The U.S. officially adopted the designation, and in the UK an amendment to prevent trade with genocidal states was narrowly defeated.
by Ruth Ingram
The same day, January 19. In Washington, the U.S. officially “determined that the PRC, under the direction and control of the CCP, has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.” In London, just eleven votes stood in the way of victory for rebels campaigning against trade deals with genocidal states in the British parliament this week.
The hair’s breadth defeat for an amendment to the Trade Bill of 319 votes to 308, has spurred on cross party advocates of the “genocide” amendment, who have vowed to continue their fight.
The amendment which had already been passed resoundingly in the House of Lords was designed to enable the UK High Court, rather than international courts, to decide whether a country poised for a trade deal was guilty of genocide. The High Court could then force the government to revoke the agreement.
Supported vigorously in the Commons by a cross-party groundswell of rebel Conservative MPs, led by prominent IPAC (Inter Parliamentary Alliance on China) members, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Nusrat Ghani, and Bob Seely, a persuasive lobbying campaign has been waged on the ground to garner backing for the vote, from groups concerned at mounting evidence of egregious human rights atrocities emerging from North West China.
The Muslim Council of Great Britain, Uyghur activist groups, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, Lawyers for Uyghur Rights, the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and prominent Jews joined the charge.
Marie Van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, dismayed at comparisons between images of Uyghurs herded into trains destined for internment, and their own holocaust 76 years ago, took the unusual step of writing to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging Britain to be “courageous” in standing against what is shaping up to be the “most serious outrage of our time.”
The Jewish News featured the Uyghur plight for the second time on its front page this week, citing 30 rabbis and community leaders, representatives from key synagogue and youth movements that had put their weight behind the proposals.
Survivors of the holocaust itself also stepped forward with their own testimonies. In a moving interview on YouTube, Dorit Oliver-Wolff, BEM (British Empire Medal), who hid in an underground cellar for nine months as a child while every member of her family was slaughtered, reminded the government that Uyghurs were being treated as sub-human, as were her people during the war. She urged MPs to put their politics aside and vote as humans, and not as “people who stand by and shut one eye as if it isn’t happening.”
“This is a matter of conscience,” she said. “It is happening now. So please vote for the right thing,” she pleaded.
Speakers in the four-hour debate were unanimous in their condemnation of genocide and the killings and mass atrocities being meted out to Uyghurs and Turkic people in North West China. But they were divided on the solution. Whilst some MPs were anxious to regain control of post Brexit trade and set a high bar for human rights, others were concerned at the mechanics of trying a state for genocide in its absence, and also of parliament conceding its power to unelected judges to revoke trade deals agreed by elected governments.
One of the major protagonists of the amendment, Luke de Pulford, coordinator of IPAC (the Inter Parliamentary Alliance on China) was disappointed but undeterred by the vote. “The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China will continue working to give Uyghurs their day in court. The size of today’s rebellion shows that there is growing support for this issue from across the House. Members from all parties agree with us that the current system of genocide determination is broke and needs urgent fixing.” “We now have another bite of the cherry in the Lords with an amendment which takes some of the government’s arguments into account,” he said.
Sir Iain Duncan-Smith MP, former Conservative Party leader and IPAC co-chair pointed out that the size and vehemence of the rebellion could no longer be ignored. “The willful ignorance of alleged genocide and grave human rights abuses in China and elsewhere must stop; we will not sell out our values for trade deals with genocidal states.”
Lord David Alton, IPAC member and co-sponsor of the amendment in the Lords promised the revised amendment would allow Parliament to vote on the revocation of a trade deal once the Court had reached the determination of genocide.
“The fight does not end here. We will continue to do all we can to ensure that Uyghurs and other victims of alleged genocide have a route to justice through UK courts,” he stressed.
Layla Moran MP, Liberal Democrats Foreign Affairs Spokesperson and IPAC member was also disappointed. “Today the Government turned down a crucial opportunity to say, ‘never again’ and put ending genocide and protecting human rights at the heart of the UK’s trade policy, despite clear cross-party support.” “The Government has chosen to turn a blind eye and to not put human rights first. But this is not over. We will support a new amendment when the Bill goes back to the Lords.”