Tories Pledge Tougher Rule for ‘Axis of Authoritarian States’ Including China

The party vowed to include China, Russia, and Iran on the enhanced tier of the Foreign Influence Registration Scheme, forcing agents to declare most activities.
Tories Pledge Tougher Rule for ‘Axis of Authoritarian States’ Including China
British and Chinese flags are seen on display in front of the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, on Jan. 17, 2008. (Andy Wong /AP Photo)
Lily Zhou

Communist-ruled China is part of an “axis of authoritarian states and hostile actors,” the Tories have said on Tuesday as it promised tougher rules for Chinese agents.

As part of its general election manifesto, the Conservative Party said if it remains in government after July 4, it will include China, along with Russia and Iran, on the enhanced tier of the long-anticipated Foreign Influence Registration Scheme (FIRS), meaning agents of these countries will have to declare almost all their activities.

The party also said it’s ready to protect the British car industry from unfair Chinese competition, strengthen national security protections, and raise human rights concerns.

Philip Ingram, a former British Army intelligence officer, said the pledges are “the least any future government can do” given China’s global influence.

The government has faced pressure to put the Chinese regime in the enhanced tier of the FIRS ever since officials began designing the system with new powers created in the National Security Act 2023.

Under the planned scheme, foreign agents and specified foreign power-controlled entities—apart from diplomats and their families—will be required to report activities intended to influence UK politics.

Agents of a foreign power included in the enhanced tier will be required to register almost all activities with limited exceptions such as cooking or building services for a diplomatic mission.

In September last year, then-Home Secretary Suella Braverman told MPs there was a “strong case to be made” to include China in the enhanced tier, but ministers have previously refused to commit.

Promising to put Russia, Iran, and China in the enhanced tier, the Conservative Party said the UK “must be prepared to tackle the axis of authoritarian states and hostile actors who are working together to threaten international security.

The party said it will strengthen ties with Commonwealth nations and other like-minded partners including through alliances such as G7, Five Eyes, and NATO; reinforce national security protections; support domestic car manufacturers when “other countries are breaking global trade rules,” continue to raise “grave concerns” about the Chinese regime’s disregard of universal human rights and its international commitments, and sanction those involved in human rights abuses.

It also added that a Tory government will continue to engage with China “where it is consistent with our interests.”

Commenting on the vows, Mr. Ingram said it’s “a clear recognition of the risk China is to British businesses and its continuing path to align itself with recognised hostile states such as Russia and Iran.

“Given the pervasive way China has enabled its global influence this is the least any future government can do,” he told The Epoch Times in a statement.

Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who has called on the government to put China on the enhanced tier of the FIRS, told The Telegraph the manifesto is a “good start,” noting the party needs to follow through.

The Epoch Times reached out to Labour for comment.

Last month, Ms. Braverman, who was no longer a government minister, said the UK “must” declare China a hostile state and list it on the enhanced tier of the FIRS, among other measures, if it’s serious about national security.

In 2021, Conservative MP Bob Seely called on the UK to revamp its law on lobbying, saying archaic legislation at the time was not capable of dealing with agents and proxies of foreign states.

In a report he published with think tank the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), Mr. Seely said hostile state activity had become more subtle and complex since the 1990s, with hostile states using lobbying as part of their operations to undermine the West.

In November last year, another HJS report said Chinese Students and Scholars Associations, which are effectively controlled by the Chinese regime, are “falling between the cracks” in terms of scrutiny, calling on the government to clarify whether these organisations should also register under the FIRS.