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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Our Product Consumption Should Not Come at the Expense of Uyghurs' Freedom


Many of us have been saddened to learn of the atrocious inhumane treatment by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang over recent months. Although constantly denied by the CCP, evidence of genocide is undeniable. The CCP claim they are offering 're-education camps' to Uyghurs, said to offer family planning programmes and increased education schemes. The Chinese embassy in the United States recently shared a report describing Uyghur women as being "no longer baby-making machines". The term baby-making machines certainly caught the attention of many and received severe criticism. It certainly is odd that while claiming to offer re-education camps and being accused of mass sterilisation, the CCP would refer to these women as baby-making machines. As around the world we are waking up to horrific crimes of the CCP, urgent action is needed to free Uyghur Muslims from the CCP.

This week the Genocide Amendment was hoped to be voted on once again in the House of Commons, which would allow UK courts to decide if China is committing genocide. However, to the dismay of supporters, the Government didn't allow a vote on it. This infuriated the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China and China Research Group (CRG), especially the Conservative rebels led by Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Nus Ghani as well as a coalition of the opposition parties including vocal supporters such as senior Labour Backbencher, Chris Bryant. The Genocide Amendment was voted down on first reading in the lower House but the clause may yet see it's day as the Lords scrutinise the Trade Bill next week and some senior Tory peers have pledged to reinsert the clause to the Bill; some MPs are even going on the lines of 'no Genocide Amendment, no Trade Bill.'  

The Amendment has been overwhelmingly supported by Peers in the House of Lords several times, heading back and forth between the two chambers. It is unclear how this will ultimately play out, with many MPs from both sides determined to let this amendment pass. Concern over how the government plan to stand up for Uyghurs who are victims of the CCP is rapidly increasing. Many would say the government aren't doing everything within their power. There are some pretty high profile Tory Peers supporting Alton Motion in the Lords, including former Cabinet Minister Lord Forsyth who chairs the Lords Economic Affairs Committee, former Lord Speaker, Baroness D'Souza and former Supreme Court Judge, Lord Brown. 

The question of Peers holding to the government to account on this is an interesting one, especially from a House which frustrated Brexit for four years, seems to now be protecting Britain's place in the world and helping us engineer a world-leading trade policy which doesn't bow us down to China. In fact, the Trade Minister in the Lords, Lord Grimstone, in a desperate attempt, wrote to opposing Peers, led by Lord Alton (Independent) suggesting that the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee could decide on whether a nation is committing genocide, rather than the courts - this has sparked yet another debate in the Commons on the subject and will make for interesting watching when taking into consideration that the aforementioned Select Committee Chairman is a supporter of the Amendment (first time it came to the House in January) and CRG member, Tom Tugendhat. 

The Government are unwilling to compromise to the extent the rebels would want them too, Nus Ghani even saying their compromises so far were "meaningless", but both Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab have stood firm in their belief that this isn't a matter for the courts, but Commons Justice Select Committee Chairman, Sir Bob Neill put forward a compromise amendment which will allow parliamentarians vote on whether a nation is committing genocide, rather than the courts. However, this Amendment was narrowly defeated in the Commons. 

As evidence grows of the CCP's inhumane treatment and severe breach of human rights, many more people are wanting to join the campaign to end this horrific treatment. There is something simple we can all do, and it starts with thinking carefully about what we purchase. In March 2020, a report by the Australian Policy Institute identified 83 foreign and Chinese companies as being involved with the abusive labour transfer programs. It estimates upwards from 80,000 Uyghurs were assigned to factories against their will for the supply of goods. Goods involving textiles and electronics are thought to be involved which are highly likely to be a supplier of at least one of your favourite brands. Disgustingly last month, evidence emerged of Uyghurs picking cotton in Xinjiang, it is highly unlikely they were doing so voluntarily. Following this revelation, Marks & Spencer led the way by signing on to the call to action on human rights which sets out a path of action brands should take to follow in like with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Many more retailers are being urged to remove Xinjiang cotton from their supply chains, which is suggested to supply 20% of the worlds cotton. The demand for sustainable and ethical fashion has never been so popular, consumers are becoming more conscious about the environmental and ethical impact. Ethical supply ensuring our clothes and technology aren't a product of slavery should be as equal of a priority as sustainability and the environment.

It should shock no one that the CCP are notorious liars, and terrible ones in fact. Take when the Chinese Ambassador to the UK was questioned over clips of Uyghurs being forced blind folded onto a train by Andrew Marr last summer, the response was shocking. Why would a so-called re-education camp be forcing shackled Uyghurs onto a train, likely to be forced into a labour camp. What is educational about picking cotton against your will? As Ian Duncan Smith who is extremely passionate about fighting for Uyghurs said, the Chinese Economy must grow by 5% annually to break even. The Chinese economy is its own greatest asset but also its greatest weakness. We are already waking up to the CCP, when last year the government pledged to remove the Chinese firm Huawei from the UK's 5G network and an eventual ban on Huawei's technology, due to national security concerns. This move was very welcome, the UK must start to move away from investing in firms controlled by the Chinese sate. And following astonishing evidence of Uyghurs being forced to pick cotton, our fashion brands must be lobbied to end partnership with supply chains linked with Xinjiang. No person's cotton jumper should come at the expense of another person's freedom. The Uyghur Muslims are not prisoners, nor should the CCP treat them as such. The UK must bring its production supply home from China and take greater action in standing up for Uyghurs rights. It's time we stood up to China.


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