MP questions council's links with China

ESSEX County Council's close links with China have been bought into question by an MP who called on the authority to re-think the relationship due to the country's “brutal regime.

Annie Davidson

ESSEX County Council's close links with China have been bought into question by an MP who called on the authority to re-think the relationship due to the country's “brutal regime.”

Colchester MP Bob Russell spoke out after the military crackdown on civilians in Tibet which has been occupied by the communist Chinese.

Essex has been forging links with China since 1988, mostly in education and commerce, and in 2004 county council leader Lord Hanningfield signed a memorandum of co-operation with the government of the Jiangsu province.

Mr Russell said: “With the killings and suppression by the Chinese authorities in Tibet, should not Essex County Council consider afresh its relationship with the brutal communist rulers who are guilty of human rights abuses throughout the people's republic of China?”

The Liberal Democrat MP added: “It is one thing for countries to engage in dialogue - however distasteful some regimes are - but I do question whether a local council should have such a close working relationship with a brutal regime such as that which exists in China, a situation graphically illustrated in the past few days showing how the military might of the occupying Chinese forces have been used against the civilian population in Tibet.”

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Mr Russell revealed that he had written to Lord Hanningfield to question the council's continued association with the China.

He also asked whether the council had ever made any representations to the Chinese authorities about the country's appalling human rights record and “the recent moves by the Chinese army against Tibetan civilians protesting against the military occupiers.”

Mr Russell added: “The Olympic Games in China this summer must not be a reason for civilised society to remain silent when there are atrocities being carried out not only against the Chinese people but also those in Tibet.”

Lord Hanningfield said last night: “We are very aware of the events occurring throughout China at this time.

“We believe that our close partnership with the Jiangsu province is a way of assisting China in its move towards embracing democracy and engaging with the world community.

“Indeed as Bob's (party) leader Nick Clegg himself said, to sort of gag ourselves is a real abdication of our moral responsibility to push for human rights wherever they are being abused.”

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