By James Moules
INTERNAL pressure is mounting on the British government to sanction Chinese officials over reported human rights abuses.
A cross-party group of 20 MPs signed a letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on November 10 calling for sanctions against several officials including Chen Quanguo, the Party Secretary of the Xinjiang region.
Mass human rights violations have been reported over the past half-decade in the province, where as many as one million Uyghur Muslims are said to have been arbitrarily detained in internment camps.
The MPs called on the Office of Foreign, Commonwealth and Developmental Affairs (FCDO) to freeze assets and impose travel bans on the named individuals.
The letter says: “There is a pressing need to hold the perpetrators of these abuses to account for their actions. We ask that the government acts immediately to assess the conduct of the organisations and individuals named in this letter against the violations listed in the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020. If found in breach, the government sanctions should be issued comprehensively and without delay.”
The Chinese government has repeatedly denied mistreatment of the Uyghurs and says that the camps are re-education centres. The Chinese Embassy in the UK was contacted for comment.
However, a UK Foreign Office spokesperson told Redaction Politics that the Britain acknowledges the human rights abuses and called on China to allow access of UN observers to the region.
They said: “As the Foreign Secretary has said, it’s clear there are gross and egregious human rights violations going on against the Uyghur population in China.
“The UK Government is playing a leading role in coordinating international efforts to hold China to account for these violations and continues to raise concerns over them with Chinese officials.
“We call on China to allow UN observers unfettered access to Xinjiang, and to end the widespread practice of extra-judicial detention.”
Earlier this year, a petition was launched in the UK calling for sanctions against China over the situation in Xinjiang. It attracted more than 100,000 signatures and was later debated by MPs on October 12.
During the debate, Labour MP Steven Kinnock, Shadow Minister for Asia and the Pacific, said: “The plight of the Uyghur people is a scar on the conscience of the world—of that there can be no doubt—and the fact that the Chinese Government continue to act with impunity leaves us all with a sense of burning injustice.
“It is vital and urgent that the international community comes together to speak with one voice, and to say loud and clear to Beijing, ‘We will not stand idly by while Uyghur people are imprisoned in these so-called re-education camps. We will not look the other way in response to reports of the forced sterilisation of Uyghur women. We will not react with indifference to any efforts to destroy the Uyghur language, culture and way of life.'”
This issue was also raised by Luton North MP Sarah Owen during a November 12 debate on the situation in Hong Kong.
She said: “What progress has the Minister made in identifying the senior Chinese Government officials who have committed serious human rights violations in Hong Kong, and also those who have persecuted Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang?
“We are not asking for speculation: when will the Government do more than just consider Magnitsky sanctions and actually use them?”
Xinjiang is located in the far West of China, bordering several central Asian countries including Kazakhstan.
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