Is the UK ethically confused, complicit, or simply naive in the face of Beijing’s incremental encroachment on key areas of its infrastructure?
by Ruth Ingram
Was the UK government asleep at the wheel in allowing a Chinese business tycoon to buy Rosslea Hall Hotel, whose position four miles from Scotland’s Faslane’s nuclear submarine base has a bird’s eye view of the UK’s four Trident ballistic missile submarines, and eight nuclear-powered attack submarines coming and going a mere 300 meters away?
Concerns raised at a recent hearing of the UK Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry into Xinjiang camps, pointed to complacency and expediency where crucial homeland security and higher education are concerned, leading chairman of the group, Tom Tugendhat to ask whether the UK government was simply “pimping itself out” and “cooperating with a very hostile state power.”
From Hikvision’s penetration into the UK market, its propensity for bulk data collection to improve facial recognition, and its collusion with Uyghur human rights atrocities, to the relationship between British universities and China and shockingly even the safety of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, serious loopholes were uncovered that could significantly undermine not only national but world security, and make the UK a party to the most egregious abuses this side of the Holocaust.
Expert witnesses fielded concerns from MPs around the country that not only was British higher education selling its impoverished soul by possibly “arming China” in its collaboration with key military centers, but that alliances between Chinese and British universities in crucial areas of facial and voice recognition, data processing, natural language processing, and even lip-reading technology, directly fuel human rights abuses against Uyghurs and Turkic peoples in North West China.
Both Dr Radomir Tylecote, Director of Defense and Security at Civitas, and Dr Samantha Hoffman, Senior Analyst at Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), flagged up concerns that the majority of research involved joint civil-military fusion. According to Dr Tylecote it is never safe to assume China’s ambitions are purely civilian. The UK’s due diligence measures are inadequate and not fit for purpose when dealing with a regime whose end goal is prioritizing rapid military development, he said.
He called for a fundamental overhaul in the vetting and supervision of research funded by the UK taxpayer. Naivety and ignorance were dogging a process whereby for example a center at the University of Manchester, directly sponsored by China’s main ICBM conglomerate, could slip through the net. The research had “explicit potential military use,” claimed Dr Tylecote, with evidence of detailed diagrams of missiles converging on the same target.
Universities were strapped for cash, but the way out was not to share a bed with companies embroiled in radar jamming, stealth jet manufacture, hardware for oppression, or projects designed to give the CCP a military upper hand, warned the experts, as IPAC member MP Bob Seely called the evidence “breathtaking and depressing.” “To describe the government, universities and companies in this country as naive, is an understatement,” he said. He advocated CFIUS-type regulations for the UK (Committee on Foreign Investment in the US) which were adopted last year in the States to vet foreign investment and real estate purchases deemed a danger to national security.
The implications of CCP infiltration into western democracies are ignored at our peril, said Dr Hoffman. All military funding from China should be banned, red lines laid down, standards set, and alliances formed of western democracies offering affordable and reliable alternatives to entities run by the PRC.
According to Dr Hoffman, the UK government should wake up to what is happening under its nose. The PRC is a law unto itself and does not play according to international rules, she said; all interests, be they economic, political, or military are subsumed under the Party and University bosses would do well to listen to staff at the coal face rather than turn a blind eye to dangerous projects for the sake of money.
The law exists to protect the CCP’s power, she said. All Chinese companies are required to participate in intelligence, and also required to keep that participation secret. “No company can withstand pressure from the party,” she warned. “The Party will attach itself when and where it wants to.” Every entity is obliged to share intelligence with the state when required to. “The security risk is inherent,” she said.
Dr Sophie Richardson, China Director of Human Rights Watch warned companies and governments to wake up to who they are dealing with. The PRC is not beyond implanting its own technologies in key positions around the world, she advised, even at the UN headquarters, and is currently engaged in systematic disinformation around the world. “It is a huge project,” she said.