UK ministers have been urged to stop “abdicating their legal and moral duties” and act after a tribunal found evidence “beyond reasonable doubt” of torture, crimes against humanity, and genocide in China’s Xinjiang region.
In a renewed effort to pressure the government to recognise the genocide, the UK Parliament unanimously passed a motion on Jan. 20 calling for an urgent assessment and sanctions against the perpetrators.
In April 2021, Parliament declared that Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang were subjected to crimes against humanity and genocide.
But the government declined to make an official recognition, citing the long-standing position of successive British governments that only a competent court can make determinations on genocide.
The new motion, introduced by Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani, comes after an independent people’s tribunal in London found “beyond reasonable doubt” that the People’s Republic of China had committed torture, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Xinjiang.
The Uyghur Tribunal, which delivered the judgment on Dec. 9, 2021, is chaired by Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, one of the most distinguished international human rights lawyers who led the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević, former President of Serbia, at the United Nation’s (U.N.) International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
In its summary judgment (pdf), the Tribunal said it would have been more appropriate for governments or international organisations to make findings of genocide, but the responsibility fell to the Tribunal because “governments have no courage to do such things; neither does the U.N. where a powerful state is involved.”
Leading the debate in Parliament, Ghani said the debate was about “those abdicating their legal and moral duties.”
“This government has a legal and moral duty to respond to the Uyghur Tribunal’s verdict and the evidence put before it, it must stop shirking this duty by using expensive government lawyers to weasel out of acting. To do so is truly reprehensible,” the MP argued.
Ghani said the “duty to act” had “long been triggered,” adding: “There is no plausible reason why the government can ignore the conclusions of the Tribunal. To do so is to quibble on a point of dubious legality, to ignore evidence, and to ignore the moral and legal duty to act.”
MPs from across the political spectrum joined the debate, urging the government to take action. The MPs also mentioned the Chinese regime’s suppression against Christians and Falun Gong and aggression against India, Taiwan, and in the South China Sea.
By backing Ghani’s motion, the House of Commons notes Uyghur Tribunal’s judgment and calls on the government to “urgently assess whether it considers there to be a serious risk of genocide in the Uyghur region” and present its findings to Parliament within two months.
The government was also urged to “use all means reasonably available to ensure the cessation of ongoing genocide, including conducting due diligence to ensure it is not assisting, aiding, abetting, or otherwise allowing the continuation of genocide.”
The motion further pressures the government to fulfill its other obligations under the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of genocide, black-list UK firms selling slave-made products in the UK, put in place import controls to prevent products of forced labour from entering UK value chains, and sanction the perpetrators of this genocide, including Xinjiang’s former Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo.
Chen was sanctioned by the United States as the Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang. According to a report from Xinhua News Agency, the mouthpiece of the Chinese authority, the Politburo member was replaced from his post in Xinjiang.
Amanda Milling, Foreign Offices’ Asia minister, welcomed the contribution of the Uighur Tribunal “in building an international awareness and understanding of the human rights violations in Xinjiang.”
She said the findings of the Tribunal are “harrowing,” and that research funded by the UK government had “uncovered more and deeply disturbing details.”
The minister insisted “the UK longstanding policy of successive British governments is that any determination of genocide is a matter for a competent court,” which she said “is consistent” with the UK’s legal obligations under the Genocide Convention and “does not undermine our commitment to prevent and punish genocide.”
But she said the policy “has not and will not prevent the government [from] taking robust action on human rights violations in Xinjiang through a broad spectrum of channels and international partnerships.”
“We will continue to work with our partners, including the Uighur people, to hold China to account for its appalling actions in Xinjiang,” Milling said.
The minister said that she had, along with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, “all raised the very, very serious situation in Xinjiang with our counterparts.”
“In March, the UK imposed asset freezes and travel bans on senior Chinese actors responsible for enforcing China’s repressive policies.”
Regarding further sanctions, Milling said the government does not speculate about future sanctions but does keep all evidence under close review.
She added that measures the government had taken “will help to ensure that no British organisation profits from or contributes to human rights violations against Uighur people,” and currently doesn’t have plans to introduce a blacklist of companies, but it’s “committed to tackling the issue of Uyghur forced labor in UK supply chains and is looking to take robust action.”
Several Western governments, including the United States and the Netherlands, have said that the Chinese regime is committing genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. More than 1 million Uyghurs are currently being detained in internment camps, where they’re known to be subject to abuses such as forced sterilization, forced abortion, rape, torture, forced labor, and the removal of children from their families.
The Chinese regime has denied abuses in Xinjiang and has claimed that the camps are “vocational training centers.”
Frank Fang and PA contributed to this report.