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Raab did not label human rights violations of the Uyghur region as genocide

Route set out by the foreign secretary on the 12th January in response to the situation in the Uyghur Region falls short

by: Matthew Running

On the 12th January 2020 Dominic Raab, UK Foreign Secretary, laid out new plans in front of Parliament for the UK government to tackle the oppressive regime of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Despite some questions being asked on Chinese influence on UK education, the main concern was that of the forced labour camps in the Uyghur region.

Raab said the international lawyer in him could not definitively say that what is happening is genocide as right now it is only gross human rights violations. 12 MPs throughout the questioning of Raab, including a passionate Nusrat Ghani and Layla Moran, used the word genocide and Raab would either dodge it or outright deny it.

There was a sense of broad cross-party support in taking actions against China with Conservatives such as Iain Duncan Smith and Liberal Democrats such as Layla Moran also joining the debate.

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The situation in the Uyghur region is horrific. The CCP has built over 400 ‘re-education’ camps where it is heavily reported that they torture Uyghur Muslims to denounce their faith and support the CCP. The CCP have Uyghurs working in forced labour factories to keep the international business for using Chinese cheap manufacturing. The atrocities committed by the CCP are clear acts of genocide.

After 1945 and the horrors of the Holocaust the world said it would never allow concentration camps to happen again. This is why the events that happened in Westminster on the 12th were so important. It allowed us to see how a fully independent post-Brexit United Kingdom would stand up to the CCP. The government has shown it will act but unfortunately only to an extent.

Raab informed Parliament about the increasing evidence of forced sterilization, arbitrary detention, political re-education, forced labour and torture going on inside these internment camps, some of which have been built by destroying mosques.

He then introduced four new steps the UK government will take to help. These are: issuing new robust and detailed guidance to UK businesses on the specific risks faced by companies with links to the Uyghur region; strengthening the Modern Slavery Act; extending the Modern Slavery Act to the public sector and finally an urgent review of export controls to Uyghur region.

Raab was challenged on these measures by Lisa Nandy. “The strength of his words is, once again, not matched by the strength of his actions” she said. While she did support the steps taken it was clear she found unsatisfactory calling it a “tick-box exercise.” Many of these measures are not new and were already introduced in September.

What more can be done? Nandy suggested the first step would be for the Commons to vote in favour of the Genocide Amenemndent to the UK trade bill. This would allow the courts to deny any future trade agreements with a country if they deem genocide to be occurring in said country.

Raab continued to be challenged when, later in the day, the Foreign Affairs Committee met with key experts to understand what they could be doing better in their response to Uyghur region Detention Camps. Chaired by Tom Tugendhat, it was the second group of witnesses who demonstrated that Raab is in the wrong by not calling it genocide.

All three experts called it genocide. Dr Simon Adams said the evidence is overwhelming − what is going on in Xinjiang is genocide.

Former Ambassador Stephen Rapp said the evidence of genocide is stronger than that of Rwanda.

Dr Gregory Stanton listed out article 2(d) & (e) of the genocide convention to explain why it is genocide. With all of the experts addressing the situation as genocide it accentuates Raab’s differing position as unique.

Besides these experts, the Chinese Research Group (set up by Tom Tugendhat) also names the situation a genocide. Labour, SNP, Lib Dems, DUP and many vocal Conservatives all call it genocide too. If the UK wants to lead and wants to help the Uyghur people then it has to address what is happening in the Uyghur region as genocide. Until then it will be trying to make progress while having the handbrake on.

The author is an associate writer for the Foundation for Uyghur Freedom.


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