Many of you will be fully aware that the Uyghur live mostly in China’s western Xinjiang province and are predominantly Muslim or from a Muslim background. There is evidence that they have lived there for at least several hundred years and possibly even several thousand years.
There have been reports (by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists) of Uyghur being held against their will in “re-education” centres by the Chinese Government – possibly even forced contraception and a range of other restrictions.
There appears to be some evidence that internment of predominantly Muslim ethnic groups may have intensified, in particular, after “Regulations on De-extremification” were adopted in March 2017. I believe strongly in the right to freedom of religion or belief, as a fundamental human right, as laid out by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
There has been a huge number of sensible and productive questions asked on this subject in Parliament to date and my votes are always consistent with my human rights stance.
I supported a parliamentary motion (EDM) tabled my colleague which mentioned the Uyghurs late last year and include it here:
That this House draws attention to Islamophobia in the UK and worldwide; supports Islamophobia Awareness Month; draws attention to the fact that Rohingya Muslims have been driven out of Myanmar and now seek refuge in Bangladesh; that two mosques were simultaneously attacked in New Zealand in 2019; that Uyghur Muslims are being persecuted in Xinjiang, China; that German Muslims were killed in a far right attack in February 2020; that two women were stabbed in a racially-aggravated attack in Paris in October 2020, in a country that in 2010 banned the wearing of niqab in public spaces; recognises that Islamophobia is prevalent in the UK, with year on year figures for racially or religiously aggravated hate crimes rising by 34 per cent in June 2020; that the UK Government’s Prevent programme is viewed by many to foster discrimination against Muslims; recognises that these incidents together illustrate the global nature of Islamophobia, and are only the most high profile examples of it; believes that the Government must stand up to Islamophobia in the UK and abroad; that it must support those countries and groups that are victims of racism; that it must seek to diversify curriculums in our schools to reflect the lived experience of all pupils, in order to combat racism at as early a stage as is possible; and calls on the Government to investigate the cause of rising hate crime, in order to instigate new policy to tackle it.
I have also raised the subject on a number of occasions both in parliament and on social media. Here is just one reference from a parliamentary contribution to a statement that was made in parliament last month (22nd March):
I thank the Foreign Secretary for his statement. I am glad that this Government and others are now taking seriously the treatment of Uyghur people and the violation of their human rights. Will he tell us what action is being taken over the historic profits made by British companies from manufacturing in that part of China? By the same token, will he undertake that the UN requests about the treatment of those being discriminated against—such as the Dalit peoples in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh—will also be included in the advice given to British companies, so that we do not profit from the abuse of human rights in any country around the world? If we do, we put ourselves in further violation of the universal declaration of human rights.
I stood on a manifesto arguing that progressive values should be at the heart of our foreign policy, with a focus on conflict prevention and resolution, human rights and strengthening the rule of international law.
Let there be no question of my remaining active on this and all issues causing suffering to people both within the UK and around the world.