MPs have been denied the chance to vote on giving British courts the power to assess whether China is committing genocide against the Uighur. If the vote had been successful, the court could judge claims of genocide and the government would be obliged to act. The vote had been passed by the House of Lords with a majority of 129.
As a ‘compromise’, the government proposed a new amendment that would give more power to select committees to consider genocide cases.
The government amendment prevented MPs from voting on whether the court would hear genocide cases on Tuesday. Currently, the government will not use the term genocide unless it is concluded in a judicial setting. The ‘genocide vote’ proposed by rebel MPs and passed by the House of Lords was intended to make the persecution of Uighur considered by a court of law.
Before the promising amendment vote, a formal independent opinion published a report confirming a ‘very credible case’ that the Chinese government is committing genocide. The report could be used as a basis for legal action, yet the government avoided action and side-stepped the vote on the ‘rebel’ amendment.
Johnson’s official spokesman explained that ‘[the rebel] amendment could embroil the courts in the formulation of trade policy and conduct of international relations and risks undermining the separation of powers.’ The statement sounds too much like a deliberate ignorance of human right atrocities in favour of good trade. When genocide is clearly taking place, the powers should be combining to prevent such an atrocity – it certainly should not be ‘separating’ powers from sanctioning a genocidal country. The government’s block of the Commons vote marks a gross power manipulation against the UK’s responsibility to uphold human rights.
Nusrat Ghani, Conservative MP and a key supporter of the ‘rebellion’ genocide amendment, said that the government’s amendment compromise was ‘meaningless’ because select committees can already prepare reports on genocide and the government have no obligation to act on their findings.
The Holocaust Memorial Day was just a fortnight ago and the UK has consistently promised that those atrocities will never be repeated. Yet atrocities are happening right now and the government’s prevention of a House of Commons Vote signals a gross failure to act. The evidence that China is committing genocide is certain and the UK must do more to stop it.
Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh tweeted a letter that she received from the Minister of State for Asia, Nigel Adams, in which he acknowledges the expansive existence of internment camps. The letter claims ‘concern’ for China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslims 6 times. The word is non-committal – it is a deliberate downplaying of ample evidence of genocide. Nigel Adams even acknowledges the ‘human rights violations’ yet proposes more research rather than action.
The UK government has consistently failed to act in a hopeless charade of weak claims of ‘concern.’ Last month, Dominic Raab announced that British companies doing business in China must show that their supply chains do not use forced labour or they would be fined. However, a month on, there are still no details on the size or scale of these fines. Raab also announced that UK firms above a certain size must prove that they are trying to avoid using slavery in their supply chains. Yet again, there are still no penalties for using slavery. Although Raab’s moves are welcomed, there should be more tangible and concrete sanctions to pressure the Chinese government to end their brutal genocide against the Uighur population.
So far, the government’s response to the persecution of the Uighurs is hopelessly lacking in concrete measures as they consistently refuse to assert control and sanction China.
The US State Department under Trump has already led the way by declaring that the Chinese government is committing genocide. Mike Pompeo, the previous US secretary of state, called for all judicial bodies to support the US in indicting China. The UK government has the opportunity to join the US in rightly declaring genocide but it is instead settling for wishy-washy measures in a half-hearted show of caring about human rights violations.
While the Brexit Leave Campaign constantly chanted about the opportunity for ‘taking back control’, the UK’s (arguably) new powers to control trade and its courts provide an excellent opportunity for the UK to stand up against genocide. But by preventing MPs from voting on the British courts’ ability to assess genocide claims, the government fail in their assertions of being a strong, independent nation. MPs must be given an opportunity to vote on the amendment for the country to stand up against genocide.
Image: futureatlas.com on creativecommons