Ministers ‘seriously considering’ new compromise on genocide amendment

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Ministers ‘seriously considering’ new compromise on genocide amendment

Exclusive: Dozens of backbench Tory MPs are putting pressure on the government to back the third round of votes on the Trade Bill amid widespread persecution of Uyghur Muslims

Protestors against discrimination of Uyghurs
Protestors against discrimination of Uyghurs

Hopes were raised today of a breakthrough in the rounds of parliamentary ping-pong over the Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill.

Dozens of Conservative MPs, led by Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Nus Ghani, want to give High Court judges the power to determine whether a British trading partner is committing genocide, and if so, for there to be repercussions on bilateral business. They hope to give the Uyghurr Muslims in China the opportunity to have their day in court to determine whether their treatment by the Chinese authorities – including what campaigners allege is forced labour  and sterilisation – amounts to a genocide.

However, ministers say this should be a matter for politicians, not the judiciary, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson was this week quoted as saying he was a “Sinophile”.

A source close to the campaign said Duncan Smith “met [Foreign Secretary] Dominic Raab and the Chief Whip last Thursday, who both received the revised genocide amendment well, and agreed to consider it seriously”. They added that “no substantive objections to the new approach were raised”.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith speaking in the Commons against the persecution of Uyghur Muslims

A tweaked version of the amendment – which narrowly failed to pass in the House of Commons recently, despite wholesale support in the Lords – adds an additional layer of Parliamentary scrutiny, through the involvement of a Select Committee.

Duncan Smith said in a letter to MPs, now seen by Jewish News, that the move represented a “significant and reasonable compromise on our part”. He wrote: “We will, through this amendment, be able to utilise the legal expertise and dispassionate ability to interrogate evidence available to us in Parliament, to ensure that the word genocide is only employed with the gravity it deserves.”

He said their suggestion had been received favourably, but since then the amendment had been opposed in the House of Lords, where the Government was soundly defeated.

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said: “We applaud the House of Lords for voting in favour of the revised Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill, with another huge majority of 153. We call on MPs to back the amendment when it returns to the House of Commons shortly.”

The mass detention and “re-education” of hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims in China’s east is close to Jewish hearts, and Jewish News has led the coverage outlining the accounts of survivors. This week Canada’s Parliament voted to recognise China’s persecution of its Uyghur minority as genocide.

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