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Georgia L. Gilholy is a Young Voices UK contributor.

Earlier this week, a fiery debate took place at Wigan Town Hall, as councillors voted on whether to approve controversial plans to redevelop the town centre.

The aesthetic concerns of the ‘Galleries25’ plan aside – I happen to think maintaining historic buildings is preferable plan to replacing them with something resembling an open-air airport lounge – pressing ethical concerns were also at play.

For all Westminster’s talk of levelling up ex-industrial, Brexit-voting towns such as Wigan, the £135 million contract for the scheme has been awarded not to British business, but to a mammoth Chinese state-owned company – Beijing Construction Engineering Group International (BCEGI).

There has been no public reaction from Lisa Nandy, the local MP and Shadow Foreign Secretary, who regularly takes aim at the government when it comes to turning a blind eye to Beijing’s human rights record – not to mention its track record of routinely ripping off western tech.  Perhaps Nandy is simply guilty of the very same ‘appalling double standards’ she has accused the Government of this week with regard to the Paterson case?

But even prior to BCEGI winning the contract, it seems that a CCP-style censorship has been calling the shots over the public debate on the plans.

Maureen O’Bern, a former employee of Leigh Library, was dismissed by the council back in July after highlighting her concerns over the plans on social media. Earlier this week, she was ejected from the debate’s public gallery after displaying a poster comparing the complacency during the Holocaust with the Chinese government’s persecution of Uighur Muslims in its Northwest province of Xinjiang. Surely things can only get worse?

After O’Bern’s prompt ejection, every Labour councillor on the planning committee voted in favour of the plans. Two Independents and two Conservatives opposed them. O’Bern has also informed me that the hall’s public gallery was full of many market stallholders worried about their livelihood, since the regeneration threatens the destruction of the historic market hall.

Indeed the area’s past has never been more relevant. Wigan’s history as a centre of both textiles and coal production at the height of the industrial revolution fed, like many such town’s experiences across Britain, to the long struggle for workers’ rights.

While the forging of the modern economy has surely led to a more comfortable existence for most of us in the long run, the expansion of industry has so often come at the price of dangerous and unbearable working circumstances, poor pay and child labour.

Yet while the UK believes itself to have consigned these crimes to its past, which the Labour tradition itself sprung out of, its councillors are happy not only to approve of a corporation profiting off the backs of not just poorly paid but forced labour, but have failed to speak out in favour of those such as O’Bern, who have been hounded for expressing their anxiety.

While these plans were a matter for councillors, who should be thoroughly ashamed of their short-sighted decision, it has long been clear that national action against such schemes is required.

The Government’s pledges to crack down on modern slavery within the UK come across as increasingly hollow whilst they refuse to decouple from firms built on the backs of the exact same flagrant violations of human dignity.

Moreover, if the Conservatives truly wish to ‘level up’ the neglected post-industrial heartlands, they must have the courage to transcend beyond the managed decline of outsourcing to appalling regimes and invest in domestic productivity. However, like O’Bern’s protests, it’s to be expected that these recommendations fall on deaf ears on both the government and opposition benches.