As early as 30 October 2018, I asked the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, “what assessment have the Government made of extremely alarming reports of internment camps for Uyghur Muslims in China?”. This afternoon, the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, detailed the Government’s response to forced labour in Xinjiang.
The evidence of the scale and severity of the human rights violations being perpetrated in Xinjiang against the Uighur Muslims is extensive and harrowing. The Foreign Secretary confirmed these violations include:
- The extrajudicial detention of over 1 million Uighurs and other minorities in political re-education camps
- Extensive and invasive surveillance targeting minorities
- Systematic restrictions on Uighur culture education and the practice of Islam
- The widespread use of forced labour
- Forced sterilisation
The Foreign Secretary said these claims are supported by a large, diverse and growing body of evidence. That includes:
- First-hand reports from diplomats who have visited Xinjiang
- First-hand testimony from victims who have fled the region
- Satellite imagery
- Destruction of mosques
- Extensive and credible third-party reports from NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International with the UN and other international experts also expressing their very serious concerns
China is in denial.
The UK has a moral duty to respond.
This afternoon, the Foreign Secretary highlighted the UK has already played a leading role in the international community to shine a light on the appalling treatment of the Uighurs and to increase diplomatic pressure on China to stop and remedy its actions.
The Foreign Secretary has personally made his concerns clear to China’s Foreign Minister and his officials continue to raise the issue at every opportunity in Beijing and London.
However, I asked the Foreign Secretary to demonstrate to British Muslims our continued leadership. This is a tremendously serious issue and it is paramount that no one sets out to score political points or play political games over the matter.
I represent thousands of British Muslims with acute concerns in Wycombe and I welcome the forthright language and robust measures of this statement.
Further steps being taken by the Foreign Office include:
- Strengthened Overseas Business Risk (OBR) guidance. Today, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and Department for International Trade have issued new, robust and detailed guidance to UK businesses on the specific risks faced by companies with links to Xinjiang and underlines the challenges conducting effective due diligence
- Strengthening the operation of the Modern Slavery Act. The Home Office will introduce fines for businesses that do not comply with their transparency obligations and the Home Secretary will introduce this legislation as soon as Parliamentary times allows
- To provide guidance and support to UK Government bodies to exclude suppliers where there is sufficient evidence of human rights violations in any of their supply chains. Any company profiting from forced labour will be barred from Government procurement in this country
- The Government will conduct an urgent review of export controls as they apply to the situation in Xinjiang. This will make sure the UK is doing everything it can to prevent the export of any goods that could directly or indirectly contribute to human rights violations in that region and the Department for International Trade will report back to Parliament with the outcome of the review in due course
The Foreign Secretary concluded his statement by highlighting that although the Government want a positive and constructive relationship with China, the UK, rightly, will not sacrifice its values or security.
“We will continue to speak up for what is right, and we will back up our words with actions, faithful to our values determined as a truly global Britain, to be an even stronger force for good in the world”.