The UK government has refused to declare ongoing atrocities in Xinjiang a genocide, in its response to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s special report “Never Again: The UK’s Responsibility to Act on Atrocities in Xinjiang and Beyond”, published over the weekend.
The Government states that it will not “make determinations in relation to genocide” in response to the Committee’s recommendation to “accept Parliament’s view that Uyghurs and other ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang are suffering genocide and crimes against humanity”.
In April this year the House of Commons declared that genocide is taking place against Uyghurs and others in north-west China.
The government opposed the motion, claiming that genocide designation was a matter for “competent national and international courts after consideration of all the available evidence”, but ministers did not vote against it.
Estimates regarding the number of Uyghur muslims currently held in concentration camps is between one and three million.
Last month an exiled Chinese detective told CNN that Xinjiang officials routinely hanged Uyghur detainees from ceilings and ordered their sexual assault.
Extensive personal testimonies from the region and leaked official documents have revealed that human rights abuses such as torture, forced labour, forced contraception and sterilisation, sexual abuse, home surveillance, clamp downs on religious practices, the destruction of ancient heritage sites and the forced marriage of Uyghur women to non-Muslim men are rife in the region.
Last week Beijing announced new and more restrictive rules for Xinjiang’s Muslims that will come into force from 1 January 2022.
While the UK Government agrees with the Committee’s recommendation to raise concerns with UNESCO, the International Labour Organization, and to engage with the Uyghur community in the UK, it said it “has not made any decisions” regarding a potential diplomatic boycott of next year’s winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing.
They said there were no current plans to “place import controls on goods from China” as the committee implored them to consider in regards to banning cotton products known to be produced wholly or in part by forced labour in Xinjiang.
Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, said: “I am pleased that the Government has accepted our recommendations to raise concerns with UNESCO over their inexcusable inaction over cultural destruction in Xinjiang, as well as to engage with, and understand the needs of, the Uyghur diaspora in the UK.
“It is disappointing that the Government has failed to acknowledge Parliament’s view that a genocide, perpetrated by the Chinese government, is taking place. The scale and severity of the human rights abuses represents an international crisis.
“Far too few countries have enacted measures that put pressure on the Chinese Government to end its abhorrent human rights abuses. It is unfortunate that the Government has decided against a ban on cotton imports from Xinjiang or sanctions on all goods and companies associated with the region. No British citizen wants to consume goods manufactured in these appalling circumstances and a ban would hit Beijing where it hurts. While I welcome the Government’s commitment to engage with the Uyghurs already in the UK, there is a desperate need for fast-tracked asylum for those fleeing state-backed persecution. Many who should be here, safe, aren’t.
“I urge the Government to declare a ministerial and diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. This will send a clear and powerful message: that the UK will not stand idly by in the face of genocide and crimes against humanity. The decision to look the other way will weigh heavy on our conscience, and ‘Never Again’ will become another empty phrase.”