NUS GHANI MP: We can halt the Uyghur genocide by ending business as usual

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NUS GHANI MP: We can halt the Uyghur genocide by ending business as usual

After more than 150 parliamentarians backed a bid to end China's persecution of Muslims, the Tory MP who delivered it to Number 10 says it's starting to show signs of progress

Nus Ghani holding the Uyghur petition signed by 150 Parliamentarians
Nus Ghani holding the Uyghur petition signed by 150 Parliamentarians

Back in October, Jewish News launched a fantastic campaign, bringing together more than 150 parliamentarians, from all political parties, with the support of the World Uyghur Congress and human rights charity René Cassin.  We all wrote to the Prime Minister raising the ongoing human rights atrocities in China and urged him to ratchet up the pressure on China over the plight of the Uyghur Muslims.  And this week, at last, our campaign started to show signs of progress.

It was because of this continued pressure that the Foreign Secretary announced additional restrictions on companies that buy goods from the Xinjiang province in China.  UK businesses must never profit from slave labour and human rights violations, wherever they occur, and I welcome the new measures.  But I am really concerned that they do not address genocide.

Over fifty years ago the UK signed up to the United Nations Genocide Convention.  It was the first human rights treaty adopted by the General Assembly, designed to ensure that appalling atrocities like the Holocaust could “never again” take place, and supposedly a pivotal moment in improving human rights standards around the world.

Yet this landmark treaty has done very little to stop atrocities from happening, and successive UK governments have always found it impossible to act in the face of genocide because there’s a gaping hole in the international legal order.

This is especially important today given that in China, 2 million Uighurs and other minorities are being forced into slave labour prisons and camps in Xinjiang’s cotton fields. The horror of mass enslavement of the Uyghur continues with state organised violation and abuse of women and girls who are facing forced sterilisations and a resulting 85 per cent drop in Uyghur birth rates.

And there were disturbing echoes of the Holocaust when 13 tonnes of human hair was found on a US-bound ship – ripped from heads of prisoners detained in vast indoctrination camps in China’s western Xinjiang province.

The UK Government says it can only define an incident as a genocide if this has been determined in the International Criminal Court (ICC).   The only way anything gets to the ICC is if the UN Security Council sends it there, and China has the power to veto anything that the UN Security Council does.  That’s why our capacity to respond to genocide is always so fatally flawed from the start.

We have now left the European Union and taken back control of our laws and our trade so that we can reach out to new trading partners, including some of the fastest growing economies in the world.  But we have got to use these new found freedoms to do good and to demonstrate the sort of values that Global Britain aspires to.

Brexit wasn’t a vote for Britain to become isolationist, to pull up its drawbridge or to degrade our values.  It was an optimistic vote that looked to a brighter future, and which requires Britain to play its part in shaping world events, rather than having the EU do this for us.

So as we bring in our new post-Brexit Trade Bill over the next couple of weeks, we must not allow it to let economic concerns trump ethical ones by dealing with genocidal states.  If a country is committing genocide – the crime above all crimes – the UK must not be complicit.

That’s why I am calling for a small but significant change to the Government’s Trade Bill.  Rather than sub-contract this to international judges, knowing full well that they are paralysed by China’s veto at the Security Council, I want British courts to have a role instead.  And having taken back control of our laws, this is the sort of thing we are now able to do.

If a UK court has seen credible evidence that the crime of genocide is being committed, judges will be able to make a statement to that effect for the Government to consider.

It wouldn’t tie the hands of the Government, no judge could strike down a trade deal and Parliament would remain supreme and sovereign.  The Government would be within its rights to ignore the “preliminary ruling” – though I would sincerely hope we wouldn’t.

But as Biden takes over at the White House, and the UK takes on the presidency of the G7, now is our opportunity to shine and to act as a global beacon for freedom.  This is a way for Britain to provide leadership to the world, to stand up for the international rule of law and to promote our hard won values and standards.

It’s time to root out genocide and bring its perpetrators to justice.  Governments around the world have always been slow to act and Britain can, with its new Trade Bill, affirm the principle that we will never trade with countries that commit genocide, and nor will we look the other way or do business with its perpetrators and sponsor their activities.  Genocide cannot mean business as usual.

In the 75 years since the Nuremberg trials, the UK has never succeeded in recognising a genocide whilst it was ongoing.  We now have a chance to put that right, and the fate of so many people rests on our shoulders.  Let’s not let them down.



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