Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has welcomed news that the Government will join the EU and US in introducing targeted sanctions against Chinese officials involved in human rights abuses against the Uyghur people, but warned the Foreign Secretary that he must go further to see meaningful change from Beijing. The Government later voted down the “Genocide Amendment” to the Trade Bill, which would have blocked future trade deals with countries judged to have committed genocide.
Mr Carmichael is a co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Uyghurs.
Speaking virtually in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“May I give a warm welcome to this announcement of sanctions? They have been long sought and they are welcome now that they have finally arrived. While he is on a roll might we possibly see some positive announcement on the Alton amendment [the “Genocide Amendment”] later today?
“Will he also give urgent consideration to the recent report from the Select Committee on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which came forward with constructive suggestions about how to tackle the issue of the use of Uyghur slavery in the supply chain of many goods available in this country, possibly including the eventual linking of that to the disqualification of directors?”
Responding, the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab MP said:
“I thank the right hon. Gentleman for welcoming the action we have taken today. More generally, in relation to the Committee’s reports, may I say how important it is that we take action on supply chains? Often, particularly in relation to the internment camps in Xinjiang, the best source of action is to follow the money, and to prevent those who are profiting from making money out of it—if they do so, it should certainly not be through UK companies or through UK consumers.”
Reacting after the Government voted down the “Genocide Amendment” later that evening, Mr Carmichael said:
“Progress on sanctions is all very well. It is bewildering to me, however, that the Government can take action, begrudgingly, on a handful of Chinese officials for their role in the ongoing Uighur genocide but refuse to accept that genocide should be a red line in future trade deals. It is incoherent and it is wrong.
“Given the Foreign Secretary’s recent comments dismissing the importance of human rights in trade it leaves the strong impression that this Government will only act when others lead the way. We must go further to convince the Chinese government to change course.”