‘Never Again’: Tory MPs vow rebellion over anti-genocide law aimed at China

London: Boris Johnson is facing a showdown over claims China is waging genocide against the Uighur Muslims interned at camps in Xinjiang province.

Human rights campaigners wrote to the British Prime Minister saying they were “shocked and appalled” his government was trying to water down an attempt to allow British courts to declare whether other countries are committing genocide.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a rebellion from some Tory MPS over anti-genocide laws. Credit:Getty

Ministers oppose the plans and have offered rebel MPs a so-called compromise, which would boost the ability of parliamentary select committees to consider genocide allegations.

However, a number of MPs in the Commons are moving to amend a trade bill, that if successful, would give the British courts the ability to make preliminary declarations as to whether genocide is occurring in a country with whom Britain has a bilateral trade agreement.

Britain does not have a free trade agreement with China and the amendment would all but block one from being entered into.

The amendment was only narrowly defeated the last time it was before the Commons and has been passed by the House of Lords. It returns to the Commons on Tuesday and the Conservative government is resisting moves to let Britain’s High Court make genocide rulings.

“It [the new laws] will expose and prevent genocide and ensure Britain is never complicit in trading with genocidal regimes.”

It holds the view that the International Criminal Court, which China can veto, is the appropriate fora to raise claims of genocide, not domestic courts. It is putting up a compromise amendment through Tory MP Bob Neill that would allow the Foreign Affairs Committee to make a non-binding declaration instead.

Nus Ghani, a Conservative MP, putting forward the amendment in the Commons, said voters didn’t want to buy goods produced from slave labour and genocide.

She said the lesson of the Holocaust was that it must “never again” be allowed to happen.

“The New Genocide Amendment allows our respected UK courts to make a preliminary determination on genocide so that parliamentarians can then debate what needs to happen next in terms of who we trade with,” Ghani said

“It will expose and prevent genocide and ensure Britain is never complicit in trading with genocidal regimes.

“Britain already leads the world on environmental standards and animal welfare, and when it comes to the COVID vaccine rollout, Global Britain has been leading the way.

“This week the House of Commons has an opportunity to lead the world again in standing up to tyrannical, genocidal regimes and making sure that ‘never again’ actually means something.”

The World Uighur Congress wrote to Mr Johnson on the weekend accusing the Prime Minister of “spitting in the faces of Uighur survivors”.

The correspondence, seen by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, from the Congress’ president Dolkun Isa asked: “Why are you doing this to us Prime Minister.”

Uighurs in Australia with photos of relatives who are in internment camps, are missing or have died.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“Uyghur survivors have begged for recognition of what is happening to them,” the letter said.

“We know that it is long-standing policy for the UK to refuse to use the word “genocide” without a court decision, and that this policy is not going to change. So the actions of your government in tabling this amendment are tantamount to spitting into the faces of Uyghur survivors.

Separately, leading lawyers in London gave the first legal opinion concluding that the available evidence credibly establishes that crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide have been committed in China.

The legal opinion was provided by Essex Court Chambers and led by Alison McDonald QC in partnership with the World Uighur Congress and Uighur Human Rights Project.

A Uighur woman and a child walk past a burnt car at a destroyed dealership following riots in Urumqi, western China’s Xinjiang province in 2009. Analysts say the riots set in motion the harsh security measures now in place.Credit:AP

The legal opinion says there is a credible case of crimes against humanity and genocide against China’s President Xi Jinping and other senior Chinese officials.

It is estimated that more than one million Uighurs have been detained in camps in Xinjiang province since 2015.

There have been allegations of rape, sexual abuse, torture and forced sterilisations and abortions. The Communist Party has claimed the facilities, which are heavily fortified, are necessary to combat terrorism after isolated acts of violence occurred between 2011 and 2014.

Australia has called for the United Nations to be granted access to the camps, something China refuses.

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