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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Taking Engagement Further

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

At the Annual Reception of the China All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) held in Westminster, Meg gave the following remarks.

 

I want to congratulate the China APPG on another active year in your engagement on China. This group, Chaired by Ben Chapman MP, is the second largest APPG in Parliament.  My Foreign Office Ministerial colleagues and I welcome your interest and expertise.

 

Our relationship with China is in the best shape ever. When the Prime Minister visits China shortly he will announce new trade targets, new co-operation on issues such as education, health, culture and sustainable development, and have deeper dialogue than ever before on major issues of international concern. You have a major role to play in taking this engagement even further.

 

There are, for example, growing numbers of those with Chinese backgrounds amongst your constituents. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary met representatives of the UK Chinese community at No10 this afternoon.  There are increasing numbers of Chinese businesses interested in investing in the UK.

 

The reality of 21st century China is that there is far more open debate and personal freedom than before.  Internationally, China is beginning to define its interests more broadly, in terms of the challenges we all share to manage threats to security and promote development. For example, on Burma China has been key to getting more co-operation from the Burmese Government and instrumental in ensuring visits of the UN special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, to Burma take place. I met with Vice-Minister Zhang Yesui (Jang Yes-way) last October and had a productive discussion.

 

China is continuing to reform and open up. We are increasingly interdependent economically. As well as lifting up to 500 million of its own people out of poverty, China is now a major growth engine for the international economy.  UK service providers have growing opportunities in the Chinese market.

 

Yet clearly, restrictions on freedom of information, expression and organisation still exist. China remains more cautious than we would like on issues such as the responsibility to protect. Progress on this will not come easily, but I am convinced that to move forward we have to work with the grain, not against it.

 

Some of you have also been involved in exchanges with China’s own political class. I know that the Chinese gave extensive input into the highly successful Westminster Hearings. There is much value in this kind of exchange.

 

So I’d like to conclude by suggesting to my Parliamentary colleagues that it is time to take the achievements of the past year, and move the level of Westminster debate on China to another new level. To build up still further contacts with your Chinese counterparts, which is important alongside the steps we take in Government.

 

Thank you and congratulations once again on another successful year’s work.

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