Britain has launched a new parliamentary enquiry into detention camps in China’s Xinjiang province, where Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minority groups have been reportedly incarcerated.
Rights groups say that crimes against humanity and genocide are taking place against Uighurs in the remote region, where more than 1 million people are held in camps, which China describes as ‘re-education centres’, and allegedly used for forced labour.
The inquiry announced by the influential Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons on Wednesday will examine the ways in which the UK government can prevent British companies from benefiting from forced labour in Xinjiang, support the Uighur diaspora and strengthen the atrocity prevention mechanisms of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
Tom Tugendhat (Conservative), chair of the committee, said: “The mass detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang has horrifying echoes of the 1930s. There have been similar atrocities since, and each time the world has promised to never allow such violations to happen again.”
“And yet, we now have clear, undeniable evidence of the persecution of more than one million people in these so-called re-education camps. This inquiry will focus on key questions about what the UK can do to exert its influence and the steps the new FCDO will take to fulfil its goal of making our country an ‘active, internationalist, problem-solving and burden-sharing nation’.”
The committee, he said, would also examine what mechanisms the government can use to discourage private sector companies from contributing to human rights abuses.
The committee called for written evidence on themes such as 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, and how can the UK use its influence on countries other than China who are reportedly complicit in the persecution of Uighurs.
Other themes of inquiry include how UK-linked businesses with operations in Xinjiang be made accountable for any involvement in human rights abuses, and what is the best form of support to offer to members of the Uighur diaspora (and others) who experience persecution and harassment abroad.
The 11-member committee of MPs includes six from Conservative, four from Labour and one from the Scottish National Party.