It appears the Liberal Democrats have fallen foul of the Trade Descriptions Act. During the Brexit years, the party did its best to eschew the 'democratic' part of their name by promising to nullify the largest democratic mandate the UK has ever seen. And now Mr Steerpike is intrigued to see that party grandees don’t seem too keen on their 'liberal' roots either.
Former party leader Vince Cable has this week written a piece for the Independent arguing that there is no point in the West criticising China for its policies towards the Uighur Muslims. Cable denies that ethnic cleansing is going on in Xinjiang, despite reports of forced sterilisations and abortion, justifying measures against the Uighurs as counterterrorism 'crackdowns'. He writes that China's 'current actions in Xinjiang are motivated by' its 'War on Terror' which is 'Nasty: yes. Counterproductive: probably. Genocide: hardly' and adding that the 'evidence base for 'genocide' consists largely of a handful of reports by plausible academic researchers.'
— Layla Moran 🔶 (@LaylaMoran) June 28, 2021
I have a lot of respect for @vincecable but on this he isn't speaking for the @LibDems. We have repeated called out gross human rights abuses in Xinjiang. There is a genocide happening before our eyes. We cannot and will not avert them, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. https://t.co/3gMdKRLyaR
The comments are merely an extension of Cable's previous statements on China, such as when he told the Institute of Economic Affairs in April 2020 'I think we just have to accept that for the next 20, 30 years China will be the dominant economic power in the world economy... it would be sensible for us and the rest of the western world to accommodate to that and to operate within it.' He is not of course the first Lib Dem to be alone in his Sinophilia – former coalition-era Cabinet colleague Danny Alexander now works as the number two man at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank based in Beijing, an institution used to front the country's 'Belt and Road Initiative.'
Fortunately not all of the Liberal Democrats still in Parliament appear to be so accommodating on this issue. Alistair Carmichael MP dismissed his former leader's article by remarking drily: 'we can debate the 'correct' level of engagement with Beijing without abandoning the idea of universal human rights' while Layla Moran MP added 'On this he [Cable] isn't speaking for the @LibDems. We have repeated called out gross human rights abuses in Xinjiang. There is a genocide happening before our eyes.'
Let's hope Cable gets his own vision tested then. With the CCP celebrating its centenary this Friday, Mr S suspects we know who will be writing them a birthday card to mark the occasion.