Britain’s foreign secretary was pressured by the foreign affairs committee on Tuesday to boycott the Beijing Olympics over China’s human rights atrocities against the Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
When questioned over whether, in the face of mounting evidence of the human rights abuses Britain should attend the 2022 winter games that China is set to host, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab did not exclude a boycott of the event.
“Generally speaking, my instinct is to separate sport from diplomacy and politics. But there comes a point where that may not be possible,” he said.
Raab, a former lawyer, acknowledged the mounting evidence of “serious and egregious human rights violations, gross human rights violations” against the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region but said it was difficult to have these legally categorized as genocide.
When Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, quizzed Raab as to why this was, he said that “on genocide the challenge … is that you have got to prove, to demonstrate that not only was it a destruction of a minority … but [done] with the deliberate intention of destroying it.”
Genocidal Intent“Other lawyers including Ben Emmerson have cited the cultural destruction the forced sterilization and many other different areas as giving cause for the evidence of [genocidal] intent that you speak of,” he said.
“Clearly there is a line here possibly a narrow one between the two of you—how much more evidence do you think you need to see?” he added.
Raab responded with, “I think you can always find a lawyer or a scientist that will disagree with something the government is doing but the reality is it’s not just a question of showing that they’ve been targeted.
Raab went on to say that a charge of genocide “requires a set of very particular evidential burdens” and “triggers a whole range of consequences.”
“Lawyers will differ on precisely when definitions are reached,” he added.
Detention Camps“Clearly the detention camps that we are seeing, forcing of the Chinese language and silencing the Uyghur tongue … seem to indicate that it is a particular group that is being targeted for its cultural religious and social observations not just a minority which may or not be problematic,” he said.
Raab said that “Frankly the precise legal label does have implications.”
“But actually it shouldn’t distract us from saying this is appalling, we condemn it” and it is “at odds with the responsibilities that come with being a member of the international community,” he said.
The pressure on Britain to Boycott the Beijing winter Olympics comes following The World Uyghur Congress (WUC), the largest overseas Uyghur organization, in August urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reconsider its decision to hold the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
The WUC, unlike Raab, does regard the detail of China's abuses against the Uyghurs as evidence of genocide.
'Global Political Issues'The IOC, however, responded by saying it “must remain neutral on all global political issues.”
But WUC President Dolkun Isa said, “The IOC can no longer claim ignorance of China’s genocide against the Uyghur people.”
“If the International Olympic Committee allows the Chinese government to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, it will go down as a historically shameful decision,” he said.
The tribunal organizers expect to hold two public hearings in London next year, each lasting several days. A verdict is expected by the end of 2021.