Senior MPs from across Parliament have spoken about their horror at the plight of the Chinese Uyghurs and the stark choice facing the international community, at an emergency meeting hosted by the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Speaking ahead of an important vote which will take place in the House of Commons in the coming days, former Conservative Leader Iain Duncan Smith said the Government should not see this issue in terms of party politics but in terms of right and wrong. “We must decide simply whether we think this is such a crime that it now needs to have a court for the first time ever – a domestic court to judge it. Who is going to make that judgement if we don’t start it now? I know that if we do, others will follow suit.”
He added: “If we in the Mother of Parliaments do not speak for those who are benighted and trashed by authorities, then frankly we do not deserve to be in that Mother of Parliaments.”
Sir Iain Duncan Smith was joined by Conservative colleagues Nusrat Ghani and Christian Wakeford, Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, Lord Alton of Liverpool, as well as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat, who told the meeting: “This is an opportunity to make the changes we need to make sure that goods that come from slave states and slave production are stopped long before they get to our borders. This an opportunity for us to make a stand and I hope the Government listens. I’m so glad that the Board of Deputies which has stood up for the rights of minorities all over the world is making this stand again now.“
Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy spoke in strident terms about the situation facing the Uyghurs, saying: “The treatment of the Uyghur Muslims is a scar on the conscience of the world. In June after the chilling interview on Andrew Marr Show, Marie van der Zyl laid out the similarities between what happened in Nazi Germany and what is happening here. It would not be in keeping with the UK’s tradition of standing up to mass atrocities to turn away now.“
She added: “This is not a party political issue. Next week we have an opportunity to stand together against genocide. We must make sure that Britain is part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
The meeting also heard from Rahima Mahmut, spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, who said: “I plead with you to support the amendment. What is happening is not a secret anymore. By telling my story I am putting my loved ones at great risk but this is the least we can do.“
Introducing the event, Board of Deputies Public Affairs Director Phil Rosenberg said: “We have to ask, what choice will Britain and the world make this time? Will we leave the door open to a trade with the perpetrators? Or will we oppose this with every means at our disposal?”
The Board of Deputies, alongside many MPs from all of Westminster’s main political parties, believes that this amendment – which is directly aimed at the treatment of the Uyghurs in China – needs to be passed when it is considered by the House of Commons next week.
President of the Board of Deputies Marie van der Zyl said: “After the Holocaust, the world said ‘never again’. But when 800,000 people were slaughtered in Rwanda by Hutu extremists, the UN barely lifted a finger in response. Following another genocide of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, we heard expressions of dismay by those who had failed them. Today we are at another of these crossroads. Nobody who has watched the news could fail to notice the similarities between what is happening in the People’s Republic of China today and what happened in Nazi Germany 75 years ago.
“We urge the UK Government to listen to the many Conservative MPs who support this amendment. It is not too late to act. Together we can make the Chinese Government very much aware that should they continue in this way, there will be international consequences.”
You can watch a recording of the event here.
Photo: Iain Duncan Smith and Lisa Nandy