Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today called on the Government to take a lead on global human rights by taking steps to recognise the risk of genocide to the Uyghur people of Xinjiang Province in China. Mr Carmichael challenged the Foreign Secretary following a statement on the growing list of human rights abuses found in the province, and warned that the UK has a duty to act to prevent genocide.
Speaking in the House virtually, Mr Carmichael said:
“Frustrating though it is, I do understand the Foreign Secretary’s reluctance to engage in the question of genocide. But he will know that the government has a duty to assess the risk factors of a genocide against the Uyghurs in China in order to trigger its duty to prevent. All this came from the ICJ judgement in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina against Serbia and Montenegro. Obligation crystalises at the moment that a state learns, or should have learned, of the serious risk of genocide. Could the Foreign Secretary confirm that his department is making that assessment of the risk factors of genocide? And will he then publish its conclusions?”
Responding, the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab MP said:
“I think he makes an interesting and insightful comment on the issue of genocide. Of course, I was in The Hague when the Bosnia judgement was being considered. The reality is, in order to secure authoritative assessment and conclusions in relation to the widespread reports – that we think are tenable, plausible and credible – we would need to have access to the camps. We won’t be able to do that without sufficient and widespread pressure on the Chinese government, and I think the best vehicle for that is an authoritative, independent body or individual, entrusted by the United Nations – of which China is a leading member through the Security Council – and the UN Human Rights Commission would seem to me the right place and the right individual to support in that regard.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“I accept the challenging position the Government is in with regard to China. Saying we cannot recognise a potential genocide because we do not have access to the internment camps, however, rather begs the question of what we will do if we never secure that access. If that is the only way in which we can officially recognise genocide than it gives Beijing a pretty easy out.
“Working with international organisations to bring pressure on China is absolutely right, but if we are to be a leader in advocating for human rights globally then we need to be willing to lead here and now.”