China has been accused of detaining up to 2 million people in a system of camps set up across Xinjiang in recent years, with survivors alleging widespread abuse, including brainwashing, torture, rape and forced labor. Beijing has denied the worst accusations, defending the system as a vocational training and deradicalization program vital to ensuring the region’s security.
“That this government is pursuing deeper trade ties with China while these abuses continue is unthinkable.”
Introducing the motion Thursday, Conservative lawmaker Nusrat Ghani told lawmakers that “while we must never misuse the term genocide, we must not fail to use it when it’s warranted.”
Governments insist that genocide can only be determined by competent courts, said Ghani, but “every route to a court is blocked by China.”
“Our government is handcuffed, paralyzed by the United Nations. We need to take back control,” she said. “Our route to tackling genocide cannot be controlled by China.”
While the move will likely be seen as having no real impact on UK government policy, it is sure to damage relations between London and Beijing. Ties are already severely strained by Britain’s decision to impose sanctions on Xinjiang, and the resulting tit-for-tat Chinese penalties, as well as China’s moves to limit democracy in Hong Kong, a former British colony.
In a recent statement, China’s foreign ministry warned the UK “not go further down the wrong path” in regard to action over Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and reiterated its determination to safeguard its “national sovereignty, security and development interests.”
‘Interrogate the evidence’
There are five ways in which genocide can take place, according to the convention: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Speaking during Thursday’s debate, former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith urged the government to rethink its position on China’s actions in Xinjiang.
“We will not gain any particular friendship by not calling out genocide from the Chinese. It is simply not a tradeable item,” he said. “The UK government has said endlessly — and I understand this — that only a competent court can declare genocide, that is absolutely the original plan.
“But the problem is that getting to a competent court is impossible. At the United Nations it is impossible to get through to the International Court of Justice, it is impossible to get through to the International Criminal Court as China is not a signatory to that and therefore will not obey that.”
Sanctioned by China
At the time, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said “it speaks volumes that, while the UK joins the international community in sanctioning those responsible for human rights abuses, the Chinese government sanctions its critics.”
The remaining £900,000 will fund programs on open societies and human rights, the minister said in a statement.