Dominic Raab urges China to let UN visit Xinjiang over persecution of Uyghurs

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Dominic Raab urges China to let UN visit Xinjiang over persecution of Uyghurs

Foreign Secretary's call comes after communal pressure for the government to adopt amendment to trade bill

Dominic Raab
Dominic Raab

 Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has called on China to allow the United Nations (UN) to visit a province where it is accused of “appalling” human-rights abuses against the Uyghur minority group.

Mr Raab, whose father was Jewish and came to Britain from Czechoslovakia in 1938 aged six, said reports of internment camps and women being forcibly sterilised in Xinjiang were “truly shocking” and that authorities in Beijing should permit the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the sites.

The Chinese government has denied accusations of widespread abuse in the north-western province, mainly targeted at the Uyghur minority group, including allegations of forced sterilisation, slave labour and mass internment.

This comes amid communal pressure for the government to support an amendment to the trade bill. If successful, the amendment which has been passed by the Lords, would allow the UK High Court to rule on whether China is committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims, and revoke trade deals with offenders, including companies using forced labour.

On Friday, 30 rabbis and communal leaders signed a statement organised by Rene Cassin calling for the amendment to be supported, while Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl wrote to the Prime Minister asking for his backing on the issue. On Thursday evening, the Board held an emergency meeting about the persecution of Uyghur Muslims.

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Appearing on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Mr Raab was asked what the UK Government was doing amid accusations that China was holding a million Uyghur people in “re-education camps” and women were subject to forced sterilisation.

Mr Raab said the Government had recently announced measures that would make sure “we don’t have any British businesses that are either supplying to or profiting from the internment camps”.

Earlier this month, Mr Raab announced that firms will face hefty fines unless they meet requirements showing their supply chains are free from forced labour and will be given robust guidance on how to carry out due diligence checks to make sure they are not sourcing products tainted by the human-rights violations.

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Raab said: “I think it’s a shocking, truly shocking, set of circumstances in Xinjiang, against the Uyghur Muslims.”

Mr Raab said 38 other countries had followed the UK’s lead in “criticising and condemning human-rights abuses” in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

During the interview, Sky News presenter Sophy Ridge read to Mr Raab a tweet she said was sent by the Chinese embassy in the US discussing “eradicating extremism” and making Uyghur women “no longer baby-making machines”.

She said: “I just want to be clear, we’re talking here about people being forced to have abortions, given injections to stop their periods, having surgery in some cases, so they’re unable to have children. Are words of condemnation and a few restrictions on British business really enough?”

Mr Raab replied: “It’s absolutely disgraceful. It’s appalling and shocking in the modern world, in a leading member of the international community, and, no, this isn’t enough.

“What China says is this is all lies cooked up by the West, and Britain a leading member amongst them.

“What we say is if you dispute the allegations and the claims and the reports, there’s a simple way to clear this up: allow the UN Human Rights Commissioner to visit and access and see these sites.

“We are pushing for an authoritative third party, like the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN, to conduct that visit.”

Mr Raab was also asked if he thought the treatment of the Uyghur minority group in China was genocide and if the issue would be put on the agenda of the G7 summit that the UK is due to host in June.

He said: “I think it’s for a court to decide whether the very complex definition of genocide is met.

“But what is clear, frankly, whatever legal label you put on it, is that there are convincing and persuasive third party authoritative reports of serious violations of human rights on an appalling industrial scale.”

He said the UK was “excited” to work with the incoming President Joe Biden administration in the US on “making sure human rights and protecting democracy is on the agenda”.

Mr Raab added: “As we preside over the G7, and it’s an exciting year for international leadership for the UK, that will be the case, and I’ve already talked with Nancy Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi of the House of Representatives, recently, including speaking to her over the Christmas period.”

After Raab appeared on Sky News, and then on Andrew Marr’s BBC show, the Board tweeted: “We hope Govt will back the Genocide Amendment so we can give the Uyghurs their day in court & show that when we say #NeverAgain, we mean it.”

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