.
Chinese Police in Tokyo
The alarming trend of overseas Chinese police stations, which was widely reported in international media in the winter of 2022, was also discussed at the IPAC conference. One speaker specifically mentioned the presence of the Chinese security services in Japan.
William Lee, a native Hong Kong activist, told JAPAN Forward that he believes a Chinese police station is based in the Tokyo district of Akihabara. He called on the Japanese government to conduct a full investigation. "This is no longer just a matter of people in China or Hong Kong because it has the potential to affect Japanese citizens as well," Mr Lee told JAPAN Forward.
A Strong Message to China
Members of IPAC hope the themes of the conference will be carried through when Japan hosts a summit of G7 leaders in Hiroshima in May 2023.
"The fact that we have sent a strong message on Japan's position is important," said conference co-chair, Mr Nagashima.
IPAC, which was created in 2020, is a cross-party global network of legislators working to reform the approach of democratic countries toward China. Its previous conferences took place in Rome and Washington DC. Tokyo is the first such event organized in Asia, with the next event expected in Taipei, Taiwan.
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Author: Arielle Busetto
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