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Senior Tories urge Dominic Raab to call Chinese oppression of Uighurs ‘genocide’ and sanction officials

Dominic Raab was called on to do more to deal with the situation in Xinjiang province (PA)

3 min read

Senior Conservatives have called on Dominic Raab to get even tougher with China and declare there is a “genocide” of the Uighur people taking place.

After the Foreign Secretary announced the UK is suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong a succession of his party’s backbenchers said he must do more to respond to evidence of widespread human rights abuses in Xinjiang province.

He made a statement in the Commons amid ongoing tensions with Beijing on multiple fronts, including criticising their actions toward the Muslim minority Uighur population.

But Tom Tugendhat, the Tory chair of the foreign affairs select committee, asked why Mr Raab, with his background as a human rights lawyer “hasn't yet made an announcement on the abuse of the Uighur Muslim population in western China”.

Referencing sanctions imposed on China by the US, the Conservative MP asked the Foreign Secretary why he had yet to take  "action that his opposite number in the United States, or rather the US Treasury, has already taken"

Mr Raab said of the situation in Xinjiang: “We have made very clear our position, indeed we led for the first time in the United Nations Human Rights Council, a statement on the situation on human rights in both Hong Kong and Xinjiang."

"Twenty-seven countries in total signed that statement," the Foreign Secretary added. "It's the first time it's been done.”

But fellow Conservative and former minister Nus Ghani called the UN a “busted flush” on China.

And she urged the Government to conduct an independent inquiry into a potential genocide in Xinjiang.

Hitting out at Mr Raab for only mentioning the Uighurs once in his statement, Ms Ghani added: “If there was enough evidence for the Americans to put sanctions on officials in Xinjiang can the Foreign Secretary have sight of this evidence to see if we can do the same here?"

She asked: “The Foreign Secretary repeatedly states that the term 'genocide' is a legal term, and we need international courts to apply this.

"But when it comes to the UN and China, the UN is a busted flush. 

"So can I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he would consider convening an independent inquiry for us to collect evidence to see if genocide is taking place in Xinjiang?”

The Liberal Democrats' foreign affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael also called on the FCO to label what is happening to the Uighurs as a genocide.

He warned: "The world is watching and what we're seeing is absolutely horrific”.

While the Lib Dem MP said he understood government caution about using the term, he said "it would make an enormous difference" if Mr Raab "would admit from the despatch box that there are now a growing number of adminicles of evidence to say that that is absolutely what is happening".


The calls came after Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy repeated Labour's demand for the Government to use a new “Magnitsky sanctions” law unveiled in recent weeks to bar Chinese Communist Party officials involved in human right abuses from coming to the UK.

Mr Raab said it would takes months to construct such a case against Chinese officials, and he warned that to do so without the proper evidence would put the UK "at risk of giving a propaganda coup to the very people that we are seeking to target”.

But ex-Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith - a long-standing critic of China - said there was already evidence pointing to individuals involved in the forced sterilisation of Uighur women.

He asked the Foreign Secretary: “Could I encourage him, in line with many of my honourable friends and those on the other side of the house, to do what he can to accelerate officials to look at this urgently?"

Mr Raab replied: “It's not just a question of whether the abuses took place.

"It's whether individual responsibility can be ascribed to someone whom we wish to impose a visa ban or asset freeze on.”

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