China’s Policy on its Uyghur Population Debate

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Department: Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

China’s Policy on its Uyghur Population

Naz Shah Excerpts
Monday 12th October 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Naz Shah Portrait Naz Shah (Bradford West) (Lab)
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In debates such as this, it is an honour to follow the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael), who rightly quoted a newspaper on what the Jewish community has said. My speech is about genocide and why the Government are not calling it what it is.

We often stand in Westminster Hall or the other Chamber and say, “Never again”, but the truth is we continue to have to say it. We have seen many other genocides, but, with reference specifically to the Uyghurs, mounting evidence has shifted international attention on to Xinjiang. The Chinese Government admitted to the existence of the camp only when it was discovered. They sought to justify it under the pretext of national security, vocational training and re-education. The reality of those so-called vocational training and education centres is far more sinister. The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China has stated:

“A body of mounting evidence now exists, alleging mass incarceration, indoctrination, extrajudicial detention, invasive surveillance, forced labor”.

The testimony of witnesses and survivors is even more disturbing. We have learned that Uyghur women have been subjected to forced contraception, abortion and sterilisation, including forced removal of their wombs. There are also reports detailing that horrific abuses have been uncovered, such as Muslims being forced to drink alcohol, eat pork and convert from the religion of their choice, yet despite the intelligence and testimonies, and the fact that China is hiding its actions in plain sight, our Government fall short of acknowledging that acts of genocide are taking place.

Recent reports and analysis of satellite images reveal that the Chinese Government continue to construct new internment camps, displaying an unwavering desire to continue their campaign of genocide against the Uyghur people. It is clear that the Government’s stance is not working. The co-founder of the Coalition for Genocide Response points out that if a state does not make a formal determination of genocide, it will be less likely to fulfil its duty to prevent or stop the genocide. The Government must, in the interim, be able to make the determination to respond accordingly to atrocities. Much has been said about the Magnitsky amendments and I will push the Minister to respond. What is stopping us applying those measures, which should be imposed on those involved in human rights abuses in Xinjiang?

Alarmingly, as China asserts its dominance among global economies, it has been accused of benefiting from the fruits of the forced labour of the Uyghur people. A coalition of up to 180 human rights organisations has said:

“Virtually the entire apparel industry is tainted by forced Uighur…labour”.

Alongside imposing sanctions, the Government must go further and seek out brands based here in the UK that are profiteering from the exploitation of the Uyghur people. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood) referred to medical equipment in that context. The Government should remind brands of their ethical responsibility and impose corporate accountability on them. Their supply chains are propping up China’s genocide against the Uyghur.

Unless China is forced to act by unflinching political, commercial and legal action from the Government, nothing will change. Indeed, China is a signatory to the 1948 universal declaration of human rights, and it must be reminded of its obligations. We have witnessed time and again the direction that the road of religious and ethnic hatred takes us in. Our inaction also means that we all know how it ends—with the deaths of countless innocent men, women and children.

How many more times are we going to have debates where right hon. and hon. Members pledge “never again”? In my lifetime, we have witnessed genocide in Rwanda and said, “Never again.” We left UN peacekeepers unsupported, despite their concerns that there would be war crimes in Srebrenica, and afterwards we again said, “Never again.” We saw acts of genocide against the Yazidis in Syria, we debated that genocide in its aftermath, and we said again, “Never again.” In Myanmar, we have seen acts of genocide against the Rohingya population, leaving the survivors stateless, and once more we said, “Never again.” At some point, we need to stop saying, “Never again.” We need to learn from history, identify these things when we see them happening and—crucially—we must act.