The UK, US, Canada and the European Union have slapped sanctions on Chinese officials deemed to be responsible for appalling human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced a package of travel bans and asset freezes against four senior officials and the state-run Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau (XPCC PSB).
The Foreign Secretary said the abuse of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang was “one of the worst human rights crises of our time” and the international community “cannot simply look the other way”.
He told the Commons: “State control in the region is systemic. Over a million people have been detained without trial, there are widespread claims of torture and rape in the camps, based on first-hand survivor testimony.
“People are detained for having too many children, for praying too much, for having a beard or wearing a headscarf, for having the wrong thoughts.
“I’m sure the whole House will join me in condemning such appalling violations of the most basic human rights.”
Mr Raab added: “It’s the largest mass detention of an ethnic or religious group since the Second World War and I believe one thing is clear – the international community cannot simply look the other way.”
In a statement to MPs Mr Raab said: “I think it’s clear that by acting with our partners – 30 of us in total – we are sending the clearest message to the Chinese government, that the international community will not turn a blind eye to such serious and systematic violations of basic human rights and that we will act in concert to hold those responsible to account.”
The EU earlier announced its own sanctions, with Beijing responding by denouncing them as “based on nothing but lies and disinformation” and targeting its own measures at 10 individuals – including five MEPS – and four institutions.
The UK sanctions will be immediately imposed against:
– The XPCC PSB, the state-run security organisation responsible for violations of human rights at so-called “training centres” in areas controlled by the XPCC.
– Zhu Hailun, former secretary of the political and legal affairs committee of the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region (XUAR).
– Wang Junzheng, deputy secretary of the party committee of XUAR.
– Wang Mingshan, secretary of the political and legal affairs committee of the XUAR.
– Chen Mingguo, vice chairman of the government of the XUAR and director of the XUAR public security department.
The timing of Mr Raab’s announcement comes with the Government under pressure to take a tougher stance on Beijing.
The Government faced a potential Tory revolt with backbenchers prepared to support an amendment to the Trade Bill aimed at preventing ministers signing a deal with countries involved in genocide.
The latest change tabled by the human rights campaigner Lord Alton of Liverpool would establish a parliamentary panel of judicial experts which could determine whether any proposed signatory to a trade agreement with the UK had committed genocide.
The Tory chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat, questioned why the UK was not labelling China’s actions as genocide.
Mr Tugendhat said: “My understanding is that the attempted destruction of a people or its culture, in whole or in part, constitutes genocide.”
Mr Raab has repeatedly insisted that genocide is a matter to be determined by relevant courts.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith called for tougher action and said “we are dancing elaborately around the whole idea of genocide when it is quite clear that is what is going on”.
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy welcomed the sanctions announced by Mr Raab but questioned why it had taken the Foreign Secretary so long to act given the evidence of abuse against the Uighurs has been “known about for years”.
Ms Nandy said the timing of this is “grubby and it is cynical”, aimed at averting a Tory revolt.
“It is designed to send a signal, first and foremost, not to the Chinese government but to his own backbenchers,” she said.
“It is motivated primarily by a desire to protect the Government not the Uighur.”
Mr Raab accused her of “suggesting the concerted and unprecedented action of 30 countries is somehow tied up with the UK’s domestic legislative timetable”.