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UK Labour Party calls for China sanctions over Uighur persecution

Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy called for 'Magnitsky Act-style' legislation [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 July, 2020

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China has warned of a 'resolute response' to unilateral sanctions from the UK.
The UK's main opposition party has called for sanctions on Chinese officials over the persecution of the country's Uighur Muslim minority.

Speaking to Sky News, the Labour Party's Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said new "Magnitsky Act"-style legislation introduced by the government should be used against human rights abusers.

"There's one thing that the government could do in relation to helping the Uighur people at the moment and that is to freeze the assets of any of the Chinese officials involved in those human rights abuses over in China," Nandy said.

"We've got new legislation now, we've been pushing the government to do that for two years. The UK should not be a haven for people who abuse human rights overseas."

Nandy's proposal was dismissed by UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who said that sacntions cannot be imposed "willy nilly".

Speaking on the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show, Raab said: “It is clear that there are gross, egregious human rights abuses going on, which is why in Geneva at the UN we raised this with 27 partners ... to call out the government of China for its human rights abuses of the Uighurs, also of Hong Kong." 

China, meanwhile, has warned that any action against Beijing would prompt a response.

"We never believe in unilateral sanctions. We believe the UN is the authority, has the authority to impose sanctions. If the UK government goes that far to impose sanctions on any individuals in China, China will certainly make a resolute response to it," China's ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming told the BBC.

"I think the UK should have its own independent foreign policy rather than dance to the tune of the Americans like what happened to Huawei," he added.

Forced labour camps

Despite denials from Beijing, he chorus of condemnation against China's alleged internment of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang and other regions is growing stronger.

A 60-page document submitted to the British government in April set out the legal case for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to ban all cotton originating from the Xinjiang region of China, home of the Uighur.

Read more: Who will stop the Uighur genocide?

The submission made by Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), together with activist group the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), comes amid growing concerns that the Muslim minority are being transferred to factories across China to replace workers during the coronavirus lockdown.

Large brands such as H&M, Uniqlo, Muji and Ikea were all named in the documents as sourcing cotton from Xinjiang.

During the Covid-19 pandemic pictures and videos purporting to show uniformed Uighur workers being transferred to factories across the country have been circulated.

Reports of members of the Uighur Muslim minority being detained in "re-education" camps first emerged in 2016.

The United Nations human rights panel has since said there are credible reports of more than one million Uighurs being held in internment camps in Xinjiang. Uighur activists say that many have been disappeared or killed in the camps, and that others have been forced to work in factories.

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