Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl has urged MPs to help secure the return of Lord Alton’s amendment to the House of Commons, rather than an alternative which “will offer no support to the Uyghurs”.
In a column for the Times Red Box, Marie noted that the Alton Amendment, which was narrowly defeated in the Commons in January, was due to return to the House of Commons today in revised form, after having been backed by the House of Lords. However, rather than the Commons now being able to vote on the Alton Amendment, today they will be given a vote on an alternative, the Neill Amendment. If the Neill Amendment passes, this automatically means that MPs will not be given a vote on the Alton Amendment.
Marie warned that the Neill Amendment “will offer no support to the Uyghurs”, pointing out that it has been drafted only to apply to countries with whom there is to be a Free Trade Agreement and that the Government has repeatedly said it is not seeking a Free Trade Agreement with China. It is for this exact reason that Hundreds of Uyghur survivors of Chinese concentration camps have written to Sir Bob Neill, the author of the Neill amendment, urging him to withdraw his alternative amendment.
Additionally, Marie noted that while successive Governments have insisted that genocide determination is a matter for the courts, the Neill amendment “makes no reference to any judicial element at all”. She also pointed out that the Neill Amendment’s “loose wording around the applicability to ‘the territory’ of countries and the possible inclusion of non-state actors could lead to unintended consequences and vexatious claims. For example, if a terror group carries out attacks within the territory of a country which it is at war with, this amendment could, quite bizarrely, be used against that country’s Government.”
Marie therefore urged all MPs “to back the revised Alton Amendment. It is vital that the Uyghur people, through its international representatives, the World Uyghur Congress, are given the tools to prevent what is increasingly being described as a genocide.”
Marie also reflected on the upcoming Jewish festival of Passover, which commemorates “how our ancestors, brutally imprisoned by one of the superpowers of the ancient world, were rescued from their terrible predicament.”
She said that the world “stands by while millions of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, China, have been imprisoned in concentration camps. Many thousands have been forced into slave labour. Terrible accounts have emerged of systemic rape, sexual abuse and torture. Thousands of children have been separated from their parents. Uyghur women are being sterilised.
“The Jewish community takes the plight of the Uyghur people extremely seriously. We do not feel we can stand by while millions of men, women and children are being tortured and enslaved.
“For we were slaves in the land of Egypt. And we will continue to stand up for the Uyghur people until one day, G-d willing in the near future, they are freed.”
The full article can be read here – https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/mps-must-do-the-right-thing-for-uighurs-xm0cm6xxq