The Uyghur Tribunal is doing vital work. The UK government’s response to the Uyghur genocide woefully inadequate.
I asked the Minister why government isn’t publicly supporting the Tribunal:
Stephen Kinnock: I have lost count of the number of times that I have stood at this Dispatch Box and urged the Government to take stronger and more robust action against the atrocities of the Chinese state as it relentlessly persecutes the Uyghur people. I have also lost count of the number of times that the Government’s response has been woefully inadequate. From the blocking of the genocide amendment, to the failure to sanction Chen Quanguo, to last week’s rejection of many of the recommendations in the BEIS Select Committee’s report on forced labour, the reality is that the Government’s response to the genocide that is taking place in Xinjiang has fallen miserably short of befitting any credible definition of global Britain, so far amounting only to sanctions on a few lower-level Chinese officials.
Five days ago in Xinjiang, we had the chilling spectacle of relatives and friends of witnesses who have so bravely testified to the Uyghur tribunal being paraded in front of Chinese TV cameras, clearly under duress, and made to discredit the evidence that their family members had presented. Having attended the tribunal myself, I can tell the House that the evidence is truly harrowing. I therefore ask the Minister: what assessment have the Government made of the credibility of the evidence presented to the tribunal? Will the Government be testifying at the tribunal and will the Minister himself be attending the tribunal? When will we see the changes to the Modern Slavery Act promised by the Foreign Secretary in his statement to the House on 12 January? How is, in the Foreign Secretary’s word, the “urgent” export control review progressing, which also began on 12 January? Do the Government support the opening of an ICC investigation into the international crimes of the Chinese officials who are orchestrating these abuses? Why are the Government not doing more in the UN to get independent human rights observers into Xinjiang? What steps are the Government taking to protect Uyghurs living in the UK from harassment and intimidation by the Chinese authorities?
The witnesses who have testified at the tribunal have shown huge courage and leadership. Let us hope that the Government will at some point start to follow in their footsteps.
Nigel Adams: I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I disagree on a large part of his thesis that this Government have taken no action. This Government led the first two statements on Xinjiang at the UN. We have used our diplomatic network to raise the issue up the international agenda. We will continue to work with our partners across the world to build an international caucus of those willing to speak out against these human rights violations, and we have seen that caucus raised from 23 countries to 39. We will increase the pressure on China to change its behaviour.
We have backed up our international action with robust domestic measures: on 22 March, under the UK’s global human rights sanctions regime, we imposed asset freezes and travel bans on four senior Chinese Government officials and an asset freeze on one entity. On 12 January, the Foreign Secretary announced measures to help to ensure that businesses are not complicit in violations or abuses in Xinjiang. Of course, we are continuously keeping our sanctions regime under review.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the intimidation of the Uyghur diaspora. We are absolutely aware of this. We are very concerned about members of the Uyghur diaspora, including in the UK, being harassed by the Chinese authorities. This is an effort to intimidate them into silence, force them to return to China or co-opt them into providing information on other Uyghurs. This activity is unacceptable. We have raised our concerns directly with the Chinese embassy in London.
In my answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith), I mentioned that we are not in a position to provide evidence, testimony or official support to the tribunal, but we have engaged: I have engaged personally with Sir Geoffrey Nice on this measure, and I understand that my noble Friend the Minister for human rights in the other place has spoken with him on no fewer than four occasions. We are following the tribunal’s work closely, and clearly we will be studying any resulting report.