Thank you for contacting me about the treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China.
At the end of this post, I have copied the statement made to the House on 22nd April by the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab.
Respect for human rights underpins the UK's foreign policy. This is why the situation in Xinjiang is of deep concern. The evidence that systematic human rights violations are being perpetrated against the Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang is now overwhelming. The reported abuses include torture, forced labour and sterilisation of women; they are extreme, taking place on an industrial scale, and beyond the pale. It is the duty of the UK and allies to ensure that this does not go unanswered.
The UK regularly makes representations to China on this issue, and has repeatedly called on the Chinese Government to allow UN experts unfettered access to Xinjiang, including by the Foreign Secretary at the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on 22 February. China has so far refused engage in these efforts, but I know that Ministers and UK officials will continue to lead the international effort to facilitate such access and hold China to account.
I welcome the imposition of sanctions on 22 March, in unison with the US, EU and Canada, against four senior Chinese officials and one entity (the Public Security Bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps) responsible for systematic violations of the human rights of the Uyghurs. I know the Government keeps all evidence and potential listing under close review. I know that Ministers are aware of the suggestions that have been made about sanctioning Chen Quanguo, however, it is not appropriate for me to speculate on who may be designated in the future, as to do so could reduce the impact of the designations.
I condemn the sanctions imposed by China on numerous British citizens, including a number of my Parliamentary colleagues, for speaking out against their actions in Xinjiang. If China wants to rebut claims of human rights abuses, it should spend less time trying to silence its critics, and instead give the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights full access to the province to verify the truth.
The UK Government is also taking a number of steps, through the Modern Slavery Act and other means, to ensure no British organisation, public or private, unwittingly or otherwise, is allowed to profit from forced labour or contribute to human rights violations in China. I support all measures to this effect, as announced by the Foreign Secretary in January, which include: providing robust guidance to UK firms on the specific risks faced by companies linked to Xinjiang; fines for companies who fail to meet their transparency obligations; extending such obligations to the public sector, and banning any company found profiting from forced labour from all Government procurement; and an urgent review into all export controls to Xinjiang, ensuring that no UK exports are in any way contributing to human rights abuses against the Uyghurs and other minorities in China.
Genocide: Genocide involves crimes against humanity which plumb the very depths of evil. The term genocide has a specific definition in international law, and it is the UK's long-standing policy that any judgment as to whether war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide have occurred is a matter for judicial decision. It is for this reason that I declined to support the motion to which you refer on 22 April.
I will of course continue to follow this situation very closely and urge Ministers and UK officials to keep up their important diplomatic work.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP
Dominic Raab MP Statement - 22 March 2021
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the treatment of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
This is one of the worst human rights crises of our time and I believe the evidence is clear, as it is sobering. It includes satellite imagery; survivor testimony; official documentation and, indeed, leaks from the Chinese Government themselves; credible open-source reporting, including from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International; and visits by British diplomats to the region that have corroborated other reports about the targeting of specific ethnic groups.
In sum, the evidence points to a highly disturbing programme of repression. Expressions of religion have been criminalised, and Uyghur language and culture discriminated against on a systematic scale. There is widespread use of forced labour; women forcibly sterilised; children separated from their parents; an entire population subject to surveillance, including collection of DNA and use of facial recognition software and so-called predictive policing algorithms.
State control in the region is systemic. Over 1 million people have been detained without trial. There are widespread claims of torture and rape in the camps based on first-hand survivor testimony. People are detained for having too many children, for praying too much, for having a beard or wearing a headscarf, for having the wrong thoughts.
I am sure the whole House will join me in condemning such appalling violations of the most basic human rights. In terms of scale, it is the largest mass detention of an ethnic or religious group since the second world war, and I believe one thing is clear: the international community cannot simply look the other way.
It has been two and a half years since the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on China to stop arbitrarily detaining Uyghurs and other minorities in the Xinjiang province. It is over 18 months since the UK led the first ever joint UN statement on Xinjiang at the UN General Assembly’s third committee, back in October 2019. The number of countries now willing to speak out collectively has grown from just 23 to 39 as the evidence has accumulated and as our diplomatic efforts have borne fruit. That is a clear signal to China about the breadth of international concern.
Last year, 50 independent UN experts spoke out about the situation in an exceptional joint statement calling on China to respect basic human rights. Last month at the Human Rights Council, I led the calls on China to give the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet — or some other fact-finding expert — urgent, unfettered access to Xinjiang. Since then, Ms Bachelet herself has reinforced in the clearest terms the need for independent access to verify the deteriorating situation. We regret that, instead of recognising those calls from the international community, China has simply sought to deny them. Chinese authorities have claimed that the legitimate concerns raised are fake news. At the same time, the authorities continue to expand prison facilities, surveillance networks and forced labour programmes. China continues to resist access for the UN or other independent experts to verify the truth, notwithstanding its blanket denials.
For the UK’s part, our approach has been to call out these egregious, industrial-scale human rights abuses, to work with our international partners and ultimately to match words with actions. In January, I announced a package of measures to help ensure that no British organisations — Government or private sector — deliberately or inadvertently can profit from human rights violations against the Uyghurs or other minorities, and that no businesses connected with the internment camps can do business in the UK.
Today, we are taking further steps, again in co-ordination with our international partners. Having very carefully considered the evidence against the criteria in our global human rights sanctions regime, I can tell the House that I am designating four senior individuals responsible for the violations that have taken place and persist against the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Alongside those individuals, we are also designating the Public Security Bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. That is the organisation responsible for enforcing the repressive security policies across many areas of Xinjiang. The sanctions involve travel bans and asset freezes against the individuals and asset freezes against the entity we are designating. The individuals are barred from entering the UK. Any assets found in the UK will be frozen.
We take this action alongside the EU, the US and Canada, which are all taking similar measures today. I think it is clear that, by acting with our partners — 30 of us in total — we are sending the clearest message to the Chinese Government that the international community will not turn a blind eye to such serious and systematic violations of basic human rights, and that we will act in concert to hold those responsible to account.
As the Prime Minister set out in the integrated review last week, China is an important partner in tackling global challenges such as climate change. We pursue a constructive dialogue where that proves possible, but we will always stand up for our values, and in the face of evidence of such serious human rights violations, we will not look the other way. The suffering of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang cannot be ignored. Human rights violations on this scale cannot be ignored. Together with our partners, we call on China to end these cruel practices, and I commend this statement to the House.