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Government should freeze assets of Chinese officials involved in oppression of Uighurs, says Labour

Government should freeze assets of Chinese officials involved in oppression of Uighurs, says Labour

Lisa Nandy said the Government should freeze the assets of Chinese officials involved in human rights abuses (BBC)

4 min read

Labour is urging the Government to freeze the assets of any Chinese officials involved in the oppression of the Uighurs.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy also said safeguarding national security has got to be the "plank" upon which all policy is based.

It comes amid worsening relations between the UK and Beijing after high-profile rows about Huawei and Hong Kong.

And on Sunday it was reported the Chinese media giant TikTok is ditching plans to open a global headquarters in London due to the "wider geopolitical context”.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Ms Nandy said she is "appalled" at alleged human right abuses by China against the mainly Muslim minority ethnic Uighur group.

"One very concrete thing the UK could do is freeze the assets of any Chinese officials involved in human rights abuses in China," she added. 

"The UK should not be a haven for people who abuse human rights overseas.”

But China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming dismissed such claims, saying “every ethnic group in China is treated equal”.

Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show he was shown footage appearing to show Uighurs being blindfolded and loaded onto trains, and an interview with a woman who said she was forced into a sterilisation operation.

He replied by saying: "I do not know where you got this video tape.

“Sometimes you have a transfer of prisoners, as in any country."

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stopped short of decribing the treatment of Uighurs in China as genocide, but told the BBC it was "clear there are gross, egregious human rights abuses going on".

He added: "The reports of the human aspect of it - from forced sterilisation to the education camps - are reminiscent of something we have not seen for a long, long time.

"This from a leading member of the international community that wants to be taken seriously and in fact who we want a positive relationship with. But we cannot see behaviour like that and not call it out."

But the Liberal Democrats have called on the Foreign Secretary to acknowledge the Chinese government is "engineering a genocide of the Uyghur people”.

In a letter to Mr Raab the party's foreign affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael urged the Government to use the next round of targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for human rights abuses in Xinjiang province. 

He said: “The images we have seen in recent days are harrowing and inhuman. 

“The Government has a duty to take a lead and do all we can to save the Uyghur people.

"We must be clear what is happening here. The Chinese government is engineering a genocide.

"The Foreign Secretary must come before MPs before the recess and set out what urgent actions the Government will take, both on an international level and unilaterally."

On the wider issue of relations with China, Labour frontbencher Ms Nandy said: "We've got to be in a position first and foremost to safeguard our national security.

"And whilst Chinese investment is very welcome in the UK, there are serious concerns, which I've been raising actually for four years now.

"I was the shadow energy secretary who raised concerns about Hinkley Point nuclear power station, that we shouldn't be handing over large chunks of our key infrastructure to Chinese Government-backed firms here in the UK.

"And that's what has prompted the row about Huawei. For several years now, we've been saying to the Government that this is a high-risk vendor. 

“Three consecutive Conservative prime ministers have been told by their own security services that this is a high risk vendor and yet have done nothing to try and reduce their reliance in this company in our 5G network.”

She added: "It doesn't help Britain's economic prosperity to have failed to safeguard national security, that's got to be the plank on which we base everything else.

"If we'd acted sooner, if the Government had paid heed to the warnings, not just from Labour, but from Conservative backbenchers as well and from our own security services, then we wouldn't be in a position now where the roll-out of 5G is delayed and where the costs have increased because we just didn't have a plan.”

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