Uyghur Tribunal Judgment

– in the House of Commons at 12:01 pm on 20th January 2022.

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[Relevant document: e-petition 300146, “Impose sanctions on China over its treatment of Uyghur Muslims”.]

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden 12:04 pm, 20th January 2022

I beg to move,

That this House
notes that the December 2021 Uyghur Tribunal’s judgment in London found beyond reasonable doubt that the People’s Republic of China was responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and torture in the Uyghur region;
and calls on the Government to urgently assess whether it considers there to be a serious risk of genocide in the Uyghur region and to present its findings to the House within two months of this motion being passed, 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 and fulfil its other obligations under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, accept the recommendations of the Fifth Report of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Uyghur forced labour in Xinjiang and UK value chains, Session 2019-21, HC 1272, including black-listing UK firms selling slave-made products in the UK and putting in place import controls to protect UK consumers, and place sanctions on the perpetrators of this genocide, including Chen Quanguo.

I put on record my thanks to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China and the World Uyghur Congress, and to Rahima Mahmut and Dolkun Isa in particular. I also thank Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who chaired the Uyghur Tribunal. He worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia between 1998 and 2006 and led the prosecution in the trial of Slobodan Milošević, the former President of Serbia, for genocide. I cannot stress enough that there is no person more qualified than Sir Geoffrey to assess the facts and determine whether there has been genocide, the crime of all crimes.

There is a lot of speculation in this place about people abdicating their legal and moral duties, and that is what this debate is about. The Government have a legal and moral duty to respond to the Uyghur Tribunal’s verdict and the evidence that was put before it. They must stop shirking that duty by using expensive Government lawyers to weasel their way out of acting—a course of action that is truly reprehensible.

As we know, the Uyghur Tribunal verdict last month, which was based on the facts, was crystal clear: genocide is taking place in the Xinjiang region of north-west China. What more do the Government need to see and hear? Surely the Minister cannot argue with the evidence presented to the tribunal, or its conclusion that human rights abuses, torture and genocide are taking place—a conclusion that it made while it was sanctioned by the Chinese Communist party. There is no plausible reason for the Government to 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. When will the Government do the right thing, and—this is a question to which we desperately seek an answer—where is the organising force of this Government?

I am not interested in hearing the Minister discuss whether or not the Uyghur Tribunal is a competent court. That is irrelevant to this debate. I am focusing on the International Court of Justice’s Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro 2007 ruling, which completely blows that argument out the water. Let me remind the Minister of the legal situation that the Government are in. The ICJ ruled that

“a State’s obligation to prevent, and the corresponding duty to act, arise at the instant that the State learns of, or should normally have learned of, the existence of a serious risk that genocide will be committed.”

That is the crux of the issue, and of this debate. Those are the rules that the Government are operating under—unless the Minister intends to suggest today at the Dispatch Box that we are now making up our own rules on the hoof.

This House, too, has examined some of the most horrific evidence put to the Uyghur Tribunal. With one voice, Parliament agreed that genocide was taking place in Xinjiang against the Uyghur people and other minorities. That was a significant development. We joined our allies in America in taking that view, and were soon followed by Parliaments in countries across the world, including the Netherlands, Lithuania, Canada and the Czech Republic.

Today’s debate is about three things. First, now that the evidence has been presented to the Uyghur Tribunal, the Government must assess whether, under their ICJ obligations, they consider there to be a serious risk of genocide. Today’s motion will force the Government to present that analysis to the House within two months.

Secondly, if the Government will not or cannot do anything about the genocide, the mass rapes, the torture and the abuses taking place in Xinjiang, they should at least protect the British people. The British public—including my constituents and, no doubt, the Minister’s constituents—do not want to be assisting, aiding or abetting the Uyghur genocide. Only the Government can protect the British consumer by introducing import controls, blacklisting British firms profiting from slave labour, and toughening up the current toothless anti-slavery rules.

Finally, the Government should act in line with our closest international allies and use Magnitsky sanctions against Chen Quanguo, the architect of the misery in Xinjiang.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour, Swansea West

I am listening carefully to the hon. Lady’s excellent speech. Does she agree that there is also a case for labelling products that may have been produced in the context of the genocide, in that they were subject to Uyghur exploitation, so that consumers themselves can decide whether they want to buy ethically produced products?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

I do agree with the hon. Gentleman. Our constituents want to know the heritage of the products that they are consuming, quite apart from the environmental impact. There is nothing to prevent the Government from ensuring that these products are labelled “stained with slave labour from Xinjiang”.

The tribunal spent a year, in London, amassing the most comprehensive body of evidence in existence on the Uyghur crisis. It took testimonies from academics, legislators and witnesses, and that is how it was able to make a legal determination. There was evidence of, for example, a massive drop in Uyghur birth rates in Xinjiang, which represents just one of the five markers of genocide. In one Uyghur region, birth rates are down by 84%. That accords neatly with the marker: the destruction of a people by stopping them having children, in just one generation. The tribunal labelled it “the biological genocide”.

Nowhere else in the world are so many women being violated in one place at the same time. Although the Uyghur region accounts for just 1.8% of China’s population, 80% of all birth control device insertions in China were performed in that region. Is the Minister really going to challenge the evidence with which the tribunal was presented? It heard that:

“Pregnant women, in detention centres and outside, were forced to have abortions even at the very last stages of pregnancy. In the course of attempted abortions babies were sometimes born alive but then killed.”

Those are the facts that were presented to the tribunal.

Witnesses’ testimonies were so horrific that I cannot list them all, but the Board of Deputies of British Jews compared this to the holocaust. Its president, Marie van der Zyl, wrote:

“Nobody could…fail to notice the similarities between what is alleged to be happening in the People’s Republic of China today and what happened in Nazi Germany 75 years ago”.

Having considered this evidence, the tribunal said that it was

“satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the PRC, by the imposition of measures to prevent births intended to destroy a significant part of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang as such, has committed genocide.”

I urge the Minister not to maintain the Government’s position of “Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil”. That is straight out of the CCP’s playbook. We have moved on, and the Government must now act. I am going to give the Minister some time in which to consider rewriting her speech, because the Government have now been told of the ICJ’s 2007 ruling, and we do not want to hear a rehearsal of their previous arguments.

Let me try to help the Minister by pre-empting some of the points that she may make. In the past, the Government have deferred to their holding statement that this is a matter for competent courts. That is irrelevant to today’s debate. The House now knows that the ICJ’s Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro 2007 ruling has blown that argument out of the water. Let me say it again: countries have a

“duty to act...at the instant that the State learns of, or should normally have learned of. the existence of a serious risk that genocide will be committed.”

That duty has long been triggered. When the Minister recently praised the tribunal for

“building international awareness and understanding of the human rights violations occurring in Xinjiang”, that triggered the duty to act. Not only that, but when she

“urged the Chinese Government to engage with the evidence provided by the Uyghur Tribunal” during a recent meeting with the Chinese ambassador, that triggered the duty to act. So does she agree with the ICJ ruling and agree that it is the duty of Governments, not courts, to continually assess whether there is a risk of genocide? Is she today going to change Government policy?

Photo of Janet Daby Janet Daby Labour, Lewisham East

Does the hon. Lady agree that the Government have no justification to deny that this is genocide?

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

The Government can fall back on the line, “It requires the United Nations to determine genocide”, but the discussion today is that once the Government are made aware that there is an intent of genocide, that unlocks legal obligations to assess that risk for the Government and for the British public.

As I just mentioned, the Government must carry out risk assessments and undertake due diligence to make sure that they and the British public are not at risk; it is a responsibility of Government, not the courts, following the 2007 legal determination. Before we are told, “It is impossible. It is impractical.”, let me point out that that is just wrong and that other Governments are acting. Our allies in America last month introduced a landmark piece of legislation, the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act, which will stop imports arriving in America from Xinjiang, putting the burden of proof on companies to show that they are not selling goods stained red with Uyghur slave labour. Our public, the British public, do not want to be duped into putting money into the pocket of firms—British firms—selling slave labour products on our shelves. This gets even more absurd, because if we are set on seeking a free trade agreement with America, the Government must strongly consider how enthusiastic our allies in Washington will be about the prospect of the UK being the gateway for whitewashed Uyghur slave labour goods imported from Xinjiang through the UK and ending up in the United States. The Government’s position is now making us a laughing stock. There is no point talking tough but not taking any action.

Let me give the House some examples of that. Last year, the Government promised a bundle of measures

“to help ensure that British organisations are not complicit in, nor profiting from, human rights violations in Xinjiang.”

There has been zero progress. The Government promised

“a Minister led campaign of business engagement to reinforce the need for UK businesses to take action to address the risk.”

There has been zero progress. The Government promised

“the introduction of financial penalties for organisations who fail to meet their statutory obligations to publish annual modern slavery statements, under the Modern Slavery Act.”

There has been zero progress. We cannot even go to Xinjiang to do basic due diligence, so how can we prove that no slavery is taking place? We just have to act—the law is on our side.

Let me leave the House with the story of Tursunay Ziyawudun, a Uyghur camp survivor I had the honour of meeting last year. Many have argued that this is the most technically advanced genocide that has ever taken place, so survivors are really rare. Tursunay was tortured and later gang-raped on many occasions, and had an electric device inserted into her vagina. The biggest damage is that Tursunay feels ashamed, but it is us who should be ashamed that we have taken no action to stop her people being destroyed by genocide. We have taken no action to protect the British public and prevent those British companies from making profit on the back of this genocide. I urge the Minister—I know that Tursunay would be pleading with the Minister here and that the House, with its unanimous support for backing the previous amendment, implores the Government—to live up to their moral and legal obligation and carry out the urgent assessment of genocide in Xinjiang, and to do so for the Uyghur people and to protect the British public.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Before I call the next speaker, let me say that we have two important debates this afternoon. We have a good amount of time, but not an excessive amount of time, so I ask colleagues to bear that in mind and not to give over-lengthy speeches.

Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden 12:19 pm, 20th January 2022

I am honoured to follow Ms Ghani and her powerful opening of this very important debate.

China has committed genocide against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang. That was the definitive conclusion of the Uyghur Tribunal in London. It is a definition that Governments around the world, including our own, have been nervous to arrive at. Nigel Adams, when he was a Minister at the Foreign Office, wrote to me about human rights in China. He outlined that the Government recognised internment camps with more than 1 million Uyghurs, acknowledged reports of forced labour, and noted human rights violations, and so what did he propose? More research. Well, the research is in and the findings of the tribunal are loud and clear. I ask the Minister, does she unequivocally accept the tribunal’s findings of genocide? Does she consider Uyghurs to be at serious risk of genocide, or will the Government hide behind the international ramifications of this definition? A cowardly country would use that linguistic excuse. Shame on us if we choose that path. The Chinese Government’s actions must be stated for what they are: an apparatus of control and a systematic and calculated programme of ethnic cleansing against the Uyghur people. We can no longer say that we did not know. We need to ask ourselves: what does it mean to be complicit?

As a member of the Treasury Committee, I am particularly interested in the role played by financial institutions. Let us take HSBC, for example, a bank headquartered and registered in the UK. Last week, it came to light that it had purchased shares in Xinjiang Tianli, a plastic manufacturer owned by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. It is a Chinese-backed, state paramilitary organisation that has been subject to US Government sanctions for its role in perpetrating atrocities in the Uyghur region, and yet the UK has no legislation to prohibit HSBC and other UK firms from investing in organisations perpetrating human rights abuses in the Uyghur region. I urge the Government to draw up a blacklist of entities identified as perpetrating atrocities in the Uyghur region and to bar UK firms from investing in them. We simply cannot allow our financial institutions to bankroll these atrocities.

Although the responsibility to act must come from the top, I say to anybody watching this debate: “Do you have an HSBC account? Think about where your money is invested. What about your pension?” Last year, more than 100 MPs joined me in writing directly to the chairman and trustees of our pension fund, calling on them to divest from Chinese companies accused of complicity in gross human rights violations. We were relieved to receive confirmation that the fund is no longer invested in the Blackrock iShares emerging markets index fund, but similar concerns were shared by our staff and their scheme with Legal and General. They have taken it on themselves to secure a meeting with the institution next week to discuss how their contributions are being invested. I know that there is particular concern about investments in iFlytek, a company blacklisted in the USA for its involvement in the mass incarceration of more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims.

It is the responsibility of all of us to ask the same difficult questions. Meanwhile, I am waiting for answers from Amazon following accusations of its relationship with Chinese genomics giant, BGI Group. Last March, Amazon disclosed that it was using a modification of BGI’s covid-19 testing kit that would initially be used for its employee testing programme. Its partnership with the BGI Group comes despite a report published by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence in the United States that concluded that the BGI Group may be serving as a,

“global collection mechanism for Chinese government genetic databases.”

Amazon can hardly say that it did not know that because Andy Jassy, its chief executive, was serving on the commission at the time.

Whether through multinational financial institutions such as HSBC, global organisations such as Amazon, or lucrative pension fund investments, we have a shared responsibility to ensure that we are not complicit in genocide. Above all, that requires the Government to treat the findings of the Uyghur Tribunal with the severity that they deserve and require.

I thank other hon. Members for their courage in speaking out, in particular Ms Ghani for her unwavering voice. I say to the Minister, if we look on, history will condemn our unforgivable cowardice and ask why those in power did not act, because this time, no one can say that they did not know.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham 12:25 pm, 20th January 2022

I am delighted to be able to speak in this debate—yet another on China’s abuse of human rights. They are virtually a weekly event in this place, which is good. It is also good that many hon. Members from all parties—a growing number—are here in support of this cause, although I am surprised not to see the hon. Members for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) and for Leeds East (Richard Burgon), who take such an interest in Chinese matters, as we recently learned.

Yesterday in the Lords, Lord Alton of Liverpool, a fellow sanctioned Member—perhaps I ought to declare an interest as a sanctioned Member of the House—made allegations that China has subverted our legislative programme by persuading Members of their lordships’ House to table amendments to an Act of Parliament. That was a serious allegation into which I hope the House authorities will now look, and it again underlines the danger that the Chinese state, the Chinese Communist party and its various tentacles pose even in the heart of democracy. We heard about that earlier in the week in the welcome urgent question granted by Mr Speaker and his welcome comments about ensuring the security of hon. Members in this place to protect them from the Chinese Government.

In the Minister’s response, I ask that she addresses the fact that we are still waiting for an answer to why the Government have given £80,000 of UK taxpayers’ money to an academic to produce a report on the China hawks—that is us—to lay bare some of the criticising parties who have given oxygen to all the horrendous things committed by China. That is being funded by UK taxpayers, which is outrageous and an insult to the freedom of speech which we cherish in this place and for which we have been sanctioned by the Chinese Government.

The incredible work of the Uyghur Tribunal is to be applauded, disseminated, publicised and spoken about at every opportunity. I repeat the praise by my hon. Friend Ms Ghani and congratulate her again on leading on the issue in the House. Sir Geoffrey Nice did a fantastic job and gave a moving and landmark judgment on 9 December.

The tribunal was carried out to the highest standard of proof with very qualified experts and witnesses from numerous fields giving valuable evidence. One might say that Sir Geoffrey Nice’s conclusions were quite timid or conservative compared with what they could have been, so in no way can the judgment be seen as sensationalist or unrealistic—quite the reverse. It was a finding of fact.

This House was right to move the motion, led by my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden and passed on 22 April, that recognised the Chinese genocide against the Uyghurs. This House was right to pass unanimously my motion in favour of a diplomatic boycott, which I think we now have, although it is not entirely clear that it is a full diplomatic boycott, on 13 July. I welcome much of the Government’s action, as far as it goes, although those two motions were led by Back Benchers, not by the Government in Government time.

I congratulate the Government on some of their words of condemnation of what has been done by the Chinese Government, and I congratulate them on the sanctions that have been introduced, but there have not been nearly enough. The name of Chen Quanguo has been mentioned as the architect of repression in Tibet, which is now being repeated in Xinjiang. I welcome the business restrictions that have been brought in for those companies trading in Xinjiang to ensure that they are compliant with section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. I also welcome the measures recently introduced on the financing of infrastructure projects so that we do not have to rely on the deep pockets of China’s sovereign funds. In the UN, the UK has led on the condemnation of China human rights abuses. We have called for unfettered access to Xinjiang and other parts of China for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which of course has been denied. Those measures do not go far enough.

The Chinese Government are in denial. What did the Chinese spokesman say about the “so-called” Uyghur Tribunal? They claimed it was funded by the “terrorist and separatist” organisation, the World Uyghur Congress, and nothing but a

“political tool used by a few anti-China and separatist elements to deceive and mislead the public…The ‘Tribunal’ and its so-called ‘conclusions’ are mere clumsy shows staged by anti-China elements for their self-entertainment. Anyone with conscience and reason will not be deceived or fooled”.

I do not call the revelations that we heard in the Uyghur Tribunal—from women who had been raped, tortured and abused, and people who had been imprisoned and had their lives completely ruined—self-entertainment. The response of the Chinese Government, who are constantly in denial, is absolutely disgraceful, which is why it is so important that we continue to call them out in this place and beyond, and that we act with other fair-minded democracies and free nations around the world and their Governments to continue calling it out. There have to be implications resulting from this. It is not enough just to call it out.

Let us look at what the tribunal came up with. It is worth mentioning a few of its findings, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden has already done.

“Hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs…have been detained by PRC authorities without any, or any remotely sufficient reason, and subjected to acts of unconscionable cruelty, depravity and inhumanity.”

It found that many had been “tortured for no reason”, “detained in cages” and

“shackled by heavy metal weights”.

It also found:

“Detained women—and men—have been raped and subjected to extreme sexual violence…Detainees were subjected to solitary confinement in cells…At ‘classes’ in detention centres, detainees were forced to learn and sing songs in praise of the CCP…Detainees were forced to take medicines by mouth or by injection that affected reproductive functioning of women and possibly of men”.

Pregnant women were forced to have abortions, as my hon. Friend mentioned. The report also found evidence of “intense monitoring” and “surveillance” of Uyghur people:

“Neighbours, members of families and other members of the community were incentivised or coerced in various ways to spy on each other.”

Many people have been disappeared. It is not just famous tennis players who get disappeared. They are the ones we know about, but so many others are just disappeared. The report also found:

“Children as young as a few months were separated from their families and placed in orphanages or state-run boarding schools.”

Such cruelty to family life. It goes on:

“A systematic programme of birth control measures had been established forcing women to endure removal against their will of wombs and to undergo effective sterilization by means of IUDs which were only removeable by surgical means…Uyghur women have been coerced into marrying Han men with refusal running them the risk of imprisonment for themselves or their families.

‘Family friends’—mostly Han men—have been imposed on Uyghur households for weeks at a time to monitor and report on the households’ thoughts and behaviours”— of those Uyghur families, while:

“A large-scale enforced transfer of labour programme…emblems of Muslim faith were removed…acts of faith were punished…The use of the Uyghur language has been punished” and restricted, while

“assets have been arbitrarily appropriated by” the authorities, and there have been “relocation of occupiers”, or large-scale displacements, and intimidation of Uyghur families living outside China.

I was glad that the Home Secretary, in her response this week, agreed with the allegations about the intimidation of the diaspora of Chinese people and Uyghurs living around the world. The Foreign Office has also admitted to the harassment that has been going on in the UK, to intimidate people into silence. That, absolutely, needs to be reported to the police.

Those are all things that the tribunal found. President Xi Jinping is at the top of those who have the responsibility, the culpability, for what is going on. He bears the primary responsibility. Those things are the direct result of policies, language and speeches promoted by President Xi and others. Furthermore, those policies could not have happened in a country with such rigid hierarchies as the People’s Republic of China without implicit and explicit authority from the very top. Let us lay the blame where it belongs. We do not take issue with the Chinese people; we take issue with the Chinese Communist party Government, which is responsible for all the pain that they are causing and have caused to so many.

The tribunal decided:

“Torture of Uyghurs attributable to the”

Chinese Communist Government

“is established beyond reasonable doubt…Crimes against humanity attributable to the”

Chinese Communist Government

“is established beyond reasonable doubt”, and,

“on the basis of evidence heard in public, the Tribunal is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the”

Chinese Communist Government

“by the imposition of measures to prevent births intended to destroy a significant part of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang as such, has committed genocide.”

There is no getting away from it—there is no denying it, as the Chinese Government would have us do.

It is therefore important that we take the step today to acknowledge the truth that the Uyghur tribunal has uncovered and that we redouble our pressure on our Government and other Governments to ensure that there are implications for those findings. Virtually every day—I have a clutch of press cuttings from the past few weeks—there are stories about the malign influence of the Chinese Government throughout the world: opposition who are disappeared, or people who just spoke out against sexual abuse; instances of Chinese agents spying on students in our universities; Beijing-backed students harassing pro-democracy activists on our university campuses; threats to Taiwan internationally; or building fake US battleships for war games and target practice.

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

My hon. Friend is making a powerful case, as many, such as my hon. Friend Ms Ghani, have. Does he not think that, if the Government do not lead on that, they open the door to universities, businesses and others to fall away from doing anything and not taking a lead? For example, he mentioned universities. The key point there is that, when we speak to them, they all claim that they did not really think that it was up to them to do it; it was up to the leadership of the Government. The Government will set the terms, and we will start to clean the system once that happens.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. Leadership from the Government is essential. All of us—certainly the three musketeers on the Conservative Benches who are sanctioned—have asked repeatedly for a proper audit of the tentacles of the Chinese Communist party, which extend into our boardrooms, our university campuses, our schools, our businesses and Parliament, as we saw with the exposé earlier this week. The Government must take a lead in the country and for other like-minded nations, which need to be able to act together. Through the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, which my right hon. Friend admirably co-chairs, bringing parliamentarians together who are now prepared to speak out and act in unison across the world will have and is having an impact.

We must redouble those efforts after all the revelations that we have heard about the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Government across the world, culminating in the recent speech by Richard Moore, the head of MI6, about the China threat that we all face.

What is to be done? Today, we need to get the Government to face up to, acknowledge and agree to our international obligations under the law of genocide. To repeat the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden made, the United Kingdom is a party to the genocide convention. All state parties to the genocide convention are under an obligation to refrain from taking an active part in the crime of genocide and, additionally, to prevent the commission of genocide by others, using all means reasonably available and within their power. That includes situations in which one state alone would be unable to prevent genocide but in which its actions in combination with the efforts of other states may do so.

The obligation to take concrete steps to prevent genocide is triggered

“at the instant that the State learns of, or should normally have learned of, the existence of a serious risk that genocide will be committed” or is already being committed. The UK is on notice and has the requisite awareness of the serious risk that genocide is being committed or will be committed against the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region of China and is therefore under an obligation to act to prevent that genocide. It could not be clearer.

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

The hon. Gentleman comes to the nub of the matter. This is an appropriate moment to remind ourselves why the genocide convention is framed in such a way: because throughout history, when genocide has happened, we have always played catch-up and said that we did not know. We live in a very different world now, in which we do know; that is why we have the obligation, which has now been triggered, to act. We can call it out in the House, but only the Government can act.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right and has been a doughty champion of the cause. We cannot stand by and wait for further atrocities to happen. We are under a duty to trigger the processes that recognise that genocide has been and is still being committed, and to take appropriate actions to counter it. That is absolutely clear. I cannot envisage anything the Government could say in response today that would get them out of that obligation, now that the evidence has so clearly, so starkly and so skilfully been put forward by Sir Geoffrey Nice.

That is our first requirement, but there are other things that the Government can do. Following the lead taken in the United States with the recent Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden mentioned, we have a Bill on the Order Paper: the Tibet and Xinjiang (Reciprocal Access) Bill, which has specific sanctions that we can bring to bear against Chinese Government officials to reinforce the point that we are absolutely serious. We need further high-ranking officials, starting with Chen Quanguo, to be sanctioned to show that we are absolutely clear about who is responsible for the ongoing haranguing and victimisation of the Uyghur people.

This must happen. I have no doubt that at the end of the debate we shall all will it to happen, with no votes demurring, but the Government must take the lead. They must do what they are required to do under international law and under the moral duty that we have all recognised today and stand up for those people who are still being victimised by the horrendous torture meted out by the Chinese Communist party Government.

Photo of Layla Moran Layla Moran Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 12:44 pm, 20th January 2022

I congratulate Ms Ghani on securing the debate on an issue close to the heart of everyone in this Chamber. I thank Sir Geoffrey Nice and the World Uyghur Congress for their incredibly important work day in, day out for months.

As foreign affairs spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, I put it on the record that all Liberal Democrats everywhere stand shoulder to shoulder with the Uyghur people, who are being persecuted as we speak.

My right hon. Friend Mr Carmichael secured the first debate on this subject in Westminster Hall in January 2019. Here we are, this many years later, and the Government have still done nothing. That is shameful, and it is painful for those victims, who watch debates such as this, which every time give them that bit of hope. They reward those of us who speak out with very humbling certificates of appreciation. I was looking at mine, which I have proudly on my desk. It was given to me by the World Uyghur Congress and on it is a quote from Nobel laureate and holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel:

“what hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander.”

In this Government, I am afraid, a bystander is all they have.

When hon. Members have spoken out against the appalling treatment of the Uyghurs and voted to declare a genocide last year, we were challenged by sceptics. I have no doubt that we will all go back to our offices and open our inboxes to find another debunking email, likely from the Chinese themselves, saying how everything we are saying is untrue. I am afraid to say that with the tribunal comes irrefutable proof that has been carefully put together. The tribunal provides the clearest evidence, beyond any reasonable doubt, and what harrowing evidence it is of abhorrent violence, children taken from their families, systematic sexual violence against women and girls, forced sterilisation and abortion, forced cultural assimilation and desecration. One witness said:

“I have no words to describe the inhuman cruelty of the violence.”

After recounting the torture she endured, she said:

“I can’t cry and I can’t die, I must see them pay for this. I am already a walking corpse, my soul and heart are dead.”

What is even more concerning is that British consumers, right now, are unknowingly complicit in this violence. It has been noted in previous speeches today and in reports led by the hon. Member for Wealden and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee that we need to clean up our supply chains in this country. I am appalled that the Government still have not implemented the recommendation not just of the BEIS Committee but of the Foreign Affairs Committee to ban the import of cotton products known to have been produced in Xinjiang. This helps businesses, by the way. After much consumer pressure, Nike, Adidas and H&M declared that they were on the same side of the Uyghur people and that they would clean up their supply chains. The result was that the Chinese Government pressed people in China to stop buying those brands, whose reward for taking a brave stance was to lose profits in China. It should not have to be that way. We can legislate in this place so that companies do not have to make those choices.

Incidentally, it is not just about cotton; it is also about the supply of data, which is an issue I have previously raised in this House. One such company is ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok—I dare people to floss at their earliest convenience, and I mean the dance rather than looking after their teeth. It is deeply concerning that our children, who are the main consumers of TikTok, are inadvertently helping a company owned by ByteDance. It is concerning because ByteDance signed a co-operation agreement with the Chinese Communist party’s Ministry of Public Security. According to Human Rights Watch, ByteDance plays

“a significant role in facilitating and entrenching the Chinese government’s censorship, surveillance, and propaganda regime inside China.”

Another company, Huawei, has been implicated in using surveillance technology in the detention camps, so we need to fix the supply chains not just of goods, but of data.

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

On that very valid point—I congratulate the hon. Lady on what she is saying—over the past few weeks, Intel and Tesla have hit the headlines because of trading with Xinjiang. The US introduced a Bill at the end of December banning companies from using goods from Xinjiang province in their supply chains. Does she agree—I think everyone in the House today does—that we should do that in this House and encourage all our European neighbours to do the same thing?

Photo of Layla Moran Layla Moran Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I thank the hon. Member very much for his intervention. I agree absolutely—that is literally what I was about to say—and the fact that he said it reinforces the point that there is appetite in this House to legislate for this, and we should do so at the earliest possible opportunity. The US has already done that and, moreover, it has done the very basic thing of saying that a genocide is occurring. The US Government have said, cross-party, that that is happening, yet our Government still have not—notwithstanding the fact that it is our legal, not just our moral, obligation to do that now.

Let us reflect on why the Government are perhaps being so reticent. The fact is that, since 2011, our trade with China has doubled, going from £46 billion to £93 billion. It is also worth noting that trade grew at its fastest rate when the now Foreign Secretary was Trade Secretary. In her role as Trade Secretary, she refused to take amendments to the Trade Bill—now the Trade Act 2021—on human rights and genocide.

I have been delighted to read that, since then, there has been a bit of a damascene conversion and I understand that the Foreign Secretary has agreed privately that a genocide is occurring. If that is what they think privately, think what it would mean if they came out and said it publicly and worked with Cabinet colleagues, so that across all Departments, we can remove this blight from our statute book. It should not be left to individual consumers and individual companies to make those choices. We know that a genocide is occurring. We know that acting is the right thing to do. I urge the Minister to do what other Ministers before her have perhaps been scared to do: speak the truth, declare that a genocide is happening to the Uyghur people, and do not be that silent bystander.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green 12:53 pm, 20th January 2022

I congratulate my hon. Friend Ms Ghani on securing this debate. She spoke brilliantly about what the issues were and laid them out in some detail. I will touch on a few of those but many others will deal with them in more detail.

I say from the outset that the whole issue and the plight of the Uyghurs should trouble us not just because people are now being persecuted, executed, put into forced labour and sterilised. Those alone are enough to make us in this House, of all Houses around the world, stand up and say, “Enough.” But this is also about the wider concept: the more that China—the Chinese Government—gets away with doing this and the more that Governments turn their heads when confronted with the problems of calling it out, the more the Chinese Government extend their reach and form of despotic government around the world. We have seen what their purpose is: to countermand the idea of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. They have made that very clear. At every stage, they think that what we do, what we believe in, is weakness and therefore they sell their concept to and impose it on others.

What is happening to the Uyghurs is a huge wake-up call to those of us in the free world who believe substantially in the concept of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, because it is being eroded even as we hold this debate. We cannot assume, as we legitimately did early after the end of the cold war, that we had somehow won this battle and that it was therefore likely that every other country would have to embrace these principles. They do not. We have to fight for them.

The point about the debate—this is why I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden so much on having managed to secure it—is that we need to be able to say to our Government, my Government, that they need to be at the forefront and leading on tackling this challenge, not dragged along behind. To be fair to the Government on the Uyghur problem and China in general, they are not alone. Countries across Europe also simply will not admit that there is a problem; Germany has been dragging its feet on this for ages. However, that does not excuse us, because other countries, such as Australia, Canada and the United States, have now all decided that the issue is clear.

If we cannot decide on this, what can we decide? As my hon. Friend pointed out, the tribunal made it very clear. It was a properly constituted tribunal. The Government say it has to be a proper court. It is not a court of law, but the tribunal was constituted correctly and as would be done at the UN. The phrase it used, which is critical, is that it found “beyond reasonable doubt” that the Chinese Government are perpetrating genocide, crimes against humanity and torture against the Uyghurs. It is surely only reasonable that we urge the Government to do the next thing. Instead of arguing about whether the tribunal is a proper court, if the Government themselves suspect at any stage that such things are happening, it is essentially inherent on them, given the 1948 issue, to pursue this and to urgently assess whether they consider the Uyghurs to be at serious risk of genocide. I am happy to take an intervention from my hon. Friend the Minister on this, because we may need to satisfy ourselves that it is within the power of the Government to do that. It is. The Government can do anything that this House wishes them to, and this is also internationally legal.

Will the Minister respond on why the Government simply do not want to do this? We had debates here and tried to amend the Bill three or four times, and we came pretty close, I have to say. However, the reality is that I am not even asking the Government to declare this a genocide. I simply ask them to make this urgent assessment and to follow the evidence of what they find, following the tribunal and all the other areas of information. I ask the Government to start that process, that is all. I am not asking them to reach a conclusion at this particular point. I just want them to start the process. That seems very small.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

One issue we are trying to raise is that the Government are refusing to undertake their legal obligations. On what grounds have they decided that all the evidence presented to the Uyghur Tribunal does not stand up in court?

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

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. The truth is that the Government have not said anything, so we do not know whether they think the tribunal makes sense or what it says is a reality. We do not know that they disagree with it. It would be great if the Minister would get up and tell us whether they think the tribunal is reasonable, has reached reasonable grounds and has come up with good evidence, and whether they actually believe that a genocide may well be being perpetrated. That is all I ask—whether it may well be being perpetrated. If so, we may then start the ball rolling.

Layla Moran mentioned that trade with China had doubled. In all this, we now discover that the country is so out of control that it does not report that it has a desperate virus breaking out to the World Health Organisation in time for it to get control measures in place. That has now led to millions of people dying all over the world. That is what happens when we refuse to bring such a country to book.

That is the problem that we have right now. China is committing genocide and hounding the Taiwanese. It has broken an international treaty over Hong Kong. It is persecuting and incarcerating ordinary, peaceful democracy campaigners in Hong Kong, persecuting Christians, Falun Gong and others, and smashing churches. It has killed Indian soldiers on its border and militarily occupied the South China seas. How much more are we prepared to stand by and watch, and all for the sake of cheaper goods? Do we say nothing? Shame on us! Shame on us that that plastic thing that we bought last week was 10p cheaper than it might have been had it been made somewhere else. Is that a reason to turn our backs on the suffering and persecution of the people who deserve us to stand up for them?

All I ask is for my Government to take a lead. We have a list of people who should be sanctioned—I am also co-chair of the all-party group on Magnitsky sanctions—and they are: Chen Quanguo, the architect not just of the Uyghur suppression, but of Tibet; Peng Jiarui, the deputy party secretary and commander of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps; Sun Jinlong, former political commissioner of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps; and Huo Liujun, former leader of the Xinjiang public security bureau. We have called for all of them to be sanctioned. They are being sanctioned by the United States. It is not as though, by suddenly standing up, we would be alone; those people have already been sanctioned.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

A number of colleagues in this House have been sanctioned. The Uyghur Tribunal was sanctioned. Individuals who gave evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee were intimidated and sanctioned. When will the Government stand up and sanction those who are undertaking the genocide and when will they have the confidence to back not only the House and the Select Committees, but sanctioned colleagues?

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

The truth is that, ironically, nothing stops the Chinese Government from sanctioning absolutely everybody who speaks up against them. We here have been sanctioned. In fact, I noticed the other day that the Chinese embassy devoted a whole page to telling the world that I was a liar and a cheat and somebody who basically misled everybody about China. Okay, I am fine with that, if that is what it wants to say. The point is that our Government can now make it clear to everybody else that the problem lies at the heart of the nature of that Government. This is a despotic, brutal, dictatorial regime that cares nothing for human rights, nothing for the rule of law, and, at the end of the day, nothing for the lives of ordinary people.

I end by simply saying that, today, we see through a glass darkly. We are looking at history repeating itself. Because we chose not to speak out, because we chose to appease a despotic, brutal, dictatorial and murderous regime in the 1930s, the situation got worse and worse and we ended up with 60 million people dying. We must speak out now. The Government must lead on this and learn the lessons of the past. The Uyghur Tribunal was absolutely clear that it is almost certain that genocide is taking place. Please, will my Government stand up, broaden their shoulders and say that we will no longer turn our heads away no matter what the consequences are? It is time to make the case for Uyghurs to be represented, supported and helped against this terrible genocide.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Justice) 1:04 pm, 20th January 2022

I thank Ms Ghani for securing the debate, and for her excellent speech; indeed, we have heard excellent speeches from other Members, too. I commend the tremendous work of the BEIS Committee.

I have lost count of the number of times that I have spoken in this place to urge the Government to take stronger, more robust action against the Chinese Government’s blatant attack on human rights and freedoms. The Government’s response to the genocide taking place in Xinjiang has fallen woefully short. This is hardly global Britain at its best. Today, the Government have a choice—the choice to stand on the right side of history and fulfil their obligations under the genocide convention. As a vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Uyghurs, I have been highlighting the plight of the Uyghurs for several years, and have heard at first hand harrowing testimony from Uyghurs, their family members, and those who have witnessed what I can only call inhumane and chilling abuses.

The Uyghur Tribunal is, to date, the most extensive independent legal investigation of allegations of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Uyghur region. The judgment of the tribunal, published in December ’21, found that the Chinese Government are in fact perpetrating genocide, crimes against humanity and torture against the Uyghurs. I hope that Members from across the House will join me in paying tribute to the brave individuals who gave testimony at the tribunal. I pay particular tribute to Rahima Mahmut, who I consider a friend and a true inspiration. Her heart-wrenching story is a sobering reminder of why the Uyghur genocide is a scar on the world’s conscience.

History will remember us, and we have a moral duty to speak out against these egregious abuses. Next week, we will mark international Holocaust Memorial Day—a reminder that we have let genocide take place before. There have been powerful interventions from faith communities, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, passionately calling on the Government to condemn the horrors taking place in Xinjiang, which include forced labour, detention, sterilisation, organ harvesting, denouncement of religion, sexual abuse, rape and torture. Despite that, the Government continue to drag their feet on holding China to account.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

Will the hon. Gentleman reflect on the evidence given to the Uyghur Tribunal? What particularly comes to mind is the evidence about factory-sized crematoriums built in the prison factory camps. Let us just think about what that looks like, and which period in our history that reminds us of. How long will we sit here and do nothing?

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Shadow Minister (Justice)

I thank the hon. Member for her intervention. It is harrowing, isn’t it? It reminds us of what happened to the Jewish community here in Europe. Those things are repeating.

Will the Minister heed the judgment and recommendations put forward by the Uyghur Tribunal and finally commit to sanctioning Chen Quanguo, the chief architect of the Xinjiang genocide? Will she also take steps to ban imports from Xinjiang and protect Uyghurs living in the UK from harassment and intimidation by the Chinese authorities?

Photo of Marie Rimmer Marie Rimmer Labour, St Helens South and Whiston 1:08 pm, 20th January 2022

I thank and praise Ms Ghani for securing the debate, and thank all the Uyghur Tribunal members, and everyone who has been part of this struggle, which will go on, I am sure.

Genocide is a barbaric act. It is the worst crime that humanity is capable of. Our country has a duty and a UN obligation to speak up and take action on genocide where it occurs. The Chinese Communist party is committing genocide against the Uyghurs. That is the main ruling of the Uyghur Tribunal—a ruling made here in London by a jury of independent experts. It is now time for the Government to stop avoiding their responsibilities. They must fulfil their UN obligations on the prevention of genocide. The first step towards doing that is to conduct an urgent assessment of the Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang.

The genocide taking place in Xinjiang is subtle. There are no gas chambers; instead, there is forced sterilisation, there is the forceable transfer of children and there are hard-labour camps. Make no mistake, though: these actions are targeted at the Uyghurs to destroy their way of life—their existence.

As many Members will know, I have raised many times the issue of forced organ harvesting in China. The Uyghur tribunal heard evidence from Ethan Gutmann, an investigative journalist who said that young and fit adults in their late 20s were being killed so that their organs could be extracted and sold. That is worse than evil: it is calculated evil, squeezing every last bit of value out them so that even in death the bodies of these poor souls serve the Communist party in China.

On the wider issue of how we deal with China, many Governments around the world, often including our own, are fearful of speaking out. China’s new silk road initiative has seen it invest in almost 70 countries worldwide. Here, China is involved in the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant and High Speed 2, and was almost involved in the new 5G mobile network. I praise my hon. Friend Stephen Kinnock, who raised such matters in our group; I was amazed by what I heard.

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

Something just struck me as the hon. Lady was quite rightly laying out where China is involved. I do not know whether she is aware, but it is now clear that most of the polysilicate that goes into the making of solar arrays is mined in Xinjiang, so every one that we put up supports slave labour in Xinjiang. That is an important point.

Photo of Marie Rimmer Marie Rimmer Labour, St Helens South and Whiston

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for raising that point, which the public will have heard.

China was nearly involved in our 5G mobile network, until the Government came to their senses. It is all part of China’s foreign policy strategy to spread its influence. The reality is that it will only get harder to speak out about China as its influence grows. At some point, we have to say that enough is enough. We know what is happening in Xinjiang to the Uyghurs. This time, we cannot say we did not know: the evidence is there in the tribunal carried out here in London.

The time has come for our Government to work with democracies around the world on a complete realignment of our relationship with China. We are all far too economically dependent on China, which is why the Chinese Communist party thinks it can do what it wants to the Uyghurs, to the people of Hong Kong, and perhaps soon to Taiwan as well.

The longer the Government wait, the harder it gets. They can start by supporting the motion, which calls on them to provide to the House with an assessment of the Uyghur genocide. The time to stand up is now: for humanity’s sake we cannot afford just to stand by and watch this go on. I call on the Minister to be brave and lead the way on this issue in her Government.

Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development) 1:13 pm, 20th January 2022

The verdict of the Uyghur Tribunal—that there is proof “beyond reasonable doubt” that the People’s Republic of China is committing crimes of torture, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide, as defined under international law, against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang—is further confirmation of what we in this Chamber already know. Indeed, in April last year the House passed a motion that stated that it

“believes that Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in…Xinjiang…are suffering crimes against humanity and genocide”.

As we heard earlier from Ms Ghani, who brought the debate to the House, there has so far been, in her words, “zero progress” from this Government.

We are not the only ones who are aware of what is going on; others are doing something about this situation. The US State Department has determined that China’s violations constitute genocide, as have the Parliaments of Canada, Lithuania and the Netherlands. Yet there is still no condemnation from the Government. There is shocking evidence of arbitrary detention, re-education camps, forced labour, the destruction of cultural sites, torture, rape and sexual violence and enforced sterilisation. Probably worst of all, and what I heard most harrowingly today, are the abortions of children who are alive at the late stage of pregnancy, who are then murdered by the Chinese state authorities. Those of us with an understanding of the Chinese Communist party’s motives, its actions in the past and its scant regard for human rights have been voicing our concerns loudly, despite attempts to keep us silent. I thank the hon. Member for Wealden for securing today’s debate and her relentless pursuing of this cause.

Although the Uyghur Tribunal has shone further light on the atrocities being committed in Xinjiang, the fact that we are relying on an unofficial body to do that, and the fact that these crimes are not prevented in the first place and continue to take place today, is shameful and an abject failure of the international community. As Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, chair of the tribunal, stated:

“Had any other body, domestic or international, determined or sought to determine these issues, the tribunal would have been unnecessary”.

For too long, as China has been emerging as a global superpower, a blind eye has been turned to the Chinese Communist party’s gross human rights abuses, but these cannot and must not be ignored any longer. Sadly, the International Criminal Court announced in December 2020 that it would not investigate allegations because China, as a non-member, was outside its jurisdiction. Furthermore, the possibility of further investigation by referral from the United Nations Security Council is hamstrung by the simple fact that China would simply use its veto to prevent that.

The UK Government therefore need to stop hiding and get away from the refrain of, “The policy of successive UK Governments is that any determination of genocide or crimes against humanity is a matter for a competent court.” It is not; it is a matter for a competent and active Government, and every voice and every party in this House is asking for urgent action—and now.

It is of grave concern that even despite the findings of report after report and investigation after investigation, the UK Government do not appear to accept the findings of genocide or their moral and, as has been said repeatedly today, legal obligation to prevent and punish these horrific crimes. It is nearly nine months since the House stated that what was happening in Xinjiang was genocide and more than one month since the Uyghur Tribunal published its judgment. We need to hear unequivocally from the Minister what assessment the UK Government have made of these verdicts, and what their next steps will be.

Have the UK Government explored the prospect of a UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry using their Human Rights Council seat, as recommended by the Foreign Affairs Committee? If the Chinese Government continue to stall and prevent in-country investigations, the UK Government should propose a Human Rights Council motion that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should conduct an investigation into atrocities in Xinjiang from outside China. I hope the Minister is making some notes, because I would like to hear the answers to these questions today. Even if the Chinese Government continue to deny international observers access to Xinjiang, there is a great deal of evidence that can be used to verify the extent of crimes being committed there, as shown by the volume of evidence received at the hearings of the Uyghur Tribunal.

When it comes to access to Xinjiang and other regions in China, we can learn from others. The USA enacted the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act 2018, which denies Chinese Government officials access to the US if they are responsible for implementing restrictions on Americans who seek access to Tibet. I put it on the record today that I would like to join colleagues in the House who have been sanctioned and are fearful to travel to China in putting forward a visa application to see whether we will be denied. If we are, it will be a golden opportunity for the UK Government to step up and say, “That is fine. You are denying our own democratic representatives. This is what will happen to your officials.”

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

I just want to challenge the hon. Member’s point. I think he said that the sanctioned MPs are “fearful” of the sanctions and travelling to China. May I put it on the record that none of the sanctioned MPs are fearful of travelling to China or of the Chinese Communist party?

Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

I am glad that the hon. Member has addressed that point. I did not directly mean those who had been sanctioned, but others beyond that who would like to say and do more. I fully appreciate that there are no sanctioned Members here who fear the Communist party state and its behaviour towards its inhabitants.

I was talking about reciprocal access to Tibet. Tim Loughton, who is no longer in his seat, and who I work with as co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Tibet, has persevered with the Tibet and Xinjiang (Reciprocal Access) Bill. I once again urge the UK Government to give the Bill their full support and to enact its provisions immediately. I look forward to hearing a response on that this afternoon.

Indeed, many have commented that the illegal invasion and occupation of Tibet was the testing ground for the Chinese Communist party, and that the lessons learned from the oppression of Tibetans have been applied to Xinjiang, yet none of us across the decade since then has done enough to stand up for the people of Tibet, and this is the consequence of silence. It would be worthwhile, therefore, if the UK Government reversed the regrettable decision taken by the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, in 2008 to disregard the previous recognised autonomy of Tibet and accept Chinese authority over the region.

In 2011, Chen Quanguo was appointed the party secretary in the Tibetan autonomous region after the Chinese Communist party vowed never to let the protests that happened there in 2008 occur again. He was the key individual behind blanket surveillance, a heavy police presence, arrests and disappearances, and re-education camps in Tibet. From 2016, he has employed the same security measures in his repression of the Uyghurs, only this time on a far expanded scale. He was able to move seamlessly from repressing one group of people to another, because as far as the Chinese Communist party is concerned, he got results and he got away with it in the international community.

Chen is named in the Xinjiang papers released at the Uyghur Tribunal, and the UK Government must step up sanctions against him and his colleagues involved in perpetrating these gross human rights abuses. So I would like to hear from the Minister what further names have been added to the Magnitsky sanctions. The USA has sanctioned him, and it is again ahead of the UK, having just passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act banning all imports from Xinjiang unless a company can prove that they were not made with forced labour.

The UK could be doing exactly the same, but instead is choosing to sit on its hands, and the Government have in fact rejected the BEIS Committee’s recommendations to help tackle slave labour in Xinjiang. The Minister needs to explain why, and I urge the Government that this needs to change. Given that one in five garments globally are made from the cotton of Xinjiang—which means that just about every one of us in this Chamber will be wearing such a garment—and that other key products such as solar panels, which have been mentioned, are produced there, the UK needs to toughen up and enforce its own legislation. Furthermore, the UK should be pressing for the International Labour Organisation to conduct a full investigation on the Xinjiang region, to verify the extent of forced labour there as a matter of urgency.

The recent integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy called for more trade with China, but that potential trade liberalisation cannot come at the cost of forced labour in Xinjiang and weak words and inaction from the UK Government on these grave human rights abuses. As we have heard, the current Foreign Secretary, in her previous position as International Trade Secretary, facilitated a doubling of trade with China. The world cannot be picked off nation by nation, each turning a blind eye to genocide for the sake of trade deals.

I echo Afzal Khan, who is no longer in his place, in saying that we need to work with democracies across the world because democracy is fragile, and that is fundamentally what is being undermined as we do nothing here. Instead of focusing on trade, and whipping Members to vote against anti-genocide amendments to the Trade Bill, atrocity prevention should be the priority. It is deeply regrettable that the UK Government, like others, failed to recognise and prevent the atrocities in Xinjiang before they reached the levels that we are currently witnessing.

Finally, the UK Government cannot appease China, given these crimes against humanity. It is imperative that the UK Government go beyond words of condemnation and use every single possible avenue to end the persecution and to pursue the punishment of those who have instigated and participated in it. The Chinese Government must be held to account for their abhorrent crimes, and held to account now. Given the overwhelming evidence, and given that every single person in this Chamber is saying, time and again, “Please act, and please act now,” I expect nothing less than that from the UK Government Minister this afternoon, to show that we are not cowardly; and I also expect to hear her accept that to do nothing would be an utterly shameful abandonment of our legal and moral duty, as well as our own humanity.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Defence) 1:23 pm, 20th January 2022

I pay tribute to Ms Ghani for securing this vital debate, and for her willingness to work across the House in standing up against the genocide taking place against the Uyghur in Xinjiang.

Last April, this House rightly voted unanimously to declare the persecution of the Uyghur as a genocide. The evidence is compelling, and despite the deeply disappointing response of the Government to date, I am very proud that this House took the decision that it did. The principled position that the House has taken was unequivocally reinforced by the verdict of the Uyghur Tribunal that we are debating.

I pay tribute to the courage that the hon. Member for Wealden and her colleagues have shown in standing up to the bullying and intimidation of the Chinese Government. The fact that she and other hon. Members have been sanctioned by Beijing for simply doing their job is an affront to our democracy and to the House. We on the Opposition Benches stand in solidarity with all Members of this House and of the other place who have been sanctioned, along with Geoffrey Nice QC and leading academic Jo Smith Finley.

The evidence of genocide in Xinjiang is compelling and conclusive. The crime of genocide requires proof of intent, and it is clear from the evidence presented to the Uyghur Tribunal, and from the legal opinions set out by the Newlines Institute in Washington in March 2021, that the atrocities that are being perpetrated against the Uyghur are not the random acts of some rogue individuals but the result of a conscious, carefully orchestrated campaign of oppression and persecution being conducted by the Chinese Government.

The evidence is clear, both through the persecution and through its results. There is the mass surveillance and arbitrary detention of more than 1 million Uyghur and other minority groups; the torture and inhumane treatment; the rape, abuse and forced sterilisation of women; the enforced separation of children from parents; and the denial of the Uyghurs’ right to practise their religion or speak their language.

We all saw the footage on “The Andrew Marr Show” of shaven-headed bound Uyghur men being led on to trains at gunpoint, and the squirming, live on television, of the then Chinese ambassador. We have seen the video bravely recorded by Merdan Ghappar from inside the forced labour camps. We have heard the first-hand accounts from Uyghur women of the forced birth prevention techniques by the authorities in Xinjiang.

The impact of those horrifying practices is also clear. In May 2021, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute published evidence that birth rates in Xinjiang fell by almost half between 2017 and 2019. Perhaps most tellingly, the Chinese Government’s own data shows that Xinjiang’s birth rates fell by one third in 2017-18. For those reasons, it is absolutely shameful that the UK Government continue to refuse to fulfil their moral and legal obligations to rule on genocide and to support the will of the House.

As a signatory to the 1948 genocide convention, the United Kingdom is legally bound to take all reasonable steps to punish and prevent genocide, yet the Government, as so often, have failed to match their duty to their actions. It is also deeply concerning that with the international courts effectively paralysed last year, the Government refused to support cross-party attempts to amend the Trade Act 2021, which would have allowed UK courts to make a binding preliminary ruling on the genocide.

I was consistently clear, when speaking from the Dispatch Box as the shadow Minister with responsibility for China, that robust action must be taken on the genocide taking place in Xinjiang and on China’s oppressive and irresponsible behaviour more widely, to which I will return. I welcome my successor, my hon. Friend Catherine West, to her place and I greatly look forward to continuing to work with her on these important issues.

On responding directly to the genocide, it is important that the Minister updates the House today on the following matters—although I see that she is not in her place. First, has she made any progress in applying Magnitsky sanctions to a broader number of senior Chinese Communist party officials and entities responsible for serious human rights violations in Xinjiang, including Chen Quanguo, who has already been sanctioned by the United States?

Secondly, have the Government managed to build wider support for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to gain access to Xinjiang, in particular by working to engage countries, many of which are friends and partners of the UK, that have shamefully helped to protect China from international scrutiny? If the Minister believes that access to China is impossible, will she press the High Commissioner to conduct an investigation from outside China? Thirdly, why have we seen so little action on strengthening section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015? Companies have a responsibility to demonstrate that their supply chains are free of forced labour, so when will we see meaningful sanctions introduced for non-compliance?

Successive Conservative Governments since 2010 have been naive and complacent in their dealings with China. The so-called golden era policy saw Conservative leaders turn a blind eye to human rights and national security issues in the narrow and unbalanced pursuit of commercial interests. Our Government appear to be simply observing from the sidelines as China is not only persecuting the Uyghurs but, more widely, attempting to undermine the liberal democratic world order and impose its own authoritarian worldview by rising roughshod over individual liberties, the security and independence of other countries, and free and fair trade.

We see this agenda being enacted every day in the crushing of democracy in Hong Kong—I note that somehow there are still no UK Magnitsky sanctions on Carrie Lam. We see it in the sabre-rattling in Taiwan, whose airspace is being buzzed almost daily by Chinese military aircraft; in the debt trap diplomacy which sees poorer countries in effect losing their political autonomy as they struggle to pay back Chinese loans; and in the illegal manipulation of markets through measures such as dumping and the theft of intellectual property on an industrial scale.

However, we also see the weakness, over a decade, of the UK Government in the face of Chinese state-backed companies buying up significant amounts of the UK’s critical national infrastructure, including 33% of Hinkley Point, and including our water utilities and Heathrow airport. There appears to be no Government strategy to help universities stand up to the pressure placed on faculty and individual lecturers to censor their comments about events in Xinjiang, and nothing appears to have been done about pressure being applied by pro-Beijing activists to pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and here in the UK. Worse still, in February 2021 a report produced by the think-tank Civitas accused 14 of the UK’s top 24 universities of having ties with Chinese weapons conglomerates and military-linked research centres, and in that same month it was reported by The Times that nearly 200 British academics were being investigated on suspicion of unwittingly helping the Chinese Government to build weapons of mass destruction.

These are serious issues that the UK Government must address as a matter of urgency. We need a more coherent approach and a clear strategy. The Chinese Communist party respects strength, consistency and unity, and it is contemptuous of weakness and division. I therefore hope that the Government will heed Labour’s calls for them to rebuild the alliances with our European allies that they—this Government—have broken, in the face of the shared challenges that we face in relation to China, but also to undertake a complete audit of every aspect of the UK-China relationship, from politics to business to the media to academia and our scientific community. A more resilient, strategic Britain, working in partnership with our international partners, will be better placed to send a signal to Beijing that its criminal actions will not be tolerated.

Today the Government have an opportunity to draw a line under their shameful golden era policy once and for all. Today the Government have a chance to show that they will no longer turn a blind eye to the horrific crushing of a people, a culture and a language. Let us hope that today they will take that chance.

Photo of Janet Daby Janet Daby Labour, Lewisham East 1:33 pm, 20th January 2022

So far, the speeches in this important debate have been disturbing, powerful and heartfelt. There is clearly cross-party support for the motion. I thank Ms Ghani for securing the debate and for responding to the recent tribunal judgment, and I thank every other Member who has spoken.

The Uyghur Tribunal, led by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, is the most extensive independent legal investigation to date of allegations of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Uyghur region. The Uyghur Tribunal judgment, published in December last year, found it “beyond reasonable doubt” that the Chinese Government were perpetrating genocide, crimes against humanity and torture against the Uyghurs. That should be enough for the UK—our Government—to agree that genocide is taking place in Xinjiang.

In April 2020, this House unanimously agreed to a motion declaring that Uyghurs in Xinjiang were suffering crimes against humanity and genocide. There was a clear parliamentary consensus on the issue, as I believe there still is now. However, since then the Government have not done enough to push back against the atrocities. It has already been said in this Chamber that our Government need to stand on the right side of history, and I implore and encourage them to do so. Will the Government follow the House and recognise these atrocities and breaches of the United Nations convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, and play a leading role?

Democracy is in retreat across the globe, but the Government must be rock solid in their commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. I remind the House of the real experiences involved, many of which have already been discussed: the unbelievable situations inflicted on Uyghur men and women, including mental torture, physical abuses, rape, isolations and killings. We have already heard about babies being born and then killed. None of these things should be happening in this day and age. We must not be silent bystanders; we all have to accept responsibility. Our Government need to act for the United Kingdom.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

As the hon. Lady has mentioned, the evidence presented to the Uyghur Tribunal is gruesome and it is hard to comprehend the numbers involved. Of course the Chinese Communist party had the opportunity and the absolute right to present to that tribunal, but it was unable to because it is afraid of the spotlight.

Does the hon. Lady agree that it is surprising and a little disappointing that the UK Government also did not come forward and give whatever evidence they had to the Uyghur Tribunal? Perhaps the Minister can respond to that in her closing remarks.

Photo of Janet Daby Janet Daby Labour, Lewisham East

I thank the hon. Lady for that remark, and all the others she has made. They are totally on point. It is astonishing, shocking and an absolute disgrace that our Government did not participate and give evidence and that they have not come forward with a statement agreeing with the judgment that took place last month. It is a disgrace that we should have to stand here trying to cajole and encourage our Government to take the spotlight, take the lead and take control.

These abuses against humanity should not be happening. Our Government have a history of slavery, in the past; we need to make sure that we are doing better than we did in the past. We can do better and improve our history by standing with a whole community of people being wiped out in Xinjiang. We need to stand against the Chinese Government and for the Uyghurs.

Even those who avoid the camps that I have spoken about find themselves enslaved. Uyghurs in Xinjiang suffer under intense surveillance, and much of the rural population have been moved into labour factories in the western region of the province. Research seen by the BBC showed that up to 500,000 people are being forced to pick cotton for long hours and with no rights in Xinjiang. Will the Government accept the recommendations of the fifth report of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee? Will they force UK companies to finally rid their supply chains of forced labour?

Finally, as I have already said, will the UK take a leading role and work with our international partners to end this infliction on the Uyghurs and hold those responsible—the Chinese Government—to account?

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Independent, Rutherglen and Hamilton West 1:39 pm, 20th January 2022

I congratulate Ms Ghani on securing today’s debate, and I commend her and Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who is no longer in his place, for their very powerful contributions.

The brutal reality that crimes against humanity and acts of genocide can still occur in 2022 is unbelievable. The tribunal’s judgment vindicates what the Uyghur people have been telling us for far too long. Beyond reasonable doubt, the Uyghurs have been persecuted and subjected to torture, rape and sexual violence, forced sterilisation, forced labour and murder by the Government of the People’s Republic of China.

There is so much more, but simply listing each atrocity, one after another, does not lend enough weight to each act—not when 12 million people are suffering for no reason other than their religion or ethnicity. The judgment makes for sober reading. It describes the depraved actions against the Uyghurs, which are, for most of us, unimaginable. Witness evidence describes the desecration of mosques and places of worship, long prison sentences for practising religion, punishment for speaking the Uyghur language and land and money stolen by the state. If there were a tame end of the scale, and there is not, this would be it.

Witness evidence describes how hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs detained with no cause have had their fingernails ripped from their nail beds and have been beaten with sticks and shackled with heavy weights at their feet, sometimes with their hands connected, for months on end, which is unimaginable. The judgment recounts the evidence from a young woman who was gang raped by policemen while a crowd of 100 was forced to watch. There are details of sexual violence so horrific that it is difficult to repeat. There are stories of prominent community members who were disappeared and of children as young as a few months old who were separated from their mothers—literally every parent’s greatest fear.

The tribunal heard evidence that young, fit Uyghurs were subjected to forced organ harvesting, supported by a pattern of disappeared detainees, the co-location of the detainee hospital and a crematorium, and the hugely lucrative organ market in China. Although I acknowledge that this allegation was not proved beyond reasonable doubt, the evidence presented has been acknowledged as presenting the possibility, which is a sickening thought.

The tribunal found that torture of Uyghurs and crimes against humanity

“attributable to the PRC is established beyond reasonable doubt”.

More significantly it found that

“beyond reasonable doubt…the PRC, by the imposition of measures to prevent births intended to destroy a significant part of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang as such, has committed genocide.”

The Chinese Government, unsurprisingly, have refused to accept these findings, calling them “absurd” and “sheer lies and disinformation”. The UK Government must, in the strongest possible terms, reject those assertions from China.

The great personal risk taken by every witness who bravely gave evidence must not be in vain. We must provide some assurances and show our support. I say without hesitation that the Uyghur people have my support. I support the calls for the Government to assess the risk of genocide in East Turkestan, which is the minimum required to meet their international obligations, but we should be giving more than just assurances and the bare minimum.

What concrete, measurable steps will the Government take to protect the rights of the Uyghur people? Will the Government join allies such as the US in calling this exactly what it is? In 1948, following the second world war, 39 countries signed the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, which was drafted so that the horrors of the preceding years could not be repeated. The Prime Minister has argued that a determination of genocide cannot be made by a body other than the International Criminal Court. That might be technically true, but the international community has found itself in a position where such a criminal prosecution simply is not possible.

China is outside the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and, as a member of the UN Security Council, has veto powers on cases taken to the International Court of Justice. For the very reason that a criminal case cannot be brought, I ask the Prime Minister to reconsider his stance. It is clear that the lack of a judgment from one of these bodies does not equate to a lack of evidence of acts of genocide.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

The hon. Lady is making a very powerful speech. I want to refocus her, because I do not want to have the Minister wasting our time by referring to the wrong debate. This is fundamentally about the 2007 ICJ ruling, not the old debate about who determines genocide. This is about the intent of genocide and the Government’s responsibility for assessing whether they are comfortable with that or not, does she agree?

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Independent, Rutherglen and Hamilton West

I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention, I am glad for the clarification and I hope the Minister will consider it in her remarks.

In exactly one week, we will be in this Chamber again, this time to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, and this year’s theme is learning from genocide. Would it not be timely if the Government chose the following few days to stand up against the current acts of genocide in the world, and to show how the UK continues to learn those lessons and advocates for the voiceless?

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 1:45 pm, 20th January 2022

First, let me thank Ms Ghani for setting the scene so incredibly well, factually and passionately, and the other right hon. and hon. Members who have made incredible contributions. I am pleased that so many have turned out today for this debate to add their support. Margaret Ferrier referred to being a voice “for the voiceless” and that is what we are in this House today. We are speaking up for those who are not able to speak.

We will never know the whole programme of what has happened to them. We have had some indication through the tribunal of what has taken place, but that gives us only a small portion of vision into what has taken place. It is crucial that this ongoing lack of rights is talked about and a plan must be in place, as always, to state what more we can do to help. The hon. Member for Wealden and others have referred to examples of despicable crimes against the innocents of this world. These atrocities burden us and make our hearts ache when we think of those people, who do not have the opportunity that we have in this country of freedom and liberty, and the opportunity to practise our religion. I declare an interest; as chair of the all-party group on international freedom of religion or belief, this issue is close to my heart, and I know that it is close to the hearts of everyone in this Chamber.

I think we are all agreed that the findings of the tribunal are inherently repulsive and abhorrent because of what took place. The sheer scale of the human rights abuses is unspeakable and hard to comprehend, but it must be spoken about. Forced sterilisation, forced labour, rape, brainwashing and other heinous violations of the dignity of the human person have been perpetrated by the Chinese communist party against the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. These are some of the most horrific human rights abuses happening today in this world and they must cease. Right hon. and hon. Members have compared some of the atrocities of today to the holocaust of 75 years ago, which was clearly genocide. As the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West just said, this time next week we will have a similar debate and many of us here today will be here next week with the same message but for a different occasion. It will be about lessons learnt, but what lessons have been learnt? That is the question I am asking myself. What has some of the world learnt in relation to what has taken place? The Chinese Government have learnt absolutely nothing. They have pursued their dreams of building a greater China and their influence seems to be everywhere. The Chinese Government’s blatant disregard for human rights is evident. It is chilling to consider that such crimes persist, and that, once again, the world stands idly by as genocide occurs.

I respect the Minister, as she knows, but what we are all asking today is that our Government and our Minister act as we wish them to do. The hon. Member for Wealden referred to the ICJ and that is where the focus is, and it is where our Government focus and ministerial focus needs to be as well. In light of the evidence, I ask my Government and my Minister to act, because more just must be done. The UK must use its position on the UN Security Council and its broader influence on the multilateral stage to push for a UN mechanism to collect and preserve evidence of the atrocities that the Chinese authorities perpetrate each day—even as we are having this debate—against the Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang province. I believe that the utmost efforts should be made to safeguard against hackers who aim to destroy that evidence and subvert justice, fuelling a culture of impunity for even the most evil of crimes.

I cannot stress enough how fundamental it is to establish such a UN mechanism. Without such systems in place, the hope of delivering justice diminishes dramatically. Syria and Myanmar offer examples of how such a mechanism could be established, further strengthening the case against delaying action. The UK, our Minister and our Government are in a very strong position to show leadership in the area, sending out a message that the UK will not tolerate human rights abuses at any stage, even from strategic trade partners. We have to address that issue in the debate, because if we are to have trade, our trade agreements must include accountability for human rights issues. My goodness me, does China need to be made accountable!

It should go without saying that the UK should also ramp up sanctions against Chinese Communist party officials who commit such crimes. The hon. Member for Wealden entirely understands, as we all do, that examples of Government inaction are, unfortunately, numerous. She outlined the things that the Government have not done and that we all believe they need to do. Given that China has imposed sanctions on Members of both Houses, hesitancy in taking action is totally unjustified.

I chair the all-party parliamentary group for international freedom of religion or belief. This debate is about the Uyghurs and we are all speaking about them, but it is also about the Tibetans, whom Tim Loughton referred to, and about Christians. I am a Christian, as are others in this House. What is happening to Christians? They cannot worship in church, because their churches have been destroyed. They cannot have freedom of worship, because they are spied on. They cannot have jobs, earn for their families or participate in education, because they are Christians.

The same is happening to the Falun Gong, who face organ harvesting on a commercial level: the Chinese take their organs and sell them on to other people in the world, which is despicable. It is hard to fathom such cruelty—it is totally horrendous, and China must be made accountable. Like other hon. Members, I have met some of the Falun Gong; they are some of the most gentle and lovely people you will ever meet. Why are they persecuted just because they have a religious view?

I look to my Government—not just “this Government”, but my Government—and to my Minister for the leadership that I and all of us expect. I urge them to ponder their moral obligation and imperative to act swiftly in response to China’s moral and ethical depravity, because that is exactly what it is. The Chinese Communist party’s physical and biological attacks against the Uyghurs constitute crimes against humanity. It is my hope today that our Government—my Government—will agree to take more steps to condemn and repeal those repugnant practices. If not, I would like to know why the UK Government are failing to act while others such as the US Administration are confident in calling those practices what they are: a genocide and a grave violation of human rights and international law.

As I mentioned in an intervention on Layla Moran, the US Administration took steps at the end of December to ban companies from using goods from Xinjiang province in their supply chains; I referred to Intel and Tesla, and the hon. Lady referred to a large number of other companies. If we are going to do some practical things to hurt China where it needs to be hurt—in the pocket, in the courts and in the economic livelihood it wants to hang on to—those are the things we need to do. I look to the Minister and the Government to do just that.

We should act as we would expect others to act in our times of need. I respect the Government’s long-standing policy that any determination of genocide should be made only by competent courts, but I refer again to the hon. Member for Wealden, who mentioned the International Court of Justice. That is the focus of this debate and of what the hon. Lady said. It is a way of making Governments and the Chinese Government in particular accountable. When it comes to Governments and non-judicial bodies that are important, we cannot stand by and not speak up for those facing horrific acts of human rights abuses.

Today, the Minister, the Government, must lead. They must acknowledge the brutality against the Uyghurs and others, use the International Court of Justice and sanction Chinese officials at the top of the league. It is not one of the leagues one wants to be at the top of, and China is right up there when it comes to abuse, human rights abuses, discrimination, hatred and brutality on an unheard-of scale. I speak up again for ethnic minorities, and for Christians, and those of other beliefs and no belief, who in China today are second-class citizens.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

We are moving on to the wind-ups. About 24 minutes are allotted to all the Front Benchers, including the two minutes for Nusrat at the end. That is an indication for those who are taking part in the next debate; they should start making their way towards the Chamber.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 1:56 pm, 20th January 2022

I thank the Backbench Business Committee for allowing this important debate.

I pay tribute to Ms Ghani for her outstanding work in keeping the plight of the Uyghur people at the forefront of the minds of people in this House. The way that she laid out her case this afternoon is a reminder that, despite having been targeted and singled out herself by the Chinese Communist party, the Uyghur people have no greater champion in this House than her. I hope that those monitoring this debate will note that threats and intimidation will not stop Members of this House speaking out against and calling out the appalling genocide that is taking place in Xinjiang.

As we heard from every speaker this afternoon, last month the Uyghur Tribunal found beyond any reasonable doubt that the People’s Republic of China is responsible for crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide. Although very welcome, the tribunal’s detailed findings of mass detention, systematic rape, forced re-education, forced labour, mass surveillance, child separation, psychological trauma, forced sterilisation and the destruction of the Uyghurs cultural and religious way of life confirmed what we already knew and have known for quite some time.

The question for us in this House and for the Government in particular must be: for how much longer must we continue to collect more credible evidence of what is happening before we and other democratic nations take a co-ordinated stand against actions of the Chinese Communist party? How do the Government plan to use what means they have to ensure the cessation of that genocide, including ensuring that—as many Members said—we in this country are not inadvertently assisting, aiding or abetting by supporting the Chinese economy? As much as the Government may recoil from the idea, they will have to step up. They will have to show leadership on the issue because, having had the tribunal sit in London, it is inescapable that our responsibility in international law is now clear: when a state learns of a risk of genocide, it is legally obliged to act.

My first question to the Minister therefore is: since the judgment of the tribunal was delivered, what assessment have the Government made of the findings and do they now agree that the Uyghurs are indeed at serious risk of genocide? Since the tribunal’s findings, what discussions have the Government had with international partners, non-governmental organisations, businesses and others to ensure a co-ordinated international response?

On 28 June last year, in response to the public petition, the Government said that they

“will continue to urge the Chinese authorities to change their approach in Xinjiang”.

So I have another question for the Minister: how is that working out?

As the hon. Member for Wealden and others said, the Government’s response should, at the very minimum, be to blacklist UK firms that trade in goods produced using slave labour, and to place a strict import ban on goods that we know originate in Xinjiang camps, or whose raw materials have been grown in those camps. As we have heard, last month, President Biden signed a Bill banning imports from Xinjiang to the United States; it puts the onus on the importer to prove that goods were not made using forced labour. I urge the UK Government to follow President Biden’s lead and explore the possibility of banning the import of cotton products, solar panels and other products that we believe to have been wholly or partly produced in the labour camps of Xinjiang. Also, there must of course be genuinely meaningful Magnitsky sanctions taken against those perpetrating the atrocities, and against those profiting and growing rich by doing business with the perpetrators.

The Uyghur Tribunal had to be independent and unofficial. As its chair, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, explained, the International Court of Justice could not take this case, because it can look only at cases that have been approved at the Security Council, over which China has a veto. It is highly unlikely that an independent international court will make a genocidal determination any time soon, but I would strongly argue that this does not mean that the tribunal’s judgment carries any less moral authority than it would have done if it had come from an international court. The bottom line is this: whether the tribunal was official or unofficial, now that it has taken place, the UK Government cannot contend that they do not know what is happening in Xinjiang, and they have a moral imperative to act now.

One route to consider was put forward by Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch. She proposed that a United Nations Human Rights Council motion be tabled, asking that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights investigate the atrocities in Xinjiang, even if that has to be done, as another Member said, from outside China. Additionally, we could accept the recommendations of our Foreign Affairs Committee and explore the prospect of a Human Rights Council inquiry on the treatment of this beleaguered minority Muslim community; and of course we should step up sanctions against Communist party officials involved in perpetrating these gross human rights abuses.

The Uyghur people have been subjected to widespread abuse, the scale and ferocity of which is unparalleled in modern times. That is a stain on the world. I hope that the world is waking up to the fact that it can no longer turn a blind eye to this. It can no longer wring its hands and issue hollow words of sympathy when it feels that it has to. In April, the House passed a motion declaring that Uyghur Muslims in China were victims of crimes against humanity and genocide. That view is shared by the Parliaments of Canada, Lithuania and the Netherlands, and the US State Department has also determined that the violations against the Uyghurs constitute genocide. In December, the United States announced a diplomatic boycott of next month’s winter Olympics because of the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity. Some may dismiss that as a token gesture, but if it leads to a concerted international effort to get China to change its ways, it will be seen as the start of a process, and as having been very worth while.

Finally, everyone who believes in freedom and democracy is indebted to Sir Geoffrey Nice and those involved in the Uyghur Tribunal. As we have said, it may not have had official Government support or backing, or the power to sanction China, but it has laid out clear and unambiguous evidence that a genocide is taking place, and gives democratic Governments and the United Nations the moral authority to hold those responsible to account. Minister, please do not let this House or the Uyghur people down; immediately recognise this genocide for what it is.

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 2:04 pm, 20th January 2022

It is a real treat to have you in the Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker, as someone who has also taken a robust stand on human rights and on the question of China. A number of other Members across the House have gone above and beyond to be on the side of those who do not have a voice. It is also worth noting the associations and affiliations that so many of those who have spoken have, including Tim Loughton, with his important work on Tibet. Professor Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who led the panel of the Uyghur Tribunal, is a patron, along with me, of Hong Kong Watch and has taken an interest in China for many years. Members across the House have been very clear from the outset that we stand with the Chinese people, and it is with systematic abuse that we have an issue.

Ms Ghani has surpassed herself in her speech today, underlining her empathy particularly for women but for all those affected by the regime in the Xinjiang region. Her leadership on this question is unparalleled. I am so sorry that the wrong diplomatic move was taken to sanction her, but I know that, in a funny way, it has emboldened her and all those others who have experienced that same sanction.

Debates such as this bring out the best about our Parliament because this is where we have so much cross-party agreement and where we, as a Parliament, can inform the direction of the UK’s foreign policy. We know that, in a week’s time, we will be talking about Holocaust Memorial Day, with which there are so many strong parallels. I know that the Minister has an eye to that awful but important and crucial commemoration next week, where we will talk about those in our communities who are still so affected by that dreadful holocaust from 1939 to 1944.

As we know, there is an extensive and growing body of evidence of the systematic persecution of the Uyghur minority, including detailed reports of more than 1 million people subject to arbitrary detention; forced labour; the enforced separation of children from parents; denial of the right to practise religion or speak one’s own language; and the rape, torture and forced sterilisation of women. That has all been laid out so clearly by the tribunal. I know that the Minister has a copy of the tribunal findings and I am sure that she has read that. We know also that the Uyghur people in Xinjiang province in north-west China have suffered enormously. The question is now, what will we do about it? We know that the tribunal itself is

“satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the People’s Republic of China, by the imposition of measures to prevent births intended to destroy a significant part of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang as such, has committed genocide”.

Today’s debate follows our vote in this Parliament in April 2021, ably contributed to by my predecessor, my hon. Friend Stephen Kinnock, who spoke so eloquently today about the need for the Government to have an overarching China strategy and to implement it as soon as possible. In that vote in this House, which was supported across the House, we recognised the plight of the Uyghur people and we called on the Government to take urgent steps in response. This does feel a bit as though we have raised this before and we are challenging the Government again over what practical action they will take. Will they inject some urgency into their response?

Many of us are disappointed that the Government rejected the excellent recommendations of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee last summer. When I visited Primark in my constituency, I was pleased to see that, since the report, it had begun to make different decisions relating to its supply chains, and I know that Marks and Spencer has as well. If the private sector has already begun to make those changes, there is no excuse for the Government not to look at their own record on the matter.

The Government also failed to incorporate the concerns of both Houses when we discussed what we called then the genocide amendment. I hope that the Minister will speak to that and tell us whether she believes that the right decision was taken on that amendment to the Trade Bill. We have this new fresh evidence. If the Government assess that it is correct, will we need to review that element of the Trade Act, which of course has completed its passage here? What does the Minister make of all this fresh evidence and do we need to look at that again?

I want briefly to draw out a couple of conclusions before allowing the Minister to come back because there is a lot of red meat, let us say, in this that she will want to get her teeth into. My hon. Friend Siobhain McDonagh raised a specific challenge around the pensions of members of staff in this House. Some of the pension companies may well be unwittingly supporting poor practice and human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region. What is the Minister’s response to that? My hon. Friend also raised the question of HSBC, the UK’s biggest bank.

My hon. Friend Afzal Khan mentioned the support of the Board of Deputies of British Jews for this particular body of findings. That adds another strand of civil society support for that important work. He also mentioned that he is a great friend of Rahima Mahmut, who has gone through so much but is now the leader of the World Uyghur Congress.

My hon. Friend Ms Rimmer has raised in this House on a number of occasions the issue of the harvesting of organs, but her question today was whether there has been, to use one of the descriptions, the destruction of a way of life of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang. My hon. Friend Janet Daby encouraged the Government to inject urgency into their work.

Brendan O'Hara, who spoke for the SNP, issued several challenges, in a similar vein to ours. The fact that so many of us are saying the same things lends weight to our arguments. First, will the Minister commit Government resources to assessing the situation in Xinjiang and undertake to look carefully at the evidence from the tribunal and to come back to this House as soon as possible to say what further action the Government need to take? Secondly, and once again as a matter of urgency, will she work with colleagues across Government to look again at Magnitsky sanctions on any senior officials involved in abuses who have so far escaped UK sanctions so that we can come into line with the US Government sanctions and there is not a cigarette paper between us and our partners? Specifically the name Chen Quanguo appears to be coming up in a number of briefings and evidence pieces we have heard about today. What is her view of that individual?

Will the Minister look at the wider issue of supply chains, as per the excellent recommendations from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, the investments of firms and state pension funds to ensure that any company with any links to the situation in Xinjiang is held to account, while boosting the legislation necessary to bring businesses into line with their moral obligations? As I mentioned earlier, in some regards, some companies are ahead of the game. How do we catch up? The Committee’s report includes a specific recommendation on the question of financial companies. What view does she take of that? What assessment has she and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office made of that?

On the role of the international community, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon mentioned the role of the International Labour Organisation. Does she support that? We are high-profile members of the ILO and have talked in this House on a number of occasions about the conventions that have come out of the ILO. What are we doing to apply those international conventions to this situation? Will she support the call for the correct UN individuals, such as Michelle Bachelet, to lead a delegation in the Xinjiang region to check whether what we have heard in London from the tribunal is correct and therefore could inform our foreign policy on China?

The brutal campaign of oppression in Xinjiang is a scar on the conscience of the world and the Labour party stands shoulder to shoulder with the Uyghur people. We want to work hand in hand with the Government and our Parliament to bring forward the urgent action that is required.

Photo of Amanda Milling Amanda Milling Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 2:14 pm, 20th January 2022

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend Ms Ghani for securing this debate and for her dedication to human rights. I also thank hon. Members from across the House for their very insightful contributions, and I will endeavour, in the time that I have, to answer many of the points that have been raised.

The Government welcome the contribution of the Uyghur Tribunal in building an international awareness and understanding of the human rights violations in Xinjiang. We have been following its work very closely.

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

My right hon. Friend has just referred to and welcomed the tribunal’s report, so why did the Government refuse to give evidence for the report when requested to by the tribunal?

Photo of Amanda Milling Amanda Milling Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

Government officials observed the tribunal hearings in June and September, and Ministers and officials met the chair, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, on several occasions to discuss its work.

As we have heard today, the tribunal’s findings contain further harrowing evidence of the situation that Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities face in Xinjiang. Uyghurs and other minorities are being detained in political re-education camps, their religious practice is being restricted and their culture squashed. They are subject to invasive surveillance and repressive governance. There is also compelling evidence of forced labour and forced sterilisation.

The research that we have funded has uncovered more deeply disturbing details. Indeed, we have not hesitated to make clear our deep concerns at the highest levels. The Prime Minister raised the situation in Xinjiang directly with President Xi in October, as did the Foreign Secretary in her introductory call with her Chinese counterparts. I also raised our serious concerns with the Chinese ambassador just last month. We have been working alongside our partners to increase the pressure on China to change its behaviour. In March, the UK imposed asset freezes and travel bans on senior Chinese actors responsible for enforcing China’s repressive policies.

Photo of Amanda Milling Amanda Milling Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I am going to make progress, if my hon. Friend does not mind, because I do not have an enormous amount of time.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

I just want to make sure that we capture the essence of what we debated on that particular point.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

I am very grateful; I know that my right hon. Friend wants to respond to every point that was raised. If she is accurate in stating that the Prime Minister, the Department and herself are following not only the tribunal, but challenging the actors of genocide, how come she declared that they are unable to fulfil the ICJ obligation, because the duty is in place?

Photo of Amanda Milling Amanda Milling Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I will come back to the Government’s policy shortly, but please be reassured that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and I have all raised the 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. We took action alongside the US, Canada and the EU, demonstrating the breadth of concern across the international community.

Some Members have asked about future sanction designations for human rights violations in Xinjiang. As they will know, we do not speculate about future sanctions, but we keep all evidence under close review. The Government have taken robust action to address Uyghur forced labour in UK supply chains. We have introduced new guidance for UK businesses on the risks of doing business in Xinjiang and have announced enhanced export controls, as well as financial penalties, under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Taken together, those measures will help to ensure that no British organisation profits from or contributes to human rights violations against Uyghur people.

Photo of Amanda Milling Amanda Milling Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I will make some progress, because I want to address a couple of points that my hon. Friend made in her opening remarks.

In regard to the BEIS Committee report recommendations, we are grateful to the Committee for its thorough inquiry last year on forced labour in Xinjiang. The Government have given it careful consideration, including the recommendation to introduce a blacklist of companies that do not uphold human rights throughout their supply chains. Although we currently have no plans to introduce such a list, the Government are committed to tackling Uyghur forced labour in UK supply chains and are looking to take robust action.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden

Will my hon. Friend give way on that point?

Photo of Amanda Milling Amanda Milling Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My hon. Friend will get the opportunity to respond when I sit down; I have limited time.

On import controls, the Government are fully committed to tackling Uyghur forced labour in global supply chains, but the measures we have taken do not currently include import bans. However, we have announced a range of other measures, including a comprehensive review of export controls as they apply to Xinjiang.

We are also working closely with international partners. At the G7 last month, under our presidency, G7 leaders committed to working together to ensure that global supply chains are free from the use of forced labour. On international action, the UK has consistently led international efforts to hold China to account at the UN through global diplomatic efforts. We led the first two joint statements on Xinjiang in 2019 and 2020. More recently, last October, we helped secure the support of 43 countries for a statement on Xinjiang at the UN Third Committee.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Defence)

Will the Minister comment on the point about the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees realistically never getting access to China? Will the United Kingdom Government therefore push the United Nations Human Rights Council to get a resolution so that the UNHCR can do an inquiry from outside China?

Photo of Amanda Milling Amanda Milling Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I will come to the UN shortly. The statement we secured in October demonstrated the breadth of international concern, with fresh support from Turkey, a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, as well as Eswatini and Liberia. Through the UN statements, we have pressed China to allow urgent and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In recent national statements, we welcomed the high commissioner’s plans to publish an assessment of the available information on Xinjiang. I assure Members that the UK will continue to play a significant role in holding China to account for its gross human rights violations there.

Photo of Amanda Milling Amanda Milling Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

No; we have had a long debate and I would like the opportunity to respond to it.

To monitor the evolving situation, we funded research reports from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and the Rights Practice, a non-governmental organisation, on how China is implementing repressive policies on Xinjiang. Those reports are credible and compelling and will inform future action. We will continue to fund future research.

The Uyghur diaspora also play a crucial role in our understanding the situation. We regularly speak to members of that community to inform policies and ensure that Uyghur voices are heard. Members expressed concern about reports of Uyghurs in the UK being harassed by Chinese authorities. We have repeatedly made it plain that that is unacceptable and have raised our concerns with the embassy.

Photo of Amanda Milling Amanda Milling Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I am sorry but I am moving on.

Throughout the debate Members have asked whether we will make our own assessment regarding the risk of genocide occurring in Xinjiang. The UK’s long-standing policy, under successive British Governments, is that any determination of genocide is a matter for a competent court rather than for the Government or non-judicial bodies. This long-standing policy is consistent with our legal obligations under the genocide convention and does not undermine our commitment to prevent and punish genocide. I reassure Members that the policy does not inhibit the UK from taking robust action to address the human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang.

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

My right hon. Friend has made her point; will she give way on it?

Photo of Amanda Milling Amanda Milling Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I am going to conclude.

The UK’s long-standing policy on genocide has not prevented 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 have a strong history of protecting human rights globally and the situation in Xinjiang is no exception to that. I reassure the House that we will continue to work with our partners, including the Uyghur people, to hold China to account for its appalling actions in Xinjiang.

Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Conservative, Wealden 2:25 pm, 20th January 2022

I am not quite sure whether the Minister was here for the debate, which was based on the 2007 ICJ ruling that states very clearly our legal obligation to investigate if we believe that there is intent to commit genocide. That is exactly what we have put forward in the motion. The Uyghur Tribunal heard evidence and said that the evidence does exist for biological genocide, human rights abuses and torture.

The Minister stated that she would get back to me on a number of points on which she could not respond at the Dispatch Box, in particular in respect of blacklisting the firms that are exploiting British customers and putting on our shelves products made using slave labour.

I put on the record my thanks to the World Uyghur Congress, to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China and to all colleagues who contributed to the debate. I know there are huge concerns about sanctions on parliamentarians, but we are in a free world and should concentrate on the Uyghurs whose lives are being lost at the hands of the Chinese Communist party.

I am disappointed that the Minister wanted to quibble over the critical point of the debate, let alone to use clever legal arguments to get out of our obligation. I put on the record that it is difficult to draw a comparison between what it is happening in Xinjiang and the genocide of the Jewish people, but the Board of Deputies has already made its position clear. I also put on record the fact that at one point the late Rabbi Sacks was asked, “Where was your God at Auschwitz?”, and the Lord Rabbi Sacks said the issue was not about God but, “Where was man?” I want it to be on the record that men and women are putting a voice to what is happening in Xinjiang.

I respectfully ask that the Government allow our motion to pass; that they respond to the three principles and on the sanctions and blacklisting; and, in particular, that they return to the House in two months with an assessment of how they consider the evidence presented to the Uyghur Tribunal.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
notes that the December 2021 Uyghur Tribunal’s judgment in London found beyond reasonable doubt that the People’s Republic of China was responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and torture in the Uyghur region;
and calls on the Government to urgently assess whether it considers there to be a serious risk of genocide in the Uyghur region and to present its findings to the House within two months of this motion being passed, 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 and fulfil its other obligations under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, accept the recommendations of the Fifth Report of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Uyghur forced labour in Xinjiang and UK value chains, Session 2019-21, HC 1272, including black-listing UK firms selling slave-made products in the UK and putting in place import controls to protect UK consumers, and place sanctions on the perpetrators of this genocide, including Chen Quanguo.