Skip to main content

Proposal could pave way for recognition of Uighur genocide in UK courts

The UK government fears new motion put forward by British parliamentarians could jeopardise Britain's relationship with China
UK parliamentarians have put forward proposals that could lead Britain to end its trade relationship with China (AFP)

Proposals put forth by British MPs and peers could allow Uighur Muslims to petition a UK high court to label China's repression of the minority a genocide.

If passed, the proposals could force Britain to curb trade ties with Beijing. 

Led by former cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith, with broad cross-party support, the proposals could allow human rights campaigners to take to the UK courts in order to seek redress for cases of alleged genocide, instead of going through international courts.  

'If we remain silent, it might get worse': Uighurs fear for loved ones in China
Read More »

"The government has still not got it right on human rights in China. If an African country was doing what China is doing, ministers would be all over it. But because of China’s size and influence at the UN, it runs away," Duncan Smith told the Guardian newspaper. "It is time we stood up against the abuses under way within China.”

The proposals have caused deep concern for the British government, which fears they might jeopardise Britain's relationship with China just as it prepares to leave the European Union. 

Last week, a new report found that China had built 400 prison camps to imprison Uighur Muslims. An earlier report also claimed that China was sterilising Uighur women and imprisoning thousands of the Muslim minority. 

Beijing was also accused of demolishing thousands of mosques in the Xinjiang region in efforts to actively "erase and alter" tangible Muslim cultural heritage sites. 

UK trade bill amendments 

Britain is set to pass a trade bill to ensure that the UK government can sign continuity trade agreements with countries that the EU already has agreements with after Brexit goes through. 

The UK parliamentary pro-Uighur alliance is hoping to introduce an amendment that ensures no trade agreement is allowed if a high court decides that a party of the relevant trade agreement is committing genocide.

The EU has a 10-year-old trade agreement with China. If the UK high court declares that Beijing is committing genocide, it could force ministers to cancel the ongoing agreement with China. 

Last Friday, Britain's Human Rights Minister Lord Ahmad called for international observers to be given unlimited access to Xinjiang. 

Ahmad reaffirmed Britain's stance and said that there was "compelling evidence, including from the Chinese government's own documents, of gross human rights abuses". 

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.