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UK condemns China for treatment of Uighur minority

The UK is finally calling a spade a spade when it comes to blatant Chinese human rights abuses against its ethnic Muslim minority.

The UK, which has long been flirting with both US and Chinese national interests in the current conflict between the two, has hinted that it will be taking a firmer stance against China after its crackdown on Hong Kong and its treatment of the Uighur ethnic minority. UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab heavily suggested that the UK would be hopping off the fence in coming weeks regarding China’s sketchy human rights record, telling the BBC that ‘it is clear that there are gross, egregious human rights abuses going on.’

The program of ‘re-education’ and forced sterilisation carried out against the ethnically Turkic, predominantly Muslim Uighur population of Xinjiang province by the Chinese Community Party (CCP) has been public knowledge to some degree of certainty for some years now, however the issue recently gained traction when footage of shackled and blindfolded Uighur prisoners in Xinjiang went viral for the second time.

The drone footage depicts hundreds of captive Uighur prisoners, chained, shaved, and dehumanised, led from a train in what appears to be a transfer of inmates between ‘internment’ camps last August.

In a combative interview with the BBC’s resident interrogator Andrew Marr, China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming said in response to the pictures, ‘I do not know where you get this videotape… sometimes  you have a transfer of prisoners, in any country’.

The shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy, interviewed directly after Xiaoming, had a different take. She stated that the CCP was clearly engaging in ‘genocide’, defined as ‘the deliberate persecution and killing of a large group of people on the basis of their ethnicity of nationhood’, and she urged the UK government to follow the US and impose sanctions on Chinese imports.

Asked whether he agreed with Nandy’s take, Raab stressed that the international community be ‘careful’ with such forceful labels, however he emphasised that reports are ‘troubling’, particularly from ‘a leading member of the international community who wants to be taken seriously.’

It is believed that up to a million Uighur people have been detained in concentration camps over the past few years. China previously denied the existence of the camps before defending them as necessary ‘re-education’ facilities following a handful of instances of separatist violence in the Xinjiang province.

Reports from those who have been through the camps report forced labour, aggressive CCP brainwashing campaigns, and forced sterilisation. Men have reported forced vasectomies, whilst women are having involuntary abortions, or being fitted with contraceptive devices, in a blatant attempt to limit the Uighur population.

Horrifyingly, it’s working. According to recent research by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, the rate of Uighur population growth between 2013 and 2018 fell be 80%.

These camps are a part of the CCP’s project to assimilate all ethnic minorities of China into the dominant Han racial group. The obfuscating arm of the world’s largest communist regime aims to quell civil unrest and homogenise their power across the continually contested Chinese land mass. It is this same project that has led to the brutal suppression of Tibet, Taiwan, and, more recently, Hong Kong.

Raab’s comments indicate that tensions between London and China, lately rising over a host of issues, have come to a head. Britain, which had previously taken a policy of appeasement towards Beijing, has recently locked horns with the CCP over protest suppression and imposition of Chinese rule of law in the supposedly semi-independent state of Hong Kong.

The UK, which previously counted Hong Kong amongst its colonial territories, has promised a path to permanent citizenship in the UK to up to 3 million Hong Kong Chinese. Beijing responded to this with a dire warning that Britain would face ‘consequences’ for interfering in CCP policy.

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Britain also bowed to sustained pressure from Washington and ordered the phased removal of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from its 5G network on Tuesday, despite further warnings from Beijing.

During another Sunday interview, this time on Sky News, Raab stated that he would be addressing the House of Commons this week regarding Hong Kong extradition arrangements, stating that he will ‘be updating the house on the conclusion of that review, along with other things that we’ve been looking at’, hinting at a broader discussion of UK/China relations.

On the Andrew Marr show, Xiaoming urged the UK to be cautious. ‘If the UK goes that for to impose sanctions on any individuals in China [as the US has done], China will certainly make a resolute response to it.’

But it seems that the UK has made up its mind, and its policies toward China will no longer be tepid. Though the actual aim of the administration as it gears up for confrontation with Beijing is likely not as altruistic as Raab would imply, and has as much to do with China’s rising naval power and influence in Africa and the Middle East as with human rights, its teaming up with the US in opposition to the might of the CCP is at least drawing attention to the enduring plight of the Uighurs.

And, with no Dalai Llama to advocate for it, this minority could use all the sympathetic press it can get; indeed, a consumer boycott of Chinese made products may be the only way to make China truly pay attention.