Foreign Affairs Committee: Xinjiang Detention Camps Submission (XIN0075)



1.      Lawyers for Uyghur Rights is a group of lawyers deeply concerned by the international crimes being committee against the Uyghur people and other Turkic people in the Uyghur Autonomous Region. Lawyers for Uyghur Rights ( ) has undertaken a number of legal actions in regard to the current atrocities.  This has included engaging with the Government in regards to their then purported agreement to allow Huawei to provide 5G infrastructure within the United Kingdom, submissions to the International Olympic Committee’s Ethics Commission about the IOC’s decision not to move the 2022 Olympics away from China,  UN submissions in regards to business and human rights, as well as numerous education events to draw attention to the situation.


2.      Lawyer for Uyghur Rights is made up of lawyers from a number of different legal areas bringing different perspectives as to approaches to stopping the atrocities and includes Uyghurs and experts who have spent time living in the Uyghur area. Michael Polak, a barrister who chairs Lawyers for Uyghur Rights, also represents a number of Uyghur clients and has made submissions to UN bodies about their cases. Some of their stories are included within these submissions to show the effect of the Chinese camp system on Uyghurs within China and their families who have escaped.


3.      This submission is made on behalf of all Uyghur and other Turkic people who are facing systematic oppression in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (‘XUAR’) as well as those that have an interest in what is taking place there.

4.      We make these submissions based on the Inquiry’s terms of reference:

    1. How can the UK use organisations and agreements such as the UN Human Rights Council and the Genocide Convention to influence China towards better human rights practices?
    2. Where these mechanisms prove ineffective, what other international laws and agreements can be used effectively for atrocity prevention?
    3. How can the UK use its influence on countries other than China who are complicit in the persecution of Uyghurs?
    4. What mechanisms can the Government use to discourage private sector companies from contributing to human rights abuses?
    5. How can UK-linked businesses with operations in Xinjiang be made accountable for any involvement in human rights abuses?
    6. What is the best form of support to offer to members of the Uyghur diaspora (and others) who are experiencing persecution and harassment abroad?
    7. How can the UK support the promotion of knowledge and transparency about this issue, both within China and internationally?
    8. How effective is the FCDO’s current approach to atrocity prevention, and how can it be restructured to maximise the UK’s impact in this area?

The Camp Regime

We submit that the Chinese government’s camp regime is just one part of the systematic and brutal oppression of the Uyghur, and other Turkic Muslim people in the Uyghur Autonomous Area.  It is undeniable that the Chinese government’s actions amount to crimes against humanity and recent evidence demonstrates that this also qualifies as genocide.


5.      Those affected by the camp regime come from all echelons of Uyghur society. This leave no one safe within the Uyghur Autonomous area.  Some examples of how widespread the pain of the camp regime extends can be seen by examining the client represented by Lawyers for Uyghur Rights Chair Michael Polak: from Rozi and Mehmet Hemdul, property moguls[1] to shopkeeper father and son Enver Tursun and Ezimet Enver[2]. This also extends to the entire family of a Radio Free Asia Journalist based in Washington: Abdurashid Tohti, 56 years old, his wife, Tajigul Qadir, aged 51, and sons Mohamed Ali Abdurashid, aged 30, and Ametjan Abdurashid, aged 34[3] to a lifelong loyal worker for Government bodies such as the Xinjiang Forestry Ministry ex head Abdullah Mamat.  [4]


How can the UK use organisations and agreements such as the UN Human Rights Council and the Genocide Convention to influence China towards better human rights practices?

Where these mechanisms prove ineffective, what other international laws and agreements can be used effectively for atrocity prevention?

6.      The United Kingdom and our friends and allies face increasing problems with the United Nation’s system for the protection of human rights and the prevention of atrocities given the increased power within the United Nations system of China and other countries who have no regard for individual freedom. Recently it has been reported by a whistle-blower that the United Nation’s is providing the names of Uyghurs who are scheduled to speak at the UN Human Rights Council and that with the use of this information China is putting pressure and detaining the family members of these activists who are scheduled to speak.[5] This underlines the difficulties faced by those seeking to use the UN system to call China to account for the commission of atrocities against the Uyghur.


7.      The Genocide Convention is of some utility in the ability it provides for states to bring other states before the International Court of Justice for breaches in committing genocide or failing to prevent genocide. However, in relation to the operative part of the convention allowing for this to happen, Article 9, China has entered a reservation meaning that there is no effective mechanism under the Convention for them to be held to account.


8.      We believe that the United Kingdom should, with our friends and allies, continue to work to ensure that human rights abusers are no longer elected to the Human Rights Council and continue to lobby for the Human Rights Council to raise the mass atrocities against the Uyghur people. It should be noted that the General Assembly, which is not subject to the Chinese veto, has been used in the past to establish tribunals such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone. It is incumbent on the United Kingdom Government must consider all options within the United Kingdom system in the fight against impunity.


9.      Where the the United Nations system as a whole proves ineffective, the United Kingdom should seek to use other fora to counter impunity for the international crimes being committed by the Chinese regime. Other bodies which might be used to set up a tribunal to hold individuals to account for crimes against humanity or genocide such as the Commonwealth, NATO, and other international alliances of democratic countries should be considered. Recent joint actions by the United Kingdom and allies such as Canada jointly adding members of the Belarussian Lukashenko regime to the sanctions list has shows how actions between democratic states can prove effective.


10.  Another area in which the United Kingdom could make a real difference in the fight against impunity would be in the widening of the scope of the United Kingdom’s universal jurisdiction provisions. The current state of the UK’s law is that the only areas with pure universal jurisdiction, that is where a individual can be prosecuted no matter where the crime took place and no matter their status as a resident or national of the United Kingdom is for war crimes committed in an international armed conflict[6], torture by an official[7], and hostage taking[8]. For genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in a non-international armed conflict the criminal law in the United Kingdom only makes this prosecutable in the United Kingdom for UK nationals or residents.


11.  We submit that the United Kingdom should expand its universal jurisdiction provisions and empower an investigation unit such as the Met Police War Crimes Team to investigate, prosecute, and seek the extradition of those suspected of committing international crimes wherever they are helping to combat impunity.


12.  We applaud the coming into law of the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 giving the possibility of sanctions restriciting the ability of gross human rights abuses to move money or travel through the United Kingdom. This is a substantive step in the right direction.


13.  Although the move is laudable, we are worried that the process remains opaque. We believe that an independent panel making recommendations to the Foreign Secretary as to who should be on the sanctions list would solidify confidence in the human rights sanctions regime and would also assist the foreign secretary if a decision to sanction or not to sanction is challenged by way of judicial review. This would assist the Foreign Secretary in allowing him to show the High Court that he took all proper considerations into account before making a decision to sanction or not to sanction. We submit that the experts panel should be independent of any political party and should be made up of experts such as international relations academics, former top diplomats, international lawyers, and any other experts with the appropriate expertise in this area.



Criminal Proceedings within the United Kingdom against UK nationals or UK residents


b)      International Criminal Court Act 2001 which provides It is an offence against the law of England and Wales for a person to commit genocide, a crime against humanity or a war crime.” 5 This applies to crimes committed in the UK or committed overseas by a UK national, a UK resident or a person subject to UK service jurisdiction. Unlike the provisions under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 this included crime committed in both international armed conflicts and non-international armed conflict. Once again, the Attorney General’s consent is needed to Prosecute.6


c)       The UK UN Personnel Act (1997)which provides that ‘If a person commits, outside the United Kingdom, any act to or in relation to a UN worker which, if he had done it in any part of the United Kingdom, would have made him guilty of [murder, manslaughter, culpable homicide, rape, assault causing injury, kidnapping, abduction or false imprisonment], an offence under section 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30 or 47 of the Offences against the [1861 c. 100.] Person Act 1861; and an offence under section 2 of the [1883 c. 3.] Explosive Substances Act 1883. He shall in that part of the United Kingdom be guilty of that offence.’ This Act does not apply to any UN operation which is authorised by the Security Council of the United Nations as an enforcement action under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, in which UN workers are engaged as combatants against organised armed forces, and to which the law of international armed conflict applies. 


d)      The War Crimes Act 1991 under which the UK also has jurisdiction to prosecute UK residents and nationals for murder and manslaughter as part of war crimes committed in Nazi occupied Europe during the Second World War.


e)      s9 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861: ‘Where any murder or manslaughter shall be committed on land out of the United Kingdom, whether within the Queen's dominions or without, and whether the person killed were a subject of Her Majesty or not, every offence committed by any subject of Her Majesty in respect of any such case, whether the same shall amount to the offence of murder or of manslaughter, ... may be dealt with, inquired of, tried, determined, and England.’


How can the UK use its influence on countries other than China who are complicit in the persecution of Uyghurs?

14.  One way in which third countries have been complicit in the persecution of Uyghurs has been in engaging in deportation of Uyghurs who have fled or failed to return to the PRC (Deportations).  We list a number of examples of deportations in the Schedule attached below.  We note that the manner of Deportation can include directly to the PRC, but also via third countries. This is contrary to the principle of non-refoulement under international law.

15.  In addition to the absolute prohibition against torture and ill-treatment, there are equally absolute prohibitions against returning or transferring a person to a place where he or she would be at risk of torture and ill-treatment[9].


16.  In particular the principle of non-refoulement, which is enacted within Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture[10] stipulates:

1. No State shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture…

2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations, including where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant, or mass violations of human rights.


17.  Article 3 applies whenever there are “substantial grounds”[11] for believing that the person concerned would be in danger of being subjected to torture in the State of destination, either as an individual or as a member of a group that may be at risk of being tortured in that State. The Committee’s practice has been to determine that “substantial grounds” exist whenever the risk of torture is “foreseeable, personal, present and real”[12].


18.  The PRC is a signatory of the Convention Against Torture (signed 12 December 1986, ratified 4 October 1988).


19.  The principle of non-refoulement is also enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[13], the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees[14], the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance[15] and Customary International Law.

Obligation of the UK Government to act

20.  In respect of its international law obligations, we would remind the UK Government of its obligation to act as identified by the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales in a briefing paper published in July[16].

In general, as to the duties of states other than the PRC, the Committee noted:

States other than China have a legal interest – perhaps even a moral or ethical imperative – to ensure that jus cogens or ‘peremptory norms’ of general international law are upheld and/or that obligations owed to the international community as a whole (usually arising from peremptory norms) are enforced…By the very nature of the rights involved and for these rights to have any meaning at all – not least for victims and survivors of rights’ violations – humanity must act in concert, through their State representatives, to ensure rights accepted by China are interpreted, applied and fulfilled in good faith….[17]

On the topic of torture, the Committee noted:

…The crime of torture, as defined by Art.1 UNCAT [Convention Against Torture], is a universal jurisdiction crime. As such, all State Parties to UNCAT are under an obligation to criminalise all acts of torture and to investigate and prosecute all acts of torture committed by public officials or persons acting in an official capacity, including officials of foreign States, where the alleged offender is in the territory of the State (Arts. 2, 4, and 5).

The prohibition of torture is part of customary international law and is a jus cogens in character…. All States Party to UNCAT share a common interest in ensuring compliance with the prohibition, and the obligation to prevent and punish acts of torture, in accordance with UNCAT, wherever they may be committed... That common interest in compliance with States’ obligations under UNCAT implies the right of each State Party to invoke the responsibility of another State Party ‘with a view to ascertaining the alleged failure to comply with its obligations erga omnes partes,… and to bring that failure to an end.[18]


21.  We note that in July 2020, lawyers for two Uyghur campaign groups, East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) and the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM), submitted a Complaint to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court asking for an investigation to be opened against senior Chinese leaders for genocide and crimes against humanity allegedly committed against the Uyghur people[19].


22.  In particular we note that the deportation of Uyghurs via third countries (Cambodia and Tajikistan) was central to the submission as although the PRC is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the third countries are signatories and based on the ICC’s Pre Trial Chambers’ ruling in the Rohingya case where it was held that the crime of humanity of deportation occurred in both the country where the Rohingya were mistreated, Myanmar and the country where they fled to, Bangladesh an ICC state party.


23.  We note a recent reporting on the BBC programme Newsnight featured reports of Uyghurs being deported from Saudi Arabia[20] and other reports of Uyghurs becoming trapped in countries such as Saudi Arabia as the PRC consular services fail to renew their passports following expiry[21].


24.  We also note from a leaked bulletin from the Autonomous Regional Party Committee[22] published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in November 2019[23] that the PRC authorities used surveillance technology (including via an extensive surveillance “integrated platform”) to direct further action be taken targeting citizens within Xinjiang who held foreign citizenship (including United Kingdom citizenship) and also those seeking to renew consular documents outside of Xinjiang.  In particular in respect of “4,341 Xinjiang people abroad who have obtained valid certificates in our embassies and consulates”, the document stated:

Personal identification verification should be inspected one by one.  For those still outside the country for whom suspected terrorism cannot be ruled out, the border control reading will be carried out by hand to ensure that they are arrested the moment they cross the border.  For those who have entered the country and for whom suspected terrorism cannot be ruled out, they should first be placed into concentrated education and training for examination.

In the future, apart from those verified by public security organs, for any person originally from Xinjiang who obtains foreign nationality or a foreign passport, applies for a visa at our Chinese embassies or consulates abroad, or for any Xinjiang people who applies for replacements of valid documents at our Chinese embassies or consulates abroad, the local party committee political and legal committee should take the lead, fully take advantage of grassroots stability maintenance forces, the ten household joint defense and the "integrated" platform in series to analyze them, strengthen research and judgment, and for those whom suspected terrorism cannot be ruled out, border control should be implemented to carry out arrest or to refuse approval.[24]

25.  We note that the following responses were given by the embassies of the PRC and Saudi Arabia:

(a)               in response to the China Cables (including the leaked bulletin referred to above), the Chinese Embassy in the UK commented (in a letter published in the Guardian newspaper), that the leaked documents were “pure fabrication and fake news”[25];

(b)               in response to the BBC Newsnight programme (referred to above), the Embassy of the PRC in the UK commented[26]:

The claims are based on fabricated rumours…in China, the rule of law guarantees citizens’ personal freedom and right to leave and enter the country…China has never pressed other countries… [to] forcibly deport people to China…there is no so-called re-education camp in Xinjiang…The training centres [are] established in accordance with [the] law;


The Royal Embassy of Saudi Embassy, London said:

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia fully complies with international norms and Saudi law when cooperating with other countries on issues such as deportation…Saudi Arabia considers all deportations on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the nature and seriousness of any violation and paying no heed to a person’s race or religion.


26.  We would submit that the UK can pursue diplomatic communications with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Turkey, the Republic of Tajikistan, the Kingdom of Cambodia and other third countries to seek greater explanation of their position regarding Deportations. The United Kingdom could also lead a group of allied countries in declaring that no Uyghurs or other Turkic people will be deported to China which would send a strong message as to the seriousness of the situation and immense danger that Uyghurs face there.


27.  We would submit that the UK seek to take action to prevent deportations occurring which may facilitate acts of torture by the PRC in contravention to the Convention Against Torture and international law.


What mechanisms can the Government use to discourage private sector companies from contributing to human rights abuses?

How can UK-linked businesses with operations in Xinjiang be made accountable for any involvement in human rights abuses?

28.  Lawyer for Uyghur Rights has made detailed submissions to the BEIS Inquiry focussing on these points. We do not intend to reproduce our full submission here but set out a summary of our recommendations on this point.


29.  Based on our review of the United Kingdom’s current law on public procurement and private contracting as well as our experience trying to use that law to prevent Huawei, a company which is deeply involved in the international crimes which are being carried against the Uyghur and other Turkic people in the Uyghur Region, from operating in the United Kingdom we make the following submissions.


30.  In regards to public procurement, the current, pre-Brexit disapplication of EU law public procurement rules under Directive 2014/24/EU (Article 18 (2)) requires EU member states to ‘…take appropriate measures to ensure that in the performance of public contracts economic operators comply with applicable obligations’ established by national and international law, including the Anti-Slavery Conventions. It is clear that the United Kingdom’s transposition of the Directive does not seem to meet this standard. More precisely there is no equivalent of Article 18 (2) of Directive 2014/24/EU in the UK transposition of this instrument. Instead Regulation 56(2) of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 provides that ‘(2) Contracting authorities may decide not to award a contract’ to companies in breach of anti-slavery provisions’ but does not require the Government or other public contractors to do so.


31.  It is submitted that the above provision should be replaced with a clear and easy to understand obligation for public contractors not to enter into contracts with companies or other bodies who have slavery within their supply chain or are involved in the commission of international crimes such as crimes against humanity and genocide and requiring the termination of contracts, and the return of any consideration paid for such contracts, if a company or group is found to be engaging in such acts or to have slavery within their supply chain. This requirement must be accompanied by a public contractor due diligence requirement to prevent public bodies from being wilfully blind to slavery and the participation in international crimes of the overseas companies and bodies with whom they contract.


32.  We applaud Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP’s proposed amendment to the trade bill to prevent the United Kingdom from concluding trade deals with states committing Genocide but observe that such requirement should also be extended to crimes against humanity so as not to let foreign states escape simply because the difficult to prove special intent required for genocide is not present. There is no reason why such a rule to be applied in relation to trade deals between the United Kingdom and other states should not be replicated in regards to contracting between United Kingdom public bodies and foreign companies or bodies, preventing contracting if there is slavery within the supply chain or participation in crimes against humanity and/or genocide.


33.  In regards to private contracting our experience has shown that the Modern Slavery provisions are not effective in stopping the sale of slavery made goods within the United Kingdom. These provisions also have no provisions to prevent companies from doing business with overseas companies who are involved in the commission of international crimes. Although the companies who stock Huawei products who we have put on notice about the evidence on Huawei, have commendable anti-slavery and human rights policies this did not prevent them from doing business with a company which the evidence shows was directly involved in the commission of international crimes and had slavery within its supply chain.


34.  We submit that the Modern Slavery Act 2015 is toothless and ineffective.  We make this submission given that there are no specific consequences or sanctions if commercial organisations do not comply with this duty or comply with the letter but not the spirit and aim of the provision in the sense that they release “window dressing” statements which do not represent or reflect any meaningful monitoring action on behalf of the commercial organisation. Further, it is submitted that the lack of a clear due diligence duty supported by consequences for non-compliance deprives the existing provisions of any substantial impact towards sustaining higher human rights standards in the supply chains and renders the latter an ornamental feature of the legal framework. Our experience in our communications with the telecommunication companies in the context of the creation of the 5G network and their continuing stocking of Huawei items consolidates this impression.


35.  It is no over simplification to state that the current UK legislative arena provides no legal consequences for a company which does no due diligence or investigation but lists themselves as slavery free in their annual statement, for a company which states that there is evidence of slavery or gross human rights abuses within their overseas supply chain but does nothing to change their business practices and sub-contractors, or a company which knows of such problems in their supply chain but chooses not to disclose them in their statement.


36.  There is a growing realisation that human rights standards in global supply chains require the establishment of due diligence obligations for corporate actors and public buyers (public procurement): For example the so called “Due Diligence Law” in France which introduces a clear due diligence obligation not only for the parent company but also for its subsidiaries and contractors. Moreover, this Law establishes a criminal liability nexus for the parent company, its subsidiaries and subcontractors in the event of human rights (or environmental) violations in their supply chain.


37.  Other countries and organisations are following in this direction. The European Union is planning to introduce legislation in 2021 that establishes clear due diligence obligations -supported by a system of sanctions- for companies (and public buyers) which carry out economic activities in the EU. Keeping abreast with such developments would be important for the UK not only in order to ensure that the latter abide by the highest standards of human rights protection in the global supply chains  but also for UK based companies which want to have access to the EU single market or be part of the supply chain of companies which carry out business activities in the EU.


38.  We respectfully submit that a clear and unambiguous duty for companies doing business in the United Kingdom requiring that they must not do business with companies or groups with slavery within their supply chain or which are involved in the commission of international crimes. Such legal provision should include due diligence obligations and criminal liability for the parent company, its subsidiaries, and subcontractors in the event of human rights violations in their supply chain.




How can the UK support the promotion of knowledge and transparency about this issue, both within China and internationally?

39.  Information about the atrocities being committed against the Uyghur and other Turkic people in the Uyghur area was very slow to emerge. This may have been because of the difficulties surrounding journalists being able to access China to report on what is taking place there as well as there being no protection for Chinese journalists within China. Whatever the reason, little verifiable information was available at the beginning of these atrocities which resulted in the response being slow.


40.  The immense worldwide problems being caused by COVID 19, the spread of which is likely to have been caused or assisted by the opaque governance in China, the lack of any free press there,  and that country’s unwillingness to provide information about the virus to the rest of the world have demonstrated the immense damage which can be caused, even outside of China, by the political system of China.


41.  Whilst China refuses to establish institutions to hold the state to account, and has attempted to destroy evidence of the mass atrocities against the Uyghur and other ethnic minorities it false to the countries such as the United Kingdom, which have the resources and technical ability to set up an international evidence gathering mechanism. Such a mechanism would gather evidence about the atrocities being committed against the Uyghur and other Turkic people in the Uyghur area as well as to permanently monitor the Chinese authority’s actions towards other minorities such as the Tibetans or Mongolians in China. This would provide an early warning of similar atrocities being committed in the future and would increase the ability of the United Kingdom to speak with authority as to what is taking place in China on the international stage as well as with out partners.


42.  It is hoped that the democratic world will no longer simply hope that the Chinese Government will change to a more democratic institution but will now realise that China is not moving in that direction and will continue being a danger to the rest of the world and the minorities who live there until they are encouraged to change their system of government.


43.  We hope such a new perspective, will mean that states, such as the United Kingdom, no longer facilitate the rise of autocracy in China by continuing trading relationships which make the Chinese Communist party stronger.


44.  We fully support Sir Ian Duncan Smith MPs proposal to stop any trade deals being signed with countries who are committing Genocide but we believe that this should be extended to counties engaged in crimes against humanity so as not to allow countries off the hook when the special intent required, which is hard to prove, for genocide cannot be found by a court.


45.  In order to support any possible transformation of China towards democracy the United Kingdom Government must, along with our international democratic allies, refuse to continue enriching and emboldening the leaders of the current system in China by continuing trade whilst atrocities are taking place. This includes protecting the basic rights of all people in China to freedom of expression. This is denied to the people of China and if the autocratic state is not curbed will continue to infringe the rights of those outside of China.


46.  Further, the United Kingdom must do more to support the brave Chinese citizen lawyers and journalists who give hope for China to become a more responsible member of the world community in the future.  Support should be provided for both Chinese people and Uyghurs to learn the skills needed to become successful journalists, lawyers, or international activists.


47.  The United Kingdom Government should also raise the profile of this issue by briefing different states around the world about the atrocities which are taking place. The evidence gathered by any evidence gathering mechanism set up by the United Kingdom could be shared for this purpose.


48.  Further, the Uyghur diaspora can provide compelling evidence of the terrible treatment of their friends and family in the Uyghur Region. Their voices should be amplified by the United Kingdom Government where they should be called up to speak and the United Kingdom should follow this up with direct public representations to the Chinese Government at the highest level.



What is the best form of support to offer to members of the Uyghur diaspora (and others) who are experiencing persecution and harassment abroad?

49.   There are 400 Uyghurs in London and up to 100 more scattered about the UK. There are countless thousands around the world, orphaned, widowed and stateless. Each of them, without exception, is broken, traumatised and living under a weight of unimaginable grief because of the fate of their families and their people in the Uyghur Region.


50.   Since 2018, contact with loved ones in the homeland has been severed and many know that the fact they are living in the free world has been the very cause of the incarceration of their relatives in the so-called "Vocational Training Schools" aka "Internment camps". Many have been extra judicially sentenced to draconian terms of imprisonment and a significant number have simply disappeared.


51.   Uyghurs wherever they are live with depression and sleeplessness; many have developed stress-related conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and all the effects of secondary trauma. They are broken individuals who feel powerless to affect the destiny of their people who have fallen into the hands of a giant power seemingly bent on destroying their language, culture, religion, and their very existence.


52.   Often medical conditions are exacerbated due to the uncertainty of their residence status, the danger of being returned to China, and the long arm of the Chinese government which pursues them far from home.


53.  The UK is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’).[27] Under Article 3 of the ECHR, the UK must not remove an individual to another country where there are substantial grounds for believing that person is at real risk of treatment contrary to Article 3, i.e. “torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.[28] On 20 February 2020, the European Court of Human Rights published its judgment in M.A and Others v Bulgaria (Application No. 5115/18)[29] concerning the deportation of five applicants from Xinjiang to China. The Court noted that there was clear evidence of arbitrary detention, torture and executions for Uyghurs returning to China, as well as the use of “re-education” camps, where long term detention without due process was common. The Court held that the applicants could be “at risk of arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and death” and therefore must not be removed.[30]


54.  In August 2020 a cross-party group of MPs and peers sent a letter to the Secretary of State for the Home Department (‘SSHD’) requesting that Uighur people fleeing the detention camps in Xinjiang, China and seeking asylum in the UK are automatically granted refugee status. However, this request was apparently refused by the UK Home Office.[31] In recent times, the closest the UK Home Office has come to an ‘automatic concession’ for asylum seekers was the exceptional leave to remain policy in for asylum seekers from Kosovo during the Balkans war.[32]


55.  Some suggested forms of support for members of the Uyghur diaspora:

    1. Research funding made available to enable the compilation of a data base concerning the fate of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, possibly in collaboration with other nations where Uyghur diaspora congregate. (Turkey, USA, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Europe, Australia and New Zealand);
    2. Funding made available for Counselling and support services for UK Uyghurs to ameliorate the affects of psychological persecution;
    3. For the UK government itself to follow the example of Sweden in automatically offering asylum to Uyghur refugees ( and to lobby other nations to follow suit as stated above;
    4. For the UK government to open a transparent diplomatic channel for UK Uyghurs to discover the whereabouts of their relatives. Once located, for uninhibited communication with the said relatives be permitted with no fear of legal repercussions on those family members. Where there is no evidence of legal proceedings having been conducted in China, for pressure to be put on the Chinese government to release them without delay. Where there is a possibility that the relatives could be allowed to join family in the UK, that the UK undertake to expedite any resulting asylum claims;
    5. That other nations receiving Uyghur refugees be urged to expedite their refugee claims to avoid the emotional and psychological trauma that most live with before becoming citizens of their receiving country, coupled with the constant fear of being sent back, or extradited for political expediency.
    6. That the APPG on the Uyghurs be consulted regularly and their recommendations be acted on as a matter of urgency;
    7. That the situation for Uyghurs in Xinjiang be recognised as the gross infringement of human rights that it so obviously is, and that the UK government take every possible opportunity to raise their concerns with Beijing through the Chinese embassy;
    8. That all efforts to bring evidence of enforced labour in the supply chains of British companies dealing with China to the attention of the UK government, be treated with the utmost haste. That legal avenues be found to address the issue and that fines and penalties are enhanced to reflect the gravity of the abuses interwoven through the strands of supply chains of companies doing business with China;
    9. Where there is evidence that Uyghurs are being harassed by Chinese agents to disclose personal details, using blackmail and threats against their family in Xinjiang as a lever, they be given a mechanism to raise their fears and their complaints without fear or hindrance to an agent of the UK government;
    10. For the UK, as it has done before at the UNHRC, to convene side meetings at a variety of major international gatherings, in partnership with other friendly nations, to address its concerns about the Uyghur plight and to achieve consensus and guarantees relating to asylum, extradition, citizenship etc, to protect fleeing Uyghurs; and
    11. The SSHD should introduce a policy whereby any individual from the Uighur diaspora in the UK fleeing the detention camps in Xinjiang (or China generally) be automatically granted refugee status. The UK government should pressure the international community and fellow signatories to the Refugee Convention to adopt a similar policy.



How effective is the FCDO’s current approach to atrocity prevention, and how can it be restructured to maximise the UK’s impact in this area?

56.  If the UK is to remain a leader on the issue of mass atrocity prevention, it must supplement its current approach with one better suited to dealing with the full range of atrocities committed in the modern world. In doing so, it should consider the following core recommendations:

Beyond conflict prevention

57.  The FCDO relies too heavily on a model that conflates atrocity prevention with conflict prevention. The persecution of Uyghurs in the Uyghur Region (as well as repression in Eritrea, North Korea, and Venezuela, among others) shows that atrocities can and do occur outside the immediate context of war. 


58.  Its defence and development strategies are wholly inappropriate in the context of the Uyghur Region and other ‘peacetime’ atrocities. Moreover, its diplomatic response procedure needs significant retooling to reach efficacy (see below). Subsuming atrocity prevention into conflict prevention leads to awkward and disjointed responses; the FCDO needs greater conceptual clarity in its approach.




A distinct foreign policy interest

59.  The United States, among others, has seen success in the creation of dedicated atrocity prevention bodies. A properly resourced body in the UK would lead to greater clarity and coherence in its response and bring the UK into line with its allies.


60.  As has been recommended elsewhere, the feasibility of a Joint Unit or cross-government steering committee should be explored. Such a body would be better enabled to act beyond the current over-narrow paradigm and consider a wider range of responses to atrocity prevention.


61.  Such a unit or steering committee could be informed by a United Kingdom Government funded evidence collection mechanism to make the United Kingdom a leader in this area.


Alternative international platforms

62.  The FCDO suffers from an overreliance on the UN in its deployment of diplomatic resources. While it has been an effective body in dealing with atrocities committed in failed or failing states, it suffers from an obvious inability to penalise permanent members of its security council - as the Uyghur Region situation demonstrates.


63.  Non-UN international platforms would provide the UK with a greater range of options in preventing atrocities and offer it the flexibility to look for alternative solutions. We echo the recommendations of the Oxford Programme on International Peace and Security for the building of a transatlantic atrocity prevention network. Such a network as well as reaching out to our partners in the USA could also include the Commonwealth states that have similar democratic values as well as countries in Asia, such a Japan and South Korea, to give it an international character. This would be a natural first step to developing an international agenda beyond the UN.


64.  Should this Inquiry should have any questions about the submission made or any queries as to how the United Kingdoms work on this important area could be improved in any way please do not hesitate to contact us as we are willing to help further in any way possible.



Michael Polak


Director, Lawyers for Uyghur Rights 

Submitted on behalf of the Lawyers for Uyghur Rights Committee who have all contributed to these submissions.

0741 519 1591





Schedule 1: Reported deportations of Uyghurs from third countries to the PRC





Countr(ies) seeking to deport/carrying out deportation

Date of deportation / report

Further case note



Ahmet Mahmud, Altinci Bayram, Ahmet Bozoglan and Abdul Basit Tuzer


Sep 2020


Almuzi Kuwanhan


Jul 2020

Reported to have been deported to Tajikistan despite not being a citizen


Ablikim Yusuf



Aug 2019

Granted Asylum in USA


Zinnetgul Tursun, Hilal Shehinur and Banu Abdullah


Aug 2019

Were deported to Tajikistan despite not being a citizen


Aihemaiti Xianmixiding


Aug 2019

Reported arrest and detention in a deportation centre at the time of the report


Abuduani Abulaiti


Jul 2019

Deported following rejection of residency application


Name not disclosed (represented by lawyers  Leo Borgmann and Martine Synnott)


Aug 2018

Germany announced the cessation of deportation of Uyghurs afterwards


Twelve – Twenty two unnamed Chinese citizens


Jul 2017

Reportedly students studying at Al Azhar Mosque/University in Cairo


One hundred Turkish citizens


Jul 2015

Thailand later rejected requests from China for further deportations

Twenty still in detention recently made an escape attempt from the Thai prison




November 2020








[6] S1(1) The Geneva Conventions Act 1957

[7] The Criminal Justice Act 1988

[8] Taking of Hostages Act 1982

[9] Paraphrased from The Legal Prohibition against Returns to Risk of Torture and Ill-Treatment, Human Rights Watch, 2005,

[10] United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Assembly resolution 39/46 of 10 December 1984, interest/ pages/cat.aspx

[11] Tapia Paez v. Sweden, Communication No. 39/1996, April 28, 1997.

[12] Dadar v. Canada (CAT/C/35/D/258/2004), para. 8.4; T.A. v. Sweden (CAT/C/34/D/226/2003), para. 7.2; N.S. v. Switzerland (CAT/C/44/D/356/2008), para. 7.3; and Subakaran R. Thirugnanasampanthar v. Australia (CAT/C/61/D/614/2014), para. 8.3.  As expounded in Submission of the International Commission of Jurists to the UN Committee against Torture in view of the Committee’s Examination of Uzbekistan’s Fifth Periodic Report, 14 October 2019,

[13] Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966

[14] Convention and Protocol relating to the status of Refugees, 1951 PROTECTION/3b66c2aa10.pdf

[15] 20 December 2006,

[16] Briefing Paper, Responsibility of States under International Law to Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in

Xinjiang, China, Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, July 2020,

[17] Ibid Note 16 at paragraph 73.

[18] Ibid Note 16 at paragraph 86.

[19] PRESS RELEASE: Uyghur Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity: Credible Evidence submitted to ICC for the first time asking for investigation of Chinese officials, 6 July 2020,

[20] Uyghurs in Exile: Arrested and deported back to China, BBC Newsnight, 1 October 2020,

[21]Uyghur Muslims in the Kingdom turns to hell, 2 February 2020,

[22] Leaked Bulletin No 2, Integrated Joint Operation Platform” Daily Essentials Bulletin, Backflow prevention, dispatching”, Situation Clues, 16 June 2017, (English translation)

[23] Exposed: China’s Operating Manuals for Mass Internment and Arrest by Algorithm, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, November 2019,

[24] Ibid Note 3, page 2, paragraphs 2 and 3.

[25] China's response to the leaked Xinjiang camp, 24 November 2019,

[26] Ibid note 1.

[27] “Chart of signatures and ratifications of Treaty 005 Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”. Status as of 01/11/2020.

[28] “European Convention on Human Rights”.

[29] M.A and Others v Bulgaria (Application No. 5115/18), judgment of 20 February 2020{%22itemid%22:[%22001-201351%22]}

[30]M.A and Others v Bulgaria: removal of applicants to China in violation of Articles 2 and 3 ECHR.” European Database of Asylum Law, 20 February 2020.

[31]MPs urge Home Office to grant refugee status to all Uyghurs arriving in UK, Guardian Newspaper, 7 August 2020.

[32] “Thousands of refugees to fly to UK”, BBC, 5 May 1999,