Sickening aid bungs to China’s repellent dictators must end

Published by The Daily Mail (25th November, 2020)

You have probably never heard of Zhou Qiang but he is one of the key Communist Party leaders in China and president, since 2013, of the Supreme People’s Court.

This body oversees ‘justice’ in a country that jails dissidents and harvests body parts from criminals. As a loyal apparatchik, he has argued that China’s courts should ‘resolutely resist’ dangerous Western ideas such as democracy and judicial independence.

Zhou is prosperous, powerful and a pernicious influence in one of the planet’s most repressive dictatorships. Incredibly, he is also a personal beneficiary of British aid donations that, ministers love to boast, help the world’s poor and dispossessed.

The Foreign Office, so desperate to suck up to Beijing’s leaders and so lacking in respect for human rights, has lavished £17,060 of aid cash on three visits to Britain by Zhou Qiang. You might have thought China, the world’s second biggest economy, could afford to pay for Zhou’s flights and hotels. But Britain, instead of sanctioning such individuals, is only too happy to fund their jollies.

Such spending symbolises the absurdity of our aid policies that have spiralled out of all control and lost any touch with sanity.

This is the direct result of Britain’s foolish adherence – unique among the world’s richest nations – to a discredited and outdated aid target, which insists under a law passed in 2015 that we must hand over 0.7 per cent of our gross national income.

This led spending on foreign aid to almost double in a decade under three Conservative prime ministers. Last year it stood at an astonishing £15.2billion – which is more than the Government spent on long-term social care at home.

Now just listen to the howls of fury over suggestions that Rishi Sunak might today dare to propose cuts to the aid budget in his spending review despite the fact we are in the throes of a fiscal crisis sparked by the pandemic.

Tony Blair, who devastated millions of lives in the Middle East through his invasion of Iraq, has the nerve to call such a move a ‘profound strategic mistake’. Oxfam and Save the Children, two charities which have been tarnished by abuse allegations against staff, fume that the move will harm vulnerable people. We must hope Sunak has the courage to act.

I have argued many times why this target is so destructive having seen how naive aid spending fuels conflict, fosters corruption and corrodes democracy in poor places while enriching charity chiefs and private sector consultants.

But if you have any doubt over the wisdom of an aid target that compels the country to give away billions regardless of need or effectiveness, just ponder the shocking revelation in yesterday’s Mail that Britain has handed £81million to China.

We are borrowing money – given the surging national debt of £2trillion – to spend millions on schemes such as advising the Chinese on rice production, using opera to ‘strengthen ties’ between rural and city areas and pandemic prevention.

Yet China’s economy is almost five times bigger than our own.

This is a country that has its own aid agency designed to boost its drive towards global leadership, along with a thriving space agency that this week sent a mission to the moon to bring back lunar samples for the first time in almost half a century.

Bear in mind China is also the place that gave birth to a pandemic that has devastated the planet, then covered up cases and silenced doctors to protect its leaders as the virus spread before barring outside experts from investigating the origins of the new coronavirus strain.

Yet China presses on, exploiting the pandemic amid the frightening vacuum of Western leadership to strengthen its own position in the world.

Britain is aiding a nation that has become increasingly autocratic under its ruthless president Xi Jinping.

He has strengthened communist ideology, squashed any flickers of dissent, consolidated power and unleashed a far more aggressive foreign policy since taking control eight years ago.

Last year, I spent three weeks reporting on the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong who were marching with such courage to prevent their territory’s slide into the arms of Xi’s dictatorship. They knew the odds of thwarting the Beijing behemoth were stacked against them. But these people felt they had no option but to fight for freedom.

Now those freedoms are being strangled after the imposition of a security law that allowed the authorities to target dissidents on spurious charges of separatism, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces.

Just this week three key leaders of the pro-democracy movement – Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam – were held in custody. They are facing long jail terms on charges of unlawful assembly.

Joshua told me recently: ‘What I fear most is not if I will be thrown into China’s dark jails but whether this security law will crush my city’s democratic movement – and whether the world will remain silent when tyranny silences dissent.’

Yet Britain, signatory to the deal that was supposed to protect basic freedoms after handover of its former colony, bungs cash to the cruel regime that seeks to suppress those who are fighting for the kind of democracy we take for granted.

This is simply sickening – made worse by the shameless way in which defenders of our aid policies argue they are supporting democracy and freedom around the world even as they prop up several more of the world’s most repellent dictatorships.

Those billions taken from taxpayers are poured into a host of bloodstained regimes such as those in Rwanda and Uganda.

Aiding China, however, is perhaps the most egregious since it is not just crushing freedom and seeking to re-shape global architecture in line with its beliefs that are diametrically opposed to our core values. It is also perpetrating genocide against Muslim minorities.

Leaked documents have shown that President Xi ordered a crackdown against the Uighurs in Xinjiang region that combines Orwellian use of technology with medieval savagery to crush religious minorities and exert control. I have heard firsthand about the horrors, rape and torture inside the camps holding at least one million people.

Just as in Tibet, the Chinese Communist Party wants to extinguish a culture and traditions under the phoney guise of combating terrorism.

And British politicians, who assist this gruesome regime with taxpayers’ cash, do so under the grotesque pretence of helping the poor and needy around the world with their soiled policies that lack logic or morality.

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