UIGHURS and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region of China are being subjected to genocide, MPs have declared, in a motion that, although non-binding on the Government, is a significant political milestone, campaigners say.
The House of Commons approved a motion calling on the Government to act to fulfil its obligations under international human-rights law, and intervene. The Government had opposed the motion last week, arguing that it was up to the courts to determine what was genocide.
The United States, Canada, and the Netherlands have already made similar declarations.
Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy and public affairs at the charity Open Doors, which supports persecuted Christians, welcomed the vote. He said: “It is not legislatively binding, but it represents a significant political milestone, and follows on from the genocide amendment to the trade Bill, which drew together cross-party support and support from across faith groups.
“The motion itself represents a historic moment for our Parliament and sends a message around the world — to China, but also to Nigeria and India, where there is a purge of minority religions under way.
“The reports we get from Xinjiang, which are consistent, show there is a continuing purge under President Xi: a premeditated move against religious communities right across China. There are reports of murder, of forced sterilisation, of mass rape, of concentration camps. It is ethnic, religious cleansing.”
MPs and peers tried to amend the UK Government’s trade Bill to block the UK from forging trade deals with countries implicated in genocide. Their attempts narrowly failed. The Government offered a compromise, however, which will allow a Select Committee to question the Government if it is proposing a trade deal with a country where there are “credible reports of genocide”.
The UK Government sanctioned four Chinese individuals involved in abuses in Xinjiang in March. China responded by sanctioning ten UK individuals, including five MPs.
The Chinese embassy in London condemned the MPs’ vote, accusing them of having “cooked up” the motion to discredit China. It said that claims of genocide in Xinjiang were “the most preposterous lie of the century, an outrageous insult and affront to the Chinese people, and a gross breach of international law and the basic norms governing international relations”.
The NGO Human Rights Watch published a new report last week on abuses in Xinjiang, concluding that crimes against humanity were being committed at “unprecedented levels”.