Lawmakers Must Consider Xinjiang Cotton Ban Over Uyghur ‘Genocide’: UK MPs

July 8, 2021 Updated: July 8, 2021

Lawmakers should heap pressure on China over the Uyghur “genocide” by exploring a ban on the import of all cotton products linked to Xinjiang, a cross-party committee of UK MPs has said.

The Foreign Affairs Committee also called for the government to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics as part of a series of recommendations to tackle human rights violations.

Led by senior Conservative Tom Tugendhat, the MPs raised concerns on Thursday that currently the government’s “actions do not match its rhetoric” and have so far “proved ineffective.”

Their report will heap further pressure on ministers to take greater action against Beijing for its alleged mass detention of more than one million Uyghurs and its forced sterilisation programme.

“After every major atrocity and tragedy, the world says, ‘never again’. It is happening again. It is not too late to act,” the report says.

They raised concerns that products made by forced labour are being sold in the UK with more than 570,000 people estimated to have been forced to pick cotton in the Xinjiang region.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s measures to prevent such products entering the supply chain “will not go far enough,” the MPs said.

They urged the government to introduce new legislation to create sanctions and penalties for firms that do not take concrete measures to remove the use of forced labour from their chains.

Lawmakers were also urged to “explore the possibility of banning the import of all cotton products known to be produced in whole or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China.”

Following a similar call from the Labour Party, the committee said ministers should not attend the Beijing Winter Olympics and “should urge others not to do so.”

The government was also urged to abstain from sending officials to ceremonies and functions, and discourage UK businesses from sponsoring or advertising at events.

Fans and tourists should also be encouraged to stay away and athletes discouraged from supporting Beijing’s propaganda efforts, the MPs said.

The committee also called for the prohibition of equipment manufactured by Hikvision and other companies said to have had their cameras deployed in internment camps.

It was reported that Hikvision cameras are used inside the Department of Health and Social Care as security concerns were raised over leaked CCTV showing Matt Hancock kissing an aide.

China claims that its camps in Xinjiang are used to fight terrorism, but this is disputed on the international stage including by Britain, the European Union, and the United States.

The House of Commons voted to declare the treatment of Uyghurs and others in northwest China is genocide earlier this year in another move to pressure the UK government.

Tugendhat, the committee’s chair, said: “UK government should recognise Parliament’s decision, strengthen our response at home, and urge our international partners to protect our own supply chains being used to profit from abuses.

“China, Britain, and others were key to building the institutions to prevent a repeat of the barbarity we saw in Asia and Europe 80 years ago. Now is the time to use them.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The evidence of the scale and the severity of the human rights violations being perpetrated in Xinjiang against the Uyghur Muslims is far-reaching, and paints a truly harrowing picture.

“The UK government has led international efforts to hold China to account for its human rights violations in Xinjiang at the U.N.

“We have also imposed sanctions including asset freezes and travel bans on senior Chinese government officials, and announced measures to help ensure no UK organisations are complicit in these violations through their supply chains.

“We will carefully consider the findings of this report.”

By Sam Blewett