Treatment of Uyghur Women: Xinjiang Detention Camps

– in the House of Commons at 10:34 am on 4th February 2021.

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Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden 10:34 am, 4th February 2021

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the treatment of Uyghur women in Xinjiang detention camps.

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I acknowledge the strength of feeling about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, which is shared by hon. Members across the House. The BBC report to which my hon. Friend refers is chilling. It includes deeply distressing testimony of the rape, torture and dehumanisation of Uyghur women in Xinjiang detention centres. It is a further compelling addition to the growing body of evidence of the gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang. The evidence of the scale and severity of these violations is now far reaching. It paints a truly harrowing picture. If China wishes to dispute this evidence, it must allow unfettered access to the region for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights or another independent fact-finding body.

This Government are committed to taking robust action in respect of Xinjiang. That is why on 12 January the Foreign Secretary announced a series of targeted measures to help ensure that British organisations are neither complicit in nor profiting from the human rights violations in the region. This includes a review of export controls as they apply to Xinjiang, the introduction of financial penalties for businesses that do not comply with the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and support for UK Government bodies to exclude suppliers that are complicit in forced labour.

These measures demonstrate to China that there is a reputational and economic cost to its policies in Xinjiang, and it is why the UK has played, and will continue to play, a leading role in building international pressure on China to change course. In October 2019 and June 2020, the UK led the first two joint statements on Xinjiang at the UN. In October 2020, 38 countries joined the UK in a robust statement at the UN Third Committee. This diplomatic action is vitally important. More countries than ever are speaking out about Xinjiang. China has already been forced to change its narrative about the camps, and its denial of these violations is increasingly hard to sustain. The Foreign Secretary has made clear the extent of our concern directly to his counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and I have raised the issue with the former Chinese ambassador in London.

On the specific allegations of forced birth control, we have raised these with the Chinese authorities and used our national statement at the UN Human Rights Council last September to draw international attention to this deeply concerning issue.

I can assure the House that we will continue to work with our international partners, including with the new US Administration and through our G7 presidency, to hold China to account for its actions. The UK has called repeatedly for China to abide by the UN’s recommendation to release all those who have been arbitrarily detained, and I know that right hon. and hon. Members will join me today in reiterating that call.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

I thank the Minister for his powerful statement. Yesterday, the BBC broadcast harrowing footage of Chinese state-orchestrated abuse against Uyghur women on an unprecedented scale.

“They had an electric stick, I didn’t know what it was, and it was pushed inside my genital tract, torturing me with an electric shock.”

That is the testimony of Tursunay Ziawudun. “They did whatever their evil minds could think of. They were barbarians. I felt I had died. I was dead.” Then there are the gang rapes of Uyghur women by the police in front of other camp detainees, as a form of re-education, seeking out those who look away to punish them even further.

These horrifying stories add to the huge and growing body of evidence detailing atrocities perpetrated by the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang—atrocities that may even be genocidal. These horrors have led the Board of Deputies of British Jews to compare the plight of the Uyghurs to the Holocaust. But as everybody in this House knows, there is no prospect of China being held to account through the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice. So I ask the Minister: how will the Government get the court judgment they need to act when all international routes are paralysed by China? We cannot be bystanders to the deliberate attempt to exterminate a group of people. Not again.

Will the Minister make a promise today that no further deepening of ties of any kind will take place with China until a full judicial inquiry has investigated these crimes? Will he commit himself to a meeting with Rahima Mahmut, a Uyghur survivor, who is known by so many in this House? Rahima is a brave woman, risking her safety to save her family and her people. The United Kingdom cannot stand by and do nothing about the extermination of the Uyghur—mass rapes, scalping and forced sterilisations. We can act and we must act.

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

May I thank my hon. Friend again for her powerful questions and her speech? I know how important this is to her. I reiterate that the Foreign Secretary announced a series of measures on 12 January in response to the human rights situation in Xinjiang. This will help to ensure that UK businesses are not complicit in human rights violations. We are leading international efforts to hold China to account, and of course I would be delighted to meet with Rahima, the Uyghur lady whom my hon. Friend referred to.

Importantly, we will continue to work on this incredibly crucial issue alongside our international partners, pulling together, including making the statement that we did late last year alongside Germany and 38 other countries. We will work with the new US Administration, under President Biden. May I thank my hon. Friend again for bringing this incredibly powerful testimony to the House? Anybody who has seen the report by the BBC—I congratulate the BBC on producing it—cannot help but be moved and distressed by what are clearly evil acts.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The Chinese Government’s brutal campaign of oppression in Xinjiang is a scar on the conscience of the world. The Labour party stands shoulder to shoulder with the Uyghur people. We already know about the forced labour camps, and yesterday we heard utterly heartbreaking testimonies from Uyghur women who have been systematically raped, sexually abused and tortured. This follows last summer’s harrowing accounts from Uyghur women who are victims of forced sterilisation and forced intrauterine device insertion. The Chinese Government’s own statistics show that birth rates in Xinjiang fell by a third in 2017-18—further evidence that what is happening may meet the international legal definition of genocide, which the new US Administration have already acknowledged.

Last month the Foreign Secretary rightly condemned the events in Xinjiang as

“barbarism we had hoped was lost to another era”—[Official Report, 12 January 2021;
Vol. 687, c. 160.]

Surely the time for tangible action has now come. First, where on earth are the Magnitsky sanctions that the Opposition and Members across the House have been calling for since last June? The Foreign Secretary said that the body of evidence in Xinjiang is “large, diverse and growing”, and we know the names of the senior Chinese officials who are responsible for these atrocities. The US sanctioned them last summer. Who in Government is holding this up?

Secondly, 20% of the world’s cotton comes from Xinjiang. We welcome the steps that the Government have taken to help UK business cease being complicit in forced labour, but they did not go far enough. Companies must be accountable, not simply transparent. Rather than tinkering around the edges of the Modern Slavery Act, will the Minister commit himself to bringing forward legislation that moves us to a system of mandatory due diligence?

Next Tuesday, when the Trade Bill returns, the House has the chance to send a united message to the world that genocide can never be met with indifference, impunity or inaction. This should not be a partisan issue. Given that it is a long-standing Government commitment that courts, not the Government, must rule on genocide, will the Minister join with us and colleagues across the House to give UK courts the powers to determine genocide and therefore prevent the UK from ever doing trade deals with genocidal states?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his questions, which raised a number of issues. He mentioned the US announcement regarding genocide. It is worth pointing out that the US has a different process for determining genocide that is not linked to a court decision. With regard to sanctions, we have had targeted measures in response to this matter. On 12 January, the Foreign Secretary announced a series of robust actions to ensure that no companies profit from forced labour and we will target in a forensic way those companies that are doing so, whether deliberately or otherwise. Of course, we are carefully considering any further designations under our global human rights regime. We keep all evidence and potential listings under review.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

I very much welcome the urgent question from my hon. Friend Ms Ghani. She is raising a central point on the humanity that we share with people around the world, including with citizens of China. I was very keen that the Government should assist companies here, because we heard only yesterday that Manchester University is in partnership with the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation unaware of its connections with the surveillance state that is going on in Xinjiang. Will the Minister commit to helping British institutions, academics or, indeed, companies to make sure that they are not complicit with any genocidal regime or any autocratic state using data or technology that they have provided together to oppress people? Those institutions cannot always know such information themselves, but the Foreign Office can certainly assist them.

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My hon. Friend, the Chair of the Select Committee, is right to raise this matter, especially around academia. UK universities are open to the world and we warmly welcome overseas students, including, for example, from China, but we will not accept collaborations that compromise our national security. We do work with academia to make sure that any links are closely monitored —whether that is with students or foreign military organisations—and we also work with British companies over the measures that the Foreign Secretary announced in January.

Photo of Alyn Smith Alyn Smith Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The plight of the Uyghurs is a well-trodden path within the House, and evidence of the dreadful situation just keeps mounting. I really commend Ms Ghani for bringing this forward today, because it is important that we keep the matter very much on our radar. I do not regard the Minister as part of the problem here. We are all supportive of his efforts that are under way, but we would like to see more. I have three particular points. I have raised before the academic links that the Chinese state has with UK institutions. Much greater clarity is needed there. On EU co-ordination, there are measures within the EU-China trade deal that could be activated. Frankly, the EU could be a bit sharper in activating them over this to trigger a dispute resolution. The most fundamental thing that the UK Government could do is to change their face on the genocide amendment, which is before the other place in the Trade Bill. At a stroke, that would change how the UK does business on this and would be a really positive sign. The time for the Government to reverse their position on that is long overdue.

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his measured questions. On that last point, may I be absolutely clear that we understand fully the strength of feeling on this matter with regard to the Trade Bill? We agree that there must be enhanced scrutiny for Parliament on both the issue of genocide and also the Government’s response to this most serious crime. As a result, the Government are looking to see how we can ensure that relevant debate and scrutiny can take place in Parliament in response to credible concerns about genocide. I know that Ministers have been reaching out to colleagues across the House in this regard. We want to work with Parliament to find a credible solution—a parliamentary solution—that is both robust and properly accountable to the House.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green

I congratulate my hon. Friend Ms Ghani on her question and the BBC on its programme. A litany of terrible, terrible abuse —rape, mass internment, people going into concentration camps, people being sterilised, people being maltreated, abused and tortured—which sounds like something from 75 years ago, but it is not; it is today. With respect to the Minister, it is no good anymore coming to the Dispatch Box to say that he agrees with all this. Where are the Magnitsky sanctions on individuals? We have all the evidence necessary. Finally, why, oh why are the Government going out of their way to block this amendment that is coming back to the House of Commons, which will give the courts the power to decide that this is genocide? The Minister has just said in his statement that only the courts can say it is genocide, so let us stop this nonsense, please. Allow the amendment to go through and get the courts to make that decision. It will be a leading position from a British Government—that is the way to go.

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I thank my right hon. Friend for his continued interest. I know how strongly he feels about the issue. Again, to be absolutely clear, we understand the strength of feeling, in particular around the Trade Bill, and we believe that there must be more enhanced scrutiny by Parliament of genocide and our response to the crime. That is why we will work with him and other right hon. and hon. Members in that regard.

As we have said, competent courts include international ones, such as the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, and national criminal courts that meet international standards of due process. On sanctions, we have already come up with targeted measures in respect of UK supply chains. Those are direct actions. Nobody should be any doubt. We are being very clear in our public statements about what is going on in Xinjiang. As I have said, we are carefully considering further designations.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I echo the words of the Minister in thanking Ms Ghani for obtaining this important urgent question. The best thanks that we could give to the hon. Lady and others in this House would be to actually act. What we saw on the programme was shocking, but it can no longer be any surprise. Nobody can say now that they do not know what is happening there.

The Minister has said it twice now: genocide is a matter for the courts, unlike in the United States. Surely the logic of his own arguments is that, when Lord Alton’s amendment to the Trade Bill comes back to this House next week, the Government should be supporting it or, at the very least, finding a form of words that they will bring forward to achieve the same end. I am afraid that warm words and hand wringing are no longer enough.

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The right hon. Gentleman always talks in a measured and passionate way about this issue. I reiterate the comments that I made earlier to Stephen Kinnock: the US has a different process for determining genocide, but it is not linked to a court decision. Our long-standing policy is that any judgment as to whether genocide has occurred is a matter for a competent court.

We are looking to work with right hon. and hon. colleagues to ensure that the relevant debate and scrutiny can take place here. That work has been going on while the Bill has been in the other place. No doubt there will be further such conversations over the weekend as we lead up to the Bill coming back.

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Conservative, North Somerset

I congratulate my hon. Friend Ms Ghani on securing the urgent question today. It is right to shine a light on the vile atrocities being carried out in Xinjiang. The official denials by the Chinese state today are a humiliation for China on the world stage. I, too, would welcome stronger Magnitsky-style sanctions against individual officials, but is not the bottom line that we have to face up to the fact that, when totalitarian regimes become established, there is a limit to what we can do from outside? Therefore, there is all the more moral responsibility on us to confront China’s strategic aims in other parts of the world and to give support to Governments around the world who believe in democracy, freedom and the rule of law.

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

Again, my right hon. Friend is spot on. That is why the UK Government are leading international efforts in this regard to hold China to account. We led the first two joint statements at the UN on this issue at the Human Rights Council in June 2020 and at the Third Committee in October. The growing international pressure on China reflects the diplomatic leadership that the UK has been giving, not least in bringing together a total of 39 countries, alongside Germany, to express our concern at the situation in Xinjiang.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

As the case of the horrifying treatment of the Uyghur women outlined by Ms Ghani demonstrated very well, women and girls from marginalised religions or belief communities often encounter unique persecution and challenge due to their religion and gender. Other examples, such as the sexual violence suffered by Yazidi women and kidnapping and forced marriage of young Christian, Sikh and Hindu girls in Pakistan, like 14-year-old Maira Shahbaz and 13-year-old Arzoo Raja, serve to emphasise the scale and severity of this problem. What action are the Government taking to tackle issues at the intersection of gender violence, inequality and freedom of religion or belief violations?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The hon. Gentleman raises two or three horrific cases, and he is right to refer to the issue of sexual violence suffered by Yazidi women and young Christians, Sikhs and Hindus. We absolutely recognise that women and girls from religious minorities can often suffer because of their gender and faith. That is why we ensure that our human rights policy work considers the intersectionality of human rights—for example, the importance of addressing the specific issues that may be experienced by women from particular religious minority communities.

Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Conservative, North West Durham

I congratulate my hon. Friend Ms Ghani on securing this urgent question. Many of my constituents are deeply concerned about the plight of the Uyghur community in China, and also the abuse, oppression and undermining of international agreements that is taking place in Hong Kong. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to support freedom of religion in China?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My hon. Friend is, like Jim Shannon, right to raise this issue. We are deeply concerned about the persecution of people because of their beliefs or their religion. The freedom to practice, change or share faith or belief without discrimination or opposition is a human right, and that is something that all people should enjoy. We are working very hard on this. The Prime Minister recently appointed my hon. Friend Fiona Bruce as special envoy on freedom of religion and belief. We work with and meet officials around the globe. Specifically, we met Chinese officials in 2019 and expressed our concerns, for example, on the pressures that Christians are facing. We raise cases directly. My ministerial colleague, Lord Ahmad, continues to work in this regard as the Minister responsible for human rights.

Photo of Kim Johnson Kim Johnson Labour, Liverpool, Riverside

Will the Minister explain the Government’s strategy for the G7 in Cornwall? The UK has the opportunity to work with its democratic allies to send a very strong message that China’s treatment of the Uyghur women in Xinjiang is completely unacceptable to the international community. Does he agree that actions speak much louder than words?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The hon. Lady raises the G7 and the opportunity we have as chair this year, and she is right to do so; ensuring that multilateral fora are at the forefront of holding China to account is really important. As I have said many times at the Dispatch Box, we have raised the situation in Xinjiang many times. We work very closely with our international partners, and I am pretty confident she can rest assured that the issue we are discussing will be brought forward as a matter of urgency with our G7 colleagues.

Photo of Mike Wood Mike Wood Conservative, Dudley South

It is more important than ever that we work with allies around the world to protect the values we share. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to co-ordinate with our Five Eyes partners, so that we can both monitor and combat China’s clear human rights abuses?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My hon. Friend talks about what we are doing internationally, which is really important. We have taken a leading international role, and the impact of our diplomacy is reflected in the growing number of countries that have joined our statements. We will continue to try to get the widest caucus of support, to ensure that measures brought forward hold China to account, as long as they are as effective as possible. We will continue to work with international partners, including Muslim and Arab countries and those in the region, as well as the traditional Five Eyes and European partners, to try to expand this caucus of like-minded states.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour, Swansea West

Given that the evidence of industrial-scale human rights abuse, including mass rape, torture and cultural genocide, is incontrovertible and known to the Chinese Government and the Chinese President, will the Government now give the UK courts the power to judge genocide; instruct our industries to ensure that we source our cotton not from the slave trade of Xinjiang but from democracies such as India; and instruct our pension funds and institutions not to invest in companies that are complicit in abuse, including surveillance companies? After all, our actions will be judged; our words will be ignored.

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

Again, I want to be absolutely clear: we are committed to ensuring that our trade policy is consistent with our international obligations. Trade does not have to come at the expense of human rights. That is why the Foreign Secretary announced further measures on 12 January. We will continue to work in this regard. Our long-standing position on determining genocide is that competent courts include international courts—the ICC and the ICJ—and national criminal courts that meet international standards of due process.

Photo of Nickie Aiken Nickie Aiken Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster

I congratulate my hon. Friend Ms Ghani on securing this urgent question. The Minister may be aware that I am vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the preventing sexual violence in conflict initiative. Does he agree that there is a need to set up a PSVI body to document crimes, support survivors and lead prosecutions and that China must allow such a body of independent observers unfettered access to Xinjiang—or East Turkestan, as it is also known —so that they can report on what is occurring there?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I thank my hon. Friend for the work that she does on the preventing sexual violence in conflict initiative APPG, and I would like to wish her a happy birthday. We have made it clear that the UN human rights commissioner or another independent fact-finding body must be given unfettered access to Xinjiang. We have called for that repeatedly in joint statements and national statements at the UN. It is vital that China allows such access without delay. If, as China claims today, these allegations are mere fabrications or fake news, how can it object to granting access?

Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow

I pay tribute to Ms Ghani for securing this urgent question.

In 2018, some 80% of all inter-uterine devices used in China were implanted in women in Xinjiang province, even though they account for only 1.8% of China’s population. Forced sterilisation, rape, sexual torture and violence are happening before our eyes and are clearly documented. We know we are not the only nation that is trying to speak up on this issue. The Minister has talked about the importance of human rights access; will he update us on the conversations he has been having with the Australians, who have also been leading on this issue at the UN, in order that we can show the world a joint economic and diplomatic approach to holding China to account?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that we need to co-operate on an international level, and we are. I had a meeting yesterday with the Australian deputy high commissioner and we discussed Xinjiang. It is crucial that we work together in all sorts of different multilateral fora and bilaterally with like-minded countries. As I have said previously, the impact of our diplomacy is reflected in the growing number of countries that have joined us in our statements.

Photo of Elliot Colburn Elliot Colburn Conservative, Carshalton and Wallington

I congratulate my hon. Friend Ms Ghani on securing this question. The BBC programme was indeed harrowing, and many Carshalton and Wallington residents have raised it with me. One of the most distressing aspects of the treatment of the Uyghurs is the sickening online propaganda suggesting that they are somehow happy with or, indeed, responding well to their so-called re-education. Will my hon. Friend the Minister outline what conversations he has had with his colleagues in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and in tech about tackling this harmful online content?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue. Content that denies that these atrocities are going on should be judged as harmful content. We are developing an online harms regulatory framework, which will establish a new duty of care to ensure that companies have processes in place to deal with the sort of disinformation and harmful content to which my hon. Friend refers.

Photo of Martyn Day Martyn Day Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Public Health and Primary Care)

The public are truly appalled by the further horrific crimes that have now come to light. We cannot allow this situation to be tolerated. Will the Minister advise us on what more can be done to tighten the restrictions to prevent Xinjiang cotton and other goods manufactured by prisoners from entering UK supply chains and ending up in our shops?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The hon. Gentleman is correct to raise this issue; it is important that we take action in this regard. We believe that the measures announced by the Foreign Secretary in January are robust. We have led the international action in this regard. The measures in respect of UK supply chains are targeted and will help to ensure that no British organisation, whether in the public or private sector, is complicit in human rights violations in Xinjiang.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley Chair, Procedure Committee, Chair, Procedure Committee

I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

We all agree that nobody should profit from the abuse of others. Forced labour is a hideous crime. I welcome what the Minister has said regarding the use of the Modern Slavery Act, but will he consider introducing provisions similar to those used in the United States, where hot goods produced by forced labour are prevented from even entering the country, to stop perpetrators profiting from their abusive behaviour?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I thank my right hon. Friend for the work she did when she was the Minister responsible for the Modern Slavery Act; it has had a huge impact. In respect of the US Department of Labour’s hot goods provision, we certainly do not rule out taking further measures. Xinjiang’s position in the international supply chain network means that there is a risk of businesses inadvertently or otherwise sourcing from suppliers that are complicit in the use of forced labour. That is why we have announced the package of measures to ensure that businesses that profit from forced Uyghur labour are not part of the supply chains. It includes the introduction of financial penalties for businesses that do not comply with the Modern Slavery Act and guidance for businesses operating in Xinjiang, and also support for UK Government and public bodies to exclude suppliers who are complicit in forced labour.

Photo of Janet Daby Janet Daby Labour, Lewisham East

We have heard of the Chinese regime carrying out forced sterilisations on Uyghur women as well as carrying out forced abortions and tearing children from their mothers. As if it could not get any worse, we now know they are systematically raping and torturing women in their detention camps; nowhere is safe for them. As we approach the next stage of the Trade Bill, now is the time for the Government to accept Lord Alton’s amendment to finally call this programme of abuse what it is: genocide. If the Minister’s Department continues to refuse, what exactly is it waiting for China to do before it takes this action?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

The hon. Lady is right to raise the deeply disturbing reports of forced sterilisation; we had a debate in this place late last year on the issue. It adds to the growing body of evidence about the disturbing situation that Uyghurs in Xinjiang and other minorities are facing. I can assure the hon. Lady that the Government fully understand the strength of feeling on this matter; that is why we are looking to work to ensure that the relevant debate and scrutiny can take place in Parliament, where there are credible concerns about genocide in defined circumstances.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The news from Xinjiang becomes ever more horrific, so what can the Government do to help us as consumers know when we shop online exactly where our products are coming from? Are the Government having conversations with the big online retailers so that we will know if anything we are buying is coming from either Xinjiang or China? Can the Government help in this area so our collective power as consumers can be brought to bear?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My hon. Friend is right to raise that point. It is important that we strengthen the measures that we announced previously on the Modern Slavery Act and that we announced in January on strengthening the overseas business risk measures, making it clear to businesses, whether online or otherwise, that if they are investing or have supply chains in Xinjiang they must not inadvertently or directly be complicit in the exploitation of forced labour. We are reviewing the export controls to ensure that we are doing everything we can to prevent the export of goods that may contribute to human rights violations, and, as I mentioned to Janet Daby, the financial penalties for organisations that fail to comply with these transparency obligations will be severe.

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am grateful to Ms Ghani for seeking this urgent question. I have a simple question that has been asked several times already this morning, but as I have not heard a clear answer I will ask it again: why do the Government continue to drag their feet on applying Magnitsky sanctions to Chinese officials in Xinjiang when the evidence of serious human rights violations is so compelling?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

We have taken action. We have led international action; we have targeted measures, as announced in January; we will continue to work closely with our partners and lead international efforts to hold China to account, including by working with the new Administration in the United States; and I can tell the hon. Lady we are carefully considering further Magnitsky designations on the Chinese regime and keeping all the evidence and the potential listings under close review.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

The treatment of the Uyghurs by the Chinese regime is beyond appalling. The Minister was right to say in his statement that the initial step we need to take to resolve the situation is for the Chinese to allow unfettered access for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. What possible excuse could the Chinese regime have for preventing that, and how are Her Majesty’s Government going to bring that about?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My hon. Friend makes a very valid point. If China has nothing to hide and claims again today that these allegations are false, there is absolutely no excuse for unfettered access not being granted to the UN human rights commissioner, and we have constantly called for that to happen.

Photo of Wendy Chamberlain Wendy Chamberlain Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

I congratulate Ms Ghani on securing this urgent question, but it is the third urgent question we have had on the treatment of Uyghurs, and indeed the Foreign Secretary made a statement on the issue not three weeks ago. I reiterate the comment by my right hon. Friend Mr Carmichael that thoughts and prayers are no longer sufficient. What else do the Government and their international partners require to take action?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. We are taking action. We have taken action with regard to Xinjiang. We have raised this directly with the Chinese authorities; the Foreign Secretary has raised it with his direct counterpart, and I have raised it with China’s ambassador—now the former ambassador—to the UK. We announced a series of measures in January, and we funded the research that helped build the evidence base for what is going on in Xinjiang. We will continue to work not just on our own but with our international partners to ensure that China is held to its international obligations.

Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight

First, I thank the Minister for his work. He is a good Minister; it is a difficult brief, and he does his job diligently. However, does the Foreign Office believe that it is ethically right to sign preferential treaties with states credibly accused of genocide? Systematic rape, sexual torture, forced sterilisation, re-education camps, forced labour, Orwellian surveillance—this is a tragedy happening in our time and it demands moral recognition, so why are the Government blocking our meaningful genocide amendment to the Trade Bill? Will they please work with us to introduce a meaningful amendment to that Bill that recognises the criticality—the moral imperative—of recognising genocide, and a genocide that is happening now, in our age?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments; I knew there was going to be a “however” or a “but” at some point. I know how passionate he is about this issue. To his first question, of course it is not right that we should be entering into these agreements with genocidal countries. I can again be absolutely clear that we understand the strength of his feeling on this matter, and that of other hon. and right hon. Members. We want to work, and we are working, with hon. and right hon. Members right across the House—work that will continue in the run-up to next Tuesday, when the Bill comes back to this place.

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment)

The extent of these crimes of sexual violence can only be considered to be systematic and a further symptom of the genocide being carried out, using a whole armoury of appalling tactics, by Chinese officials. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government are considering adopting an atrocity prevention strategy to ensure that the resources of all Departments always operate in a way that is consistent with our values?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

We are working incredibly hard with our international partners to ensure that there is an effective response to the situation in Xinjiang. The hon. Gentleman raises a very good point. We will continue to do that. I do believe that our diplomatic pressure is having an international impact, by virtue of the fact that the most recent statement had 38 countries joining us. We will continue to work both directly—bilaterally—and internationally to ensure that China is held to account for its international obligations.

Photo of Imran Ahmad Khan Imran Ahmad Khan Conservative, Wakefield

Like my hon. Friend Ms Ghani, I was appalled by the statement from the Chinese embassy condemning the BBC report about the treatment of Uyghurs, including the systematic rape of detained women, as little more than fake news. This is another example of the Chinese state denying genocide, despite it being glaringly obvious that the Chinese Communist party is orchestrating the systematic eradication of the Uyghur.

Unlike some today, I believe that whether a totalitarian state is established or not, we must have the courage and confidence to resist inhuman despotism, as this country proudly has in the past. Will my hon. Friend tell me when and which additional measures the Government intend to employ in the light of the overwhelming and still growing mountain of evidence of human rights abuses and shameless lies by the Chinese Government?

Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. Again, I know how passionate hon and right hon. Members feel about this particular issue. With regard to the measures, we have taken action, as he knows, both at the UN and with our statements bringing together our international partners. We announced further measures in January aimed at targeting companies that are potentially indirectly or inadvertently profiting from forced labour. We will continue to look and to lead international efforts to hold China to account. We will consider carefully further designations under our global human rights regime, and we will keep all evidence and potential listings under close review. It is important that sanctions are developed responsibly, and it is not appropriate to speculate on who may be designated in the future.