The UK’s House of Commons approved a parliamentary motion declaring that genocide is taking place against Uyghurs and others in north-west China and that Beijing’s policies against its minority population amounted to crimes against humanity.
The motion, approved by MPs, is non-binding and does not compel the British government to act. But it is another move signalling the growing discontent among U.K. politicians over alleged human rights abuses in China.
The United Nations and human rights groups said more than a million people are estimated to have been detained at camps in the region of Xinjiang.
Tory MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith heralded the vote as “a historic moment” and said it brought the UK Parliament in line with Holland, Canada and the United States.
Sir Iain was one of five UK parliamentarians sanctioned by China for spreading what it calls “lies and disinformation”.
Speaking in the debate, Nus Ghani – another MP to be targeted by China – said genocide meant intent to “destroy in whole or in part” a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.
“All five criteria of genocide are evidenced as taking place in Xinjiang,” she said.
Ms. Ghani said detainees were subject to “brutal torture methods, including beatings with metal prods, electric shocks and whips”.
She also said women in the Uyghur region were being fitted with birth control devices, adding: “The Handmaid’s Tale is a fairy tale compared to the reproductive rights of Uyghur women.”
“This abuse is evidenced by the Chinese government’s own data – 2014, over 200,000 birth control devices were inserted in women in Xinjiang. By 2018, this had increased by 60%,” she said.
Labour’s shadow Foreign Office minister Stephen Kinnock said the party supported the motion arguing that “genocide can never be met with indifference or inaction”.
The government opposed the motion arguing that deeming an event to be a genocide was a matter for “competent national and international courts after consideration of all the available evidence”.
Despite government opposition, the motion passed because ministers did not vote against it.
Foreign Office Minister Nigel Adams insisted the UK was “ramping up pressure” on Beijing through the United Nations.
Earlier this year, Canada, the European Union, the UK and the US imposed sanctions on Chinese officials in protest at rights abuses in the country.
China has denied allegations of abuse and argued that the camps are a tool to fight terrorism. (Source: BBC)