China’s Policy on its Uyghur Population

Alistair Carmichael Excerpts
Monday 12th October 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)
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It is a pleasure to follow the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat). I thank all those who signed the petition to bring this matter to the Chamber this evening.

I do not know whether it is a formally declarable interest or not, but I am co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Uyghurs. My co-chair, the hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi), would be here, but she is shielding. It is worth reflecting that this is another instance demonstrating that the current procedures for participation in House business perhaps require another visit. In fact, the same is true of the hon. Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani), who takes a close personal interest in these matters.

As the hon. Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans) observed, I first held a debate on the treatment of the Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang province in this Chamber on 29 January last year. It is gratifying to see the number of people attending the debate today, which is an indication of the attention that has come to the issue and that interest in it has grown.

I was particularly struck in June when Jewish News ran a front-page story with the headline “Chilling echoes”. On 1 October, it ran an editorial revisiting the issue:

“When Jewish News ran a front page earlier this year with the headline ‘Chilling echoes’—in reference to the abuse of the Uyghurs and parallels with the Shoah—we didn’t do so lightly. Any hint of a parallel with the darkest chapter in human history is something we’d always caution against. But the discovery of tonnes of hair taken from members of the minority community in China invoked emotions we as Jews simply could not ignore.”

I quote that because the question of genocide, and the evidence required to establish genocide, is now perhaps at the centre of this issue and our examination of it. As others said, this time, nobody can say that they were not told, that they did not know. There is a growing body of evidence that what is being done in Xinjiang province to the Uyghur Muslim population bears all the characteristics of a genocide, and that there is a requirement for it to be called out politically, and acted on legally, as a genocide.

The hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling referenced the UN convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide. Article 2 outlines the basis on which genocide is to be established legally—that it is

“committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”,

although that should not be treated as an exhaustive list. That is to say, to meet the legal definition of genocide, the atrocities committed against the Uyghurs need to be committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. Consider what has come into the public domain in recent months in that regard. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute published “Uyghurs for sale: ‘Re-education’, forced labour and surveillance beyond Xinjiang.” We have the report prepared for the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China by Adrian Zenz, “Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control”. We have further Australian Strategic Policy Institute reports: “Cultural Erasure: Tracing the destruction of Uyghur and Islamic spaces in Xinjiang” and “Exploring Xinjiang’s detention system”.

Surely, now, on the basis of that evidence gathered by campaign groups around the world, there needs to be a formal mission to China headed up by the United Nations to gather the evidence in a systematic manner, in order to move forward in a legal, not just a political, way. That is the opportunity that we have as a member of the United Nations Security Council, and I urge the Minister today to make every progress in that regard.