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Foreign Affairs Committee publish report: Never Again: The UK's Responsibility to Act on Atrocities in Xinjiang and Beyond

8 July 2021

The Foreign Affairs Committee today publishes its report “Never Again: The UK's Responsibility to Act on Atrocities in Xinjiang and Beyond”.

The report provides solutions, setting out the response required of the UK Government to stop the atrocities that the Chinese government is committing against the Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The Committee recommends a range of measures that, together, will pressure the Chinese government to end its persecution of Uyghurs.

The Committee calls on the UK Government to respect the view of the House of Commons that crimes against humanity and genocide are taking place, and take a much stronger response.

The summary, conclusions and recommendations are being translated and will be available in Uyghur.

Crimes against Uyghurs

The evidence of serious human rights abuses — all endorsed by the Chinese government's central leadership and perpetrated against the Uyghur people — is irrefutable. These crimes include forced labour programmes, arbitrary detention in internment camps, cultural erasure, systematic rape, forced sterilisations, separation of children from families and a high-technology surveillance system.

Boycotts and sanctions

The report calls on the Government to explore a ban on the import of all cotton products known to be produced in whole or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. This ban should be extended to other industries.

The UK Government should ensure that the Chinese government faces consequences at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics for its crimes in Xinjiang by: not participating in the opening or closing ceremonies, strongly discouraging UK businesses from sponsoring or advertising at the Olympics, encouraging fans and tourists to stay away, and discouraging athletes from supporting or accepting the Chinese government’s propaganda efforts while in the country.

The Committee recommends that the Government forbids surveillance companies like Hikvision – which provide surveillance equipment to the detention camps – from operating in the UK. Hikvision cameras currently operate throughout the UK, in leisure centres and even schools.

Support for Uyghurs

The report urges the Government to implement an asylum fast track for Uyghurs and members of other minority ethnic groups who are fleeing from persecution in China. The UK should form a coalition of 'sanctuary states' that will publicly recommit to the principle of non-refoulement.

For Uyghurs living in the UK, the Government should conduct an urgent consultation to determine the extent of harassment they are facing from Chinese Communist Party officials and the type of support they require, offering support and protection as appropriate.

The UK should fight back against the destruction of Uyghur culture with funding for the preservation and promotion of Uyghur tangible and intangible cultural heritage. The BBC World Service should broadcast in Uyghur in areas where substantial Uyghur communities live.

Mobilising multilaterals

The UK Government should increase pressure on the Chinese government to allow international observers access to Xinjiang, especially the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. As an alternative, the Committee recommends a UN investigation taking place from outside of China.

The Government should use every opportunity it has at the UN organs, summits and treaty bodies to call for the immediate disbandment of the camps. To do this, the UK should engage more closely with partners and those nations not currently taking action to ensure support on UN votes and statements.

The Government should also explore the prospect of a Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry. The Committee recommends that the Government urgently raise a complaint against China to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The report urges the Government to engage in dialogue with the International Criminal Court about the feasibility of an investigation into crimes committed against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang and beyond.

UNESCO is failing to act on widespread cultural destruction in Xinjiang. The UK Government should push for an urgent, independent review of UNESCO’s investigatory powers and processes, and formally request that the organisation pursue its mandate with determination and commitment.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, said:

“The evidence of severe human rights abuses and crimes against the Uyghur people is already overwhelming and indisputable, and Parliament has called it as genocide. This report moves the conversation forward, away from the question of whether crimes are taking place and on to what the UK should do to end them.

“UK Government should recognise Parliament’s decision, strengthen our response at home, and urge our international partners to protect our own supply chains being used to profit from abuses. China, Britain and others were key to building the institutions to prevent a repeat of the barbarity we saw in Asia and Europe eighty years ago. Now is the time to use them.

“No country is so powerful that it should be able to perpetrate atrocities with impunity. The UK can choose to act and use the mechanisms and levers built into the UN, and other institutions, to hold the Chinese Communist Party to account. As the Communist Party celebrates its one hundredth anniversary, it’s worth remembering that China has been a great civilisation for more than five thousand years. These crimes against the Uyghur people stand out as a black moment in a golden history.”