MPs urge UK government to ban imports from Xinjiang over treatment of Uyghurs

The UK government has been urged by MPs to ban imports from Xinjiang, partially boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics and discourage companies from sponsoring the Games in response to China’s alleged crackdown on Uyghur Muslims .

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee also recommended that the Chinese surveillance company Hikvision, producer of the security cameras that recorded Matt Hancock with his lover at the Department of Health, be banned from that country.

The company has been accused of supplying equipment to prison camps where thousands of Uyghur Muslims are reportedly being arbitrarily detained and subjected to serious human rights violations.

The lawmakers are also calling on the government to put in place a fast-track asylum system for Uyghurs and other minority communities fleeing Chinese persecution, while trying to form a coalition of “sanctuary states” that could provide refuge.

At the same time, urgent measures should be taken, according to the Committee, to determine the level of harassment facing Uyghurs in exile in this country from the Chinese authorities and to identify the support and protection they need. .

I think we have to be careful because what we don’t do is feed a crocodile, hoping to be eaten last

Tom Tugendhat, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee

Committee report calls on Boris Johnson’s government to respect the House of Commons view that crimes against humanity and genocide are taking place in China, and to take a stronger stance on it until now.

He calls on the government to hold talks with the ICC (International Criminal Court) over an investigation into crimes against Uyghurs in Xinjiang and beyond, and to push for an urgent review of the charges that the ‘Unesco has not condemned China’s destruction of Muslim religious and cultural property. sites.

The government, in search of post-Brexit trade, has said it will seek to strengthen its economic ties with China. Last week, Rishi Sunak urged UK businesses to focus on China to make up for lost access to European Union markets. Boris Johnson recently proclaimed he was “ardently Sinophile” and determined to strengthen ties “regardless of the occasional political difficulty” with Beijing.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Never Again: The UK’s Responsibility to Act on Atrocities in Xinjiang and Beyond, Tom Tugendhat, the committee’s conservative chairman, said that while recognizing China’s economic powerhouse, one had to be careful in the search for trade agreements. . “I think we have to be careful that we don’t feed a crocodile, hoping to be eaten last,” he said.

The government of David Cameron, with George Osborne as chancellor, first paved the way for the expansion of trade with China. As a result, Chinese multinational Huawei has entered the UK’s 5G network.

The Huawei decision was overturned last year after intense pressure from Washington. The US administration has blocked US companies from supplying parts to Hikvision due to its involvement in the state security apparatus in Xinjiang.

The United States said economic ties with China should be subject to human rights scrutiny. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Tuesday held a meeting with a group of former Uyghur camp detainees to hear their views on the pressure that can be exerted on Beijing to try to stop the persecution.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken recently met with former Uyghur camp inmates

(POOL / AFP via Getty)

Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, a member of the Committee, said that although the import of cotton was specifically mentioned in the report, there was a case for a broader ban on goods from Xinjiang as it was unclear. that repressive practices were not involved in production.

The British, she added, would like to know whether Chinese imports “were potentially the result of forced labor”. The Committee recalls that the rules of the WTO (World Trade Organization) authorize the prohibition of “products of slave states or products produced by slavery” for human rights reasons.

Mr. Tugendhat, addressing the issue of Hikvision, said, “We have spoken in the past about Huawei. Here is another enterprise related to the state apparatus of repression which is extremely problematic. Hikvision cameras are currently operating across the UK, in leisure centers and even in schools.

“We believe the British, who value human rights and respect privacy, would be extremely concerned to know that these companies are operating in the UK with technology developed to enable state repression.”

The Committee calls on the government “to consider an import ban on all cotton products known to be produced in whole or in part in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” This ban should be extended to other industries ”.

The report states that “the government should ensure that the Chinese government faces the consequences of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics for its crimes in Xinjiang by not participating in the opening or closing ceremonies; strongly discourage UK companies from sponsoring or advertising the Olympics; encourage fans and tourists to stay away and discourage athletes from supporting or accepting the Chinese government’s propaganda efforts while in the country ”.

Mr Tugendhat said: “The evidence of serious human rights violations and crimes against the Uyghur people is already overwhelming and indisputable, and parliament has called it genocide (…) the government should recognize the parliament’s decision, strengthen our response at home and urge our international partners to protect our own supply chains used to profit from abuses.

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