UK Parliament Launches Enquiry Into Xinjiang Internment Camps, Questions British Business Ties

Britain’s parliament on Wednesday opened an investigation into British business connections with China’s internment camps and use of forced labor in its Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, vowing to find ways to end British firms’ support of repression in the region, media and other sources said.The enquiry, launched by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, will also look for ways to strengthen atrocity-prevention mechanisms of Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and to support ethnic Uyghurs driven into exile, sources said.The UK move follows calls by the European Union and the U.S. to investigate conditions in Beijing’s sprawling network of camps in the region, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities since April 2017.Washington and others are also taking measures to block imports of suspect goods and to sanction and hold to account Chinese officials responsible for human rights violations in the XUAR.China’s treatment of its mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghur community “utterly abhorrent,” Layla Moran—foreign affairs spokeswoman for Parliament’s Liberal Democrats—said in a Sept. 16 statement, adding that the UK government now has a duty to act and impose sanctions to help stop the abuses.A Sept. 8 letter to China’s ambassador to the UK signed by 135 members of parliament had already signaled British lawmakers’ “extreme concern” over the situation in the XUAR, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since April 2017.China has sought to justify its network of camps as voluntary “vocational centers” despite reporting by RFA which has found that detainees are mostly held against their will in poor conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment and political indoctrination.“The UK has not done nearly enough,” Moran added in a Sept. 15 opinion piece in Britain’s newspaper The Times. “How any [government minister can watch the videos from the Xinjiang camps and decide that a course of relative inaction is beyond me.”“It is time the UK worked to regain our status as a country that defends and promotes human rights internationally,” Moran said.“The mass detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang has horrifying echoes of the 1930s,” said Conservative Party member and investigating committee chair Tom Tugendhat, quoted on Sept. 16 in the Hindustan Times. “There have been similar atrocities since, and each time the world has promised to never allow such violations to happen again.”“And yet, we now have clear, undeniable evidence of the persecution of more than one million people in these so-called re-education camps,” Tugendhat said, adding that his committee will look into ways the government can use to discourage private businesses in Britain from contributing to Beijing’s abuses in Xinjiang.The European Union on Monday called on China to allow independent observers to visit the XUAR to investigate China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, while in Washington the Trump administration announced new customs actions to block imports of Chinese products believed to be produced with forced labor.The Withhold Release Orders, measures intended to prevent goods suspected to have been made with forced labor from entering the United States, targeted three entities from Xinjiang and one from Anhui province in eastern China.Meanwhile, calls are growing in the U.S. for a boycott of Disney’s $200 million live-action film “Mulan,” shot partly in Xinjiang’s ancient Silk Road City of Turpan, with rights groups and others citing the new film’s links to entities responsible for repressing Uyghurs in the XUAR.Reported by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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EU Calls For Xinjiang Observer Mission, as US Targets More Products Over Forced Labor Concerns

The European Union on Monday called on China to allow independent observers to visit the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) to investigate treatment of the Uyghurs, amid growing concerns about the fate of the 1.8 million or more believed have been sent to internment camps. EU’s Council President Charles Michel raised concerns about Xinjiang and Tibet , as well as China’s imposition of national security laws on Hong in a video conference summit with China’s President Xi Jinping, he said in a statement. "We reiterated our concerns over China's treatment of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and the treatment of human rights defenders and journalists," Michel said. "We asked for access for independent observers to Xinjiang and we called for the release of the arbitrarily-detained Swedish citizen Gui Minhai and two Canadian citizens," Michel said after the meeting, which was originally scheduled as an in-person summit with all of the EU’s 27 leaders, but was shifted online due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gui Minhai, a naturalized Swedish citizen, was sentenced in February to 10 years for “illegally providing intelligence overseas” after disappearing from his home in Thailand in 2015, resurfacing in China four months later. Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Korvig have been detained in China since December 2018 on espionage charges believed to be in retaliation for the Canadian government’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, an official for Huawei. Authorities in the XUAR are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of camps since April 2017. Beginning in October 2018, China acknowledged the existence of the camps, but described them as voluntary “vocational centers” set up to combat radical Islamic terrorism. EU sharpens focus on XUAR abuses Reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service which has found that detainees are mostly held against their will and forced to endure inhumane treatment and political indoctrination. The EU, whose previous requests for access to the XUAR for its observers have been denied, has been less vocal in its criticism of the three-year-old Uyghur camp system than the United States, which is locked in a broad political and economic confrontation with China. Last week, however, French President Emmanuel Macron called the repression of the Uyghurs “unacceptable” and vowed to condemn it “in the strongest possible terms” after receiving to a letter expressing concerns over abuses in Xinjiang from a group of around 30 French MPs, according to a report by the news outlet EURACTIV. “All these practices are unacceptable because they run counter to the universal principles enshrined in international human rights conventions, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms,” Macron said, adding that France will “remain fully mobilized on the situation of the Uyghurs.” And in early September, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s five-nation tour of Europe was dogged by criticism of Xinjiang and other issues that have strained Beijing’s ties with Washington. At Wang’s final stop, in Berlin, German counterpart Heiko Maas urged China to allow a UN mission to investigate the internment camps holding Uyghurs in the XUAR. Forced labor suspicions In Washington, the Trump administration announced new customs actions Monday to block imports of Chinese products believed to be produced with forced labor, including cotton, apparel, computer parts, and hair products. The Withhold Release Orders, measures intended to prevent goods suspected to have been made with forced labor from entering the United States, also covered “all products made with labor from the Lop County No. 4 Vocational Skills Education Center in Xinjiang” due to evidence that the facility contracts prison labor to local manufacturers, the Department of Homeland Security said. “By taking this action, DHS is combating illegal and inhumane forced labor, a type of modern slavery, used to make goods that the Chinese government then tries to import into the United States. When China attempts to import these goods into our supply chains, it also disadvantages American workers and businesses,” said acting DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli. “The series of actions CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] has taken against imports from China demonstrates the pervasive use of unethical and inhumane labor conditions in China, and CBP will not turn a blind eye,” said Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner of CBP’s Office of Trade. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that the WROs were the latest example of the United States leading the world “in calling attention to the Chinese Communist Party’s egregious human rights abuses in Xinjiang. “These orders demonstrate that the world will not stand for the PRC’s human rights abuses against Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, which include subjecting individuals to forced labor and stripping them of their freedom and agency to choose how and where they work,” Pompeo said. From Germany, World Uyghur Congress President Dolkun Isa said the new customs measures “will send a strong message to Beijing that China’s continued use of Uyghur forced labor is unacceptable and must stop.” He told RFA’s Uyghur Service that the WUC “urges the European Union, which is holding a summit with China over fair trade, to follow the suit and end China’s treatment of Uyghurs as modern day slaves.” Reporting by Alim Seytoff.

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