Conservative Party MPs Nusrat Ghani (C) and Iain Duncan Smith (R) join members of the Uyghur community in London on 22 April 2021. (JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
The British Parliament on Thursday passed a motion saying it believes “that Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xianjiang Uyghur Autonomous region [of China] are suffering crimes against humanity and genocide.”
The non-binding motion further calls on the UK government “to fulfil its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and all relevant instruments of international law to bring it to an end.”
The UN lists five criteria of genocide:
Killing members of the group;
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani of Wealden tabled the motion. “There is absolute recognition,” she said, “that all five markers of genocide have been met.” House members from across the political spectrum – including Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish National Party and Democratic Unionist Party MPs – spoke in favour of the motion.
Speaking for the government, the Minister for Asia, Nigel Adams, acknowledged that “the situation faced by the Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang is truly harrowing … the evidence of the scale and severity of the violations in Xinjiang is extensive.”
However, he repeated the government’s position that a determination as to whether the situation in China constitutes genocide or crimes against humanity “is a matter for competent national and international courts.”
Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, however, argued “the problem is that getting to a competent court is impossible,” noting, “At the United Nations it is impossible to get through to the international Court of Justice, it is impossible to get through to the International Criminal Court as China is not a signatory to that and therefore will not obey that.”
The Chinese embassy reacted promptly to the move by Parliament, describing the accusation of genocide in Xinjiang as “the most preposterous lie of the century” and “an outrageous insult and affront to the Chinese people.”
The British Parliament’s recognition of the atrocities in Xinjiang as genocide followed on similar statements from the United States, Canada and the Netherlands.
Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States have all imposed sanctions on various Chinese officials in protest against attacks on human rights in the country.