29 June 2020
Sir Iain Duncan Smith secures an Urgent Question from the Government on the mistreatment by the Chinese Government of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province

Sir Iain Duncan Smith calls on the UK to seek an independent inquiry at the UN on the mistreatment by the Chinese Government of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province for the UK to make its own legal determination.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con)

(Urgent Question): To ask the Prime Minister whether his Government will make a statement on the mistreatment by the Chinese Government of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province.

The Minister for Asia (Nigel Adams)

We are aware of reports issued today by the Associated Press and the Jamestown Foundation alleging that the Chinese Government are using pregnancy checks and forced intra-uterine devices, sterilisation and abortion to minimise Uyghur birth rates. These reports add to our concern about the human rights situation in Xinjiang and of course we will be considering the report carefully.

The broader human rights situation in Xinjiang is of ongoing and serious concern to the Government. This includes the extrajudicial detention of over a million Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in political re-education camps, systematic restrictions on Uyghur culture and the practice of Islam, and extensive and invasive surveillance targeting minorities. Further reports indicating that forced labour is being used and that children are being forcibly separated from their parents add to the growing body of evidence about the disturbing situation that Uyghurs and other minorities are facing in Xinjiang.

We have expressed our serious concerns about these issues on many occasions. The Foreign Secretary raised them directly with his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi in March. I also raised the situation in Xinjiang with the Chinese ambassador to London in March. Since 2018, we have played a leading role in raising these concerns at the UN. For example, at the UN Third Committee in October, the UK read out a statement on behalf of 22 other countries drawing attention to the human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang and calling on China to uphold its obligations to respect human rights. We have consistently raised the issue at the UN Human Rights Council, including at the most recent session in March, when Lord Ahmad, the Minister for human rights, raised the issue in the UK’s opening address. In addition, we advise all businesses involved in investing in Xinjiang or with parts of their supply chains in Xinjiang to consider conducting appropriate due diligence to satisfy themselves that their activities do not support, or risk being seen to support, any human rights violations or abuses. The UK will continue to exercise leadership on this important issue, raising it directly with the Chinese Government and working with partners to do so at the UN.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith

The Inter-parliamentary Alliance on China—IPAC—which is made up of 30 other lawmakers from 16 global legislatures, has today published research by Professor Adrian Zenz, the world’s leading expert on the treatment of minorities in Xinjiang province. The report shows that birth rates in the two mostly Uyghur regions plummeted by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018. Across the Xinjiang region, birth rates fell nearly 24% in a single year, compared with just 4.2% nationwide. Worse, it is now clear that this is a direct result of Government actions. Unearthed Government documents mandate that birth control violations that come about

“due to the influence of extreme religious thinking”

should be “dealt with severely”, and that those unable to pay fines should be

“dealt with through coercive measures”,

including internment. Mr Zenz’s paper concludes that these measures are part of a state-wide crackdown that includes the mass sterilisation of women. This report corroborates the many horrific personal testimonies that many of us have heard. The genocide convention maintains that birth prevention targeted at minority groups is indicative of genocide, and the convention binds individual states to act, not just to rely on the international judicial system. Does my hon. Friend therefore agree that the Uyghur people have been, and are, the victims of mass atrocity crimes?

I ask the Foreign Secretary to go to the UN and call for an independent inquiry, but, sadly, I also recognise that the ways to deal with this through the UN will almost certainly be blocked by China. Given that likelihood, will my hon. Friend at least get the UK to make its own legal determination after weighing up this new evidence? Of course the world wants to deal with China, but we cannot continue with business as usual while this sort of blatant activity continues. Furthermore, given the Chinese Government’s appalling record on human rights, their attack on freedoms in Hong Kong, their bullying behaviour in border disputes from the South China seas to India, their blatant breaching of the rules-based order governing the free market and their delayed declaration on covid-19, will the Government now initiate an internal review of the UK’s dependence on China, with a view to significantly reducing that dependence, and call on the free world to come together to ensure that this growing threat from China is dealt with together before, as history teaches us, it is too late?

Nigel Adams

My right hon. Friend speaks with great passion and knowledge on these subjects. He refers to legal determination. As I said in my opening statement, these reports add to our concern about the situation in Xinjiang, and we will of course consider them extremely carefully. Any legal determination would be a matter for a competent court. I reiterate that we have raised concerns about the situation in Xinjiang at the UN General Assembly Third Committee and UN Human Rights Council, alongside our international partners. We will continue to make our concerns known directly to China and bilaterally, as well as through the relevant bodies.

On a full Government review, our approach to China remains clear-eyed and is rooted in our values and interests. It has always been the case that when we have concerns we raise them, and that where we need to intervene we will. We have consistently led international efforts to highlight concern about the worsening human rights situation in Xinjiang, and I assure my right hon. Friend that the United Kingdom will continue to do so.

Hansard