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Thu, 24 September 2020

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We must stand up to China’s ‘repulsive’ persecution of the Uyghurs

We must stand up to China’s ‘repulsive’ persecution of the Uyghurs

Perhaps as many as three million Uyghurs are incarcerated in ‘re-education’ camps, subjected to horrific torture, slavery and sexual violence, writes Iain Duncan Smith MP. | PA Images

4 min read

This week, I joined almost 140 of my Parliamentary colleagues in a cross-party letter to the Chinese ambassador, condemning his government’s repulsive behaviour against the Uyghurs.

In China’s western region of Xinjiang, a modern-day Holocaust may be unfolding.

That’s not my term – that is how many Jews have described the persecution of China’s predominantly Muslim Uyghurs. When the Jewish community draws comparisons with the Holocaust, normally regarded as a unique tragedy in world history, you know it is a grave matter.

In a letter to the Chinese ambassador in London, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Marie van der Zyl, said that nobody could see the evidence and fail to note the similarities between what is happening in the People’s Republic of China today and what happened in Nazi Germany 75 years ago. Reports of people being forcibly loaded on to trains; beards of religious men being trimmed; women being sterilised; and the grim spectre of concentration camps.

The Chinese Communist Party’s campaign against the Uyghurs is multi-faceted.

Perhaps as many as three million Uyghurs are incarcerated in ‘re-education’ camps, subjected to horrific torture, slavery and sexual violence. Religious freedom is suffocated, with mosques destroyed and Uyghurs who display religious piety are jailed.

As a recent report by the academic Adrian Zenz and published by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) reveals, 80% of Uyghur women of childbearing age in the four Uyghur-populated prefectures have been targeted for forced sterilization – which, according to the 1948 Genocide Convention, could elevate this to the level of genocide.

Uyghurs are also being transferred to other parts of China for slave labour in factories manufacturing for high-street brands.

This week, I joined almost 140 of my Parliamentary colleagues from all parties in a letter led by Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh to the Chinese ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming, drawing attention to the evidence that was presented to him in a BBC interview with Andrew Marr earlier in the summer – and condemning his government’s repulsive behaviour.

The Chinese regime’s denials are shameful. China is a great nation, but it is ill-served by such a repressive and mendacious Government.

Britain should use the new Magnitsky legislation to impose targeted sanctions on officials in Beijing and Xinjiang responsible for atrocity crimes.

Given Beijing’s refusal to engage meaningfully on these egregious reports and its unhealthy influence in the United Nations, the only way forward is an international tribunal – with or without the UN.

The ideal would be the UN committing to establish an investigative mechanism into human rights in China as called for by over 50 United Nations Special Rapporteurs in June.

However, a new independent people’s tribunal chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC – who prosecuted Slobodan Milosevic and led an inquiry last year that revealed China’s appalling practice of forced organ harvesting – is already underway. The UK Government should stand ready to engage with the tribunal’s judgment when it comes.

In the meantime, Britain should use the new Magnitsky legislation to impose targeted sanctions on officials in Beijing and Xinjiang responsible for atrocity crimes.

As I said in the House of Commons this week, Disney’s collusion with this brutal regime in its new release Mulan – filmed in the very region which houses prison camps, redolent of the concentration camps of the 40s – means that no one who cares for human rights should watch this film.

Finally, how can a regime charged with a litany of human rights crimes deserve to host the 2022 Winter Olympics? We should urge the International Olympic Committee to strip Beijing of its right to host those Games or at least impose a ban on attendance by representatives of the Crown. We should encourage a consumer boycott too.

History is never kind to appeasers of tyranny, though it will reward those who stand up for freedom. I urge my government to be for democracy and the Human Rights underpinned by our freedom which govern the quality of human life.

Failure to do so won’t simply weigh on our consciences – it may well imperil our own liberties.

 

Iain Duncan Smith is the Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford Green.

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