Ministers urged to ramp up Britain’s response to horrific treatment of Uighur Muslims in China

Ministers urged to ramp up Britain’s response to horrific treatment of Uighur Muslims in China

Evening StandardEvening Standard

Nicholas Cecil

·5-min read  

<p>Tory MPs called on Boris Johnson to make a
Tory MPs called on Boris Johnson to make a


Ministers were today urged to ramp up Britain’s response against the horrors being committed against the Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province by allowing the High Court to rule that it is genocide.

The Government was accused of not doing enough to put pressure on Beijing to stop the atrocities being carried out.

Tory MPs called on Boris Johnson to make a “meaningful” compromise over proposals to outlaw trade deals with countries that are committing genocide.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith urged the Government to “stop this nonsense” and accept Trade Bill changes to ensure ministers have to withdraw from any free trade agreement with any country which the High Court rules is committing genocide.

The House of Lords reinserted this trade safeguard into the legislation after the Prime Minister was able to narrowly overturn it in the Commons.

The Bill returns to the Commons on Tuesday, with Conservative MPs demanding action, particularly in light of fresh reports of abuses being carried out against the Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province.

Senior Tory Sir Iain also asked for further sanctions against individuals involved in the abuses, telling the Commons: “A litany of terrible, terrible abuse, rape… concentration camps, people being sterilised, people being maltreated, abused, tortured. This sounds like something of 75 years ago, but it isn’t, it’s today.”

Addressing Foreign Office minister Nigel Adams, he added: “It’s no good any more, with respect to him, coming to the despatch box saying that he agrees with all of this – where are the Magnitsky sanctions on the individuals? We’ve got all the evidence that’s necessary.

“And finally, why, oh why is the Government going out of its way to block this amendment that’s coming back to the House of Commons which will give the courts the power to decide that this is a genocide?

“He’s just said in his statement that only the courts can say it is genocide. So let’s stop this nonsense please and allow this amendment to go through and to get the courts to make this decision of genocide.

“It will be a leading position from a British Government. That’s the way to go.”

Mr Adams replied : “Can I again be absolutely clear, we understand the strength of feeling, and particularly around the Trade Bill.

“We do believe there must be more enhanced scrutiny for Parliament on genocide and our response to this crime.

“That’s why we will work with him, we will work with other honourable and right honourable members in this regard.

“As we have said, competent courts include international courts such as the ICC and the ICJ and national criminal courts that meet international standards of due process.”

However, Tory MPs demanded a tougher response than so far ordered by the Government.

Conservative former minister Nus Ghani, MP for Wealden who secured the urgent question in the Commons, said there should be “no deepening of ties” between the UK and China until there has been a “full judicial inquiry” into claims of genocide against the Uighur people.

Imran Ahmad Khan, Tory MP for Wakefield argued the Chinese state is “denying genocide”, adding: “We must have the courage and confidence to resist inhuman despotism, as this country proudly has in the past.”

Bob Seely, Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, added: “Does the Foreign Office believe it is ethically right to sign preferential treaties with states credibly accused of genocide, systematic rape, sexual torture, forced sterilisation, re-education camps, forced labour, Orwellian surveillance?

“This is a tragedy happening in our time and it demands moral recognition, so why is the Government blocking our meaningful genocide amendment in the Trade Bill?

“And will the Government please work with us to bring in a meaningful amendment to that Trade Bill that recognises the criticality, the moral imperative of recognising genocide and a genocide that is happening in our age?”

Mr Adams replied: “Of course it’s not right that we should be entering into these agreements with genocidal countries.“I can again be absolutely clear that we understand the strength of his feeling on this matter. We are working with (MPs) right across the House, work that will continue in the run-up to next Tuesday when the Bill comes back to this place.”

He added: “We have had targeted measures in response to this. On January 12 the Foreign Secretary announced a series of actions, robust actions, to ensure that no companies will be profiting from forced labour and we will target in a forensic way those companies that are doing so whether deliberately or otherwise.

“Of course, we are carefully considering any further designations under our global human rights regime. We keep all evidence and potential listings under review.”

However, shadow Foreign Office minister Stephen Kinnock called on the Governmnent to step up action against the perpetrators of the atrocities in Xinjiang.

“The Chinese government’s own statistics show that birth rates in Xianjing fell by a third in 2017-18, further evidence that what is happening may meet the international legal definition of genocide, something the new US administration has already acknowledged,” he said.

“Surely the time for tangible action has now come. First, where on earth are the Magnitsky sanctions that we on these benches and members from across this House have been calling for since last June?”

He also called on the Government to accept the amendment to the Trade Bill which seeks to ban the UK from signing trade deals with countries accused of genocide.

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