UK lawmakers declare China’s treatment of Uyghurs genocide
Leonhard Lenz, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
UK lawmakers declare China’s treatment of Uyghurs genocide

British lawmakers unanimously declared China’s ongoing crackdown in Xinjiang a genocide on Thursday. With this, the United Kingdom joins the United States, Canada and the Netherlands in condemning Beijing’s actions against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the far-west region in the strongest possible terms.

The motion was introduced by Conservative lawmaker Nusrat Ghani. In her speech she remarked, “while we must never misuse the term genocide, we must not fail to use it when it’s warranted.” Consequently, the House of Commons passed unopposed a non-binding resolution condemning “mass human rights abuses and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region.” The support for the motion is non-binding, meaning it is up to the government to decide what action, if any, to take next.

China has been accused of detaining up to 2 million people in a system of camps set up across Xinjiang in recent years, with survivors alleging widespread abuse, including brainwashing, torture, rape and forced labor. Beijing continues to defend the system as a vocational training and deradicalization program vital to ensuring the region’s security.

“Statements of solidarity mean a lot, but Uyghurs need them to be followed up with meaningful action, said Rahima Mahmut, Director of the World Uyghur Conference in the UK, when reacting to the motion. “Only when the Chinese government faces the consequences of its actions will it be deterred from further abuses. That the British parliament has unanimously recognised this as genocide is a major victory for all those who have been drawing attention to these abuses over many years.”

Thursday’s motion comes in the wake of Britain’s increasing tensions with China as Britain joined the US, France and Netherlands in sanctioning Chinese Communist Party officials over human rights abuses. In response to the motion, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced new sanctions against UK institutions and individuals including Ghani.

The Chinese embassy to the UK on Friday strongly opposed the motion and described it as a “blatant interference in China’s internal affairs”.