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MPs Want To Block Sourcing Of Medical Equipment From Regions With "Genocide Risk"

3 min read

MPs are planning to back a new amendment to the Health and Care Bill to prevent the sourcing of healthcare equipment from regions of the world where a “serious risk of genocide” is believed to be taking place.

PoliticsHome understands a sizeable number of MPs representing all major parties have voiced support for the amendment, which was tabled on Wednesday by Lord Blencathra.

The move aims to force government into taking tougher action against the Chinese state, where prominent human rights campaigners, academics and politicians argue a genocide of the country’s minority Uighur Muslim population is taking place.

Last year the Department for Health and Social Care spent hundreds of millions of pounds procuring medical equipment from firms based in, linked to or operated by Chinese companies.

In September 2021, Shenzhen-based company Winner Medical was awarded a £17 million contract to supply the UK with PPE. Earlier in January, US medical firm Innova received £800 million to supply Lateral Flow Tests made by the Chinese company Biotime Biotechnology.

Should the amendment pass, future procurement of healthcare equipment could no longer be allowed to be legally sourced from China, or at least the Xinjiang region, where it is argued a Uighur genocide is taking place.

Alongside forcing mass divestment from China in relation to healthcare, the amendment could have the secondary, even larger implication of creating a process through which the government would be forced to assess regions across the globe for “serious risk of genocide” and publicise their findings.

Under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, of which the UK is a signatory, if government finds a serious risk of genocide to be occurring in any state, it becomes duty bound to take whatever action is necessary to deter it.

Last month the London-based independent Uighur Tribunal, chaired by British lawyer Geoffrey Nice, ruled that the Chinese state is guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide through coercive birth control. As such, it is highly possible that a government assessment of the issue would conclude that at least a "serious risk" of genocide in Xinjiang is taking place.

The amendment to the Health and Care Bill, which is currently in committee stage in the House of Lords, is the latest in a series of attempts by cross-party MPs to pressure government to toughen its stance on China.

On Friday The Spectator reported that Tory backbenchers are considering lending support to a proposed amendment to the Higher Education Bill, which would force universities and their academic staff to “reveal the details of any funding sources in China specifically”.

“Successive governments assumed wrongly that opening up markets in China would eventually lead to democracy and human rights,” former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told PoliticsHome.

“In actual fact President Xi has done none of that at all,” he added.

“It’s gone in the opposite direction – the [Chinese Communist Party] are tightening up, they're cracking down.

“We now need to start pulling back from China and find other markets and places that we can do business with, like India.”

Multiple sources confirmed to PoliticsHome that prominent cross-party China sceptics intend to use every legislative opportunity to force government to harden its relationship with China while human rights abuses continue taking place.

“There are a few things [regarding China] that need to be done in the Foreign Office and if they don’t want to do them they’re going to be forced to do them,” Luke de Pulford, co-ordinator of the Inter Parliamentary Alliance on China, told PoliticsHome.

“Every single bill that [government] brings forward, will be a China bill until they reform their policy. Every single one.

“If they’re doing something on education, we’re going to amend it around China and education, if they bring something about health, we’ll amend it around health. We will keep going government reforms its policy.”

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