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UK Parliament Set to Debate on Recognising Uyghur Genocide

UK Parliament Set to Debate on Recognising Uyghur Genocide

Categories: Latest News

Thursday April 15 2021

Over the last years, innumerable pieces of evidence have come to light testifying to the inhumane suffering of the Uyghur people in China. The reports of systematic abuse have painted a damning picture that the Uyghur people are facing a genocide, meticulously orchestrated by the Chinese Government. In this battle of morality, the UK Government have chosen to meekly offer consolatory statements denouncing the persecution, and issuing sanctions against particular individuals involved in the violence. However, the actions have fallen dramatically short of recognising that the suffering of the Uyghur people is the result of a systematic genocidal process orchestrated by the Chinese State. In lieu of this, the debate set to be held on the 22nd April 2021 in the House of Common is an invaluable opportunity for Parliament, and the UK as a whole, to finally recognise the plight of the Uyghur community as facing genocide.

Evidence of the persecution of the Uyghur people has come from a variety of sources, all painting a bleak picture of life in Xinjiang, China. Reports have noted that communities in Xinjiang are forced to abandon the manifestation of their Islamic and ethnic cultures (including being disallowed from wearing the veil, growing a beard, and giving their children Muslim or Uyghur names), and regularly display their allegiance to the State, at risk of otherwise being sent to “re-education camps”. The camps themselves have been criticised as being the primary tools of the genocide, with former inmates of the camps highlighting reports of daily starvation, sexual abuse, torture, forced sterilisation/abortion, forced labour, and the separation of children from families. Speaking to Human Rights Watch, one former detainee noted that they “saw five people tortured and beaten”. Another said they were “chained to the bed” and were told that there was a Xinjiang-wide order “that all Uyghurs and Kazaks would have their feet shackled and their hands chained together”. Tursunay Ziawudun, another former Uyghur detainee, speaking to the BBC said, that Uyghur women in the camps were routinely raped. Other detainees were often forced to assist the officials in the rapes or face punishment. The horrifying stories, reports and leaked information all indicate that the abuse being faced by the Uyghurs is not sporadic rather the consequence of a systematic genocidal operation being carried out by the Government. To not acknowledge the extent of the abuse is to be complicit in it.

In attempting to stand up for the Uyghur community, the UK Government has issued statements condemning the persecution and enforced sanctions against particular Chinese officials. On the 22ndMarch 2021, the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, issued a statement, noting that the plight of the Uyghur community was “one of the worst human rights crises of our time”, and that “it is the largest mass detention of an ethnic or religious group since the Second World War”. Raab added that “the international community cannot simply look the other way”, and that the “evidence is clear”. In the same statement, the Foreign Secretary announced that the UK Government was introducing Magnitsky sanctions against four individuals that had deemed “responsible for the violations that have taken place – and persist”. This included travel bans and asset freezes. Curiously though, the list of individuals did not include Chen Quanguo, who is the Party Secretary of Xinjiang and is widely credited as being a major catalyst (if not the architect) of the Uyghur genocide. The list seemingly betrays the UK Government’s attempt to appear in support of the Uyghur people without risking trade relations with China. Whilst the tentative steps taken by the Government have been constructive in applying pressure, it is time Parliament finally recognised the true extent of the violence and call it what it is.

On 22nd April 2021, in the form of a debate on a substantive motion, the House of Commons will have the rare chance of challenging the Uyghur persecution – a chance that the House must not squander. The motion set to be debated on, reads: “That this House believes that Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are suffering Crimes Against Human and Genocide”. The motion also “calls upon the Government to act to fulfil their obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and all relevant instruments of international law to bring it to an end”. In the reasoning for the debate, the motion notes that other countries (including the US and Canada) have already recognised the persecution as genocide, and that this is the first opportunity the UK Parliament has had in voting on the issue. In finally calling out the genocide, the UK Parliament will be carrying out its moral duty and will be taking a tangible step in helping the Uyghur people by applying pressure on the Chinese State.

It is imperative that at such a crucial juncture, Members of the House of Commons take into account the ongoing suffering of the Uyghur community, and vote in favour of the motion.

The House of Common must call this what it is – Genocide.

How can I get involved?

MEND urges all our readers to get involved in our Action Alert and urge their respective MPs to vote in favour of the motion, and recognise the Uyghur genocide.

  1. Contact your MP through our Action Alert.
  2. Tell them to vote in favour of the motion to #CallitGenocide and stand in solidarity with the Uyghur people.
  3. Tell other people to do the same.
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