The House of Commons, the lower house and primary chamber of the U.K.’s parliament, is set to vote next week on a motion to declare the Chinese government’s actions in the Uyghur Region—which include systematic forced labor—a genocide.
Collective decisions on genocide are uncommon but not unheard of in the U.K. parliament, which in 2016 declared that the Yazidis, an ethnic group in northern Iraq, had suffered genocide at the hands of the Islamic State.
But because next week’s motion involves potentially accusing a fellow member of the U.N. Security Council, rather than a non-state terrorist group, the political and diplomatic stakes are considerably higher.
The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already expressed that only international courts should adjudicate such an issue, meaning the vote will be dismissed as non-binding and ministers are likely to abstain.
But if at least two-thirds of MPs vote to back the motion, as its organizers hope, the vote could nonetheless have a significant international impact and strengthen the global movement against forced labor in the Uyghur Region.
The Guardian reports:
The motion due to be included on the order paper on Thursday reads: “This house believes the Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang region are suffering crimes against humanity and genocide.”
It also calls on the government to fulfil its obligations under the convention on the prevention of genocide and other instruments of international law to bring it to an end.
The motion points out that two of the UK’s closest allies – the US and Canada – have declared it a genocide.
Over one million Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim people have been detained in the Uyghur Region since 2017, with many forced to work in camps and factories across China.
The campaign of oppression—which has also involved forced sterilization, separation of families, and cultural indoctrination—has been described as constituting genocide and crimes against humanity by numerous experts and observers.
International condemnation of the events in the Uyghur Region has been met with fierce backlash this year from China, which has boycotted brands and sanctioned politicians critical of its treatment of its Turkic minority.
But next week’s vote, which is scheduled for April 22, could further strengthen the U.K.’s resolve against the Chinese government.
The foreign affairs select committee, which is conducting an official investigation into the Uyghur Region’s detention camps, is also poised to recommend updating the 2015 Modern Slavery Act to include mandatory human rights due diligence.
Freedom United has been a vocal opponent of forced labor in the Uyghur Region for over a year and, since last summer, has campaigned as part of the steering committee of the Coalition to End Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region.
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