UK parliamentarians voted unanimously. What will the government do?
by Ruth Ingram
The same MPs who earlier this year called out Beijing’s actions against Uyghurs and Western China’s Turkic peoples as genocide, were united last week in their call for UK politicians, officials and royalty to snub invitations to the games, and send Beijing a clear message that abuse within its borders must stop.
The motion brought by Tim Loughton, sanctioned by China in retaliation for his outspoken advocacy on behalf of the beleaguered group, was supported vigorously on moral grounds by a cross party groundswell of MPs, but the vote will have no teeth unless it is backed by the Government. Loughton urged ministers to get off the fence citing Beijing’s abuses as flagrant violations of the values of human dignity and nondiscrimination enshrined in Olympian ideals. “How on earth does a genocidal regime square with these principles?” he asked. “Everything China has done makes a mockery of them,” he said, adding that a boycott would “show China that democracies cannot be bullied, and human rights matter.”
Activists, exiles and swelling ranks of politicians have been campaigning vigorously for a total boycott of the Winter Olympics. Michael Polak of Lawyers for Uyghur rights, representing the World Uyghur Congress in demanding a change in venue for the games on human rights grounds has been repeatedly brushed off by the IOC (International Olympic Committee), but other MPs have settled for a diplomatic boycott, providing pressure is maintained on Beijing to loose its stranglehold on its minorities and allow full and unfettered access to investigate allegations of abuse in Xinjiang.
Impassioned speeches pointed to the hypocrisy of declaring the Chinese government a genocidal state in one breath and giving that same regime the honor of holding a world sporting event. “The government should take a position on this,” said Sir Iain Duncan Smith who flagged up Beijing’s ominous and growing aggression both within and without its borders, not only in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, but on its border with India, the South China Sea, and Taiwan. “The CCP knows where it is going and doesn’t even hide it,” he said, quoting Xi Jinping’s recent threat to his enemies that their “heads would be bashed against a wall of steel.” “Giving them diplomatic credibility is no longer feasible,” warned Sir Iain.
Anticipating retaliation from Beijing were the UK to withdraw official support, MP Nus Ghani, reminded members of the UK’s “moral duty” to respond to the catalogue of human rights “atrocities” being meted out to Uyghurs and Turkic people of Xinjiang Autonomous Region.
Her fears of retribution were not without foundation, following an editorial by the editor of Beijing’s mouthpiece Global Times in February who lashed out at Ed Davey, a Liberal Democrat MP who in February this year had dared to suggest a boycott of the Games. Branding him “hysterical and insane,” it promised that China would “do the righteous thing by sanctioning any country that thwarts the Beijing Winter Olympics,” going on to say that the world would “support China to punish the evil forces who turn the Olympics into a geopolitical stage.”
Politicians called for the UK to have the courage to join increasing numbers of countries demanding action over the Games. Recently the EU parliament voted by 578 to 29 for a diplomatic boycott, and the US Senate passed a bill confirming the same in June, with Nancy Pelosi (speaker of the House of Representatives) offering her support when it came to the House of Representatives.
Defending accusations of Conservative Party naivety and complacency from MP Stephen Kinnock, Minister of State for Asia, Nigel Adams, said the government had yet to decide on whether to order a boycott, but reiterated its commitment to hold China to account.
Nus Ghani urged for no let up for a regime that has “violated each of the five markers of genocide.” In calculating that 1.3 million seconds were left until the Winter Games, she reminded the House that this was one second for every Uyghur that had been abused. “Do we stand for these oppressed or with Xi Jinping?” she asked.