Muslims hold placards during a protest against the Chinese government's policies on Muslim Uighur minorities, in Mumbai on December 10, 2020. (Photo by Indranil MUKHERJEE / AFP) (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

UK cracks down on Chinese imports over Uyghur Muslim rights violations

The UK government on Tuesday (12) announced sanctions on sourcing from Chinese businesses in retaliation of the “harrowing” human rights violations being perpetrated in the Xinjiang province of the country against the Uyghur Muslim minority.

UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said in a House of Commons statement that the United Nations (UN) should be allowed access to the region to review the reports of abuse and meanwhile Britain plans to increase diplomatic pressure on China to stop and to remedy its actions.

“Xinjiang’s position in the international supply chain network means that there is a real risk of businesses and public bodies around the world – whether it’s inadvertently or otherwise – sourcing from suppliers which are complicit in the use of forced labour,” Raab said.

“We must take action, to make sure that UK businesses are not part of the supply chains that lead to the gates of the internment camps in Xinjiang.

“And to make sure that the products of the human rights violations that take place in those camps don’t end up on the shelves of supermarkets that we shop in here at home, week in week out. We have already engaged with businesses with links to Xinjiang, we’ve encouraged them to conduct appropriate due diligence,” he said.

As part of the crackdown, the minister said his own Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) department and the Department of International Trade (DIT) have issued new, “robust and detailed guidance” to UK businesses on the specific risks faced by companies with links to Xinjiang and underlining the challenges of conducting effective due diligence there.

It includes strengthening the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, with the Home Office set to introduce fines for businesses that do not comply with their transparency obligations.

“The government will conduct an urgent review of export controls as they apply specifically geographically to the situation in Xinjiang, to make sure that we are doing everything that we can to prevent the export of any goods that could directly or indirectly contribute to human rights violations in that region,” Raab added.

The minister censured China over its “point-blank” refusal to allow the access to Xinjiang required to verify the truth of the matter as he condemned the “truly horrific” reports of rights violations emanating from the country.

“China cannot simply refuse all access to those trusted third party bodies who could verify the facts, and at the same time, maintain a position of credible denial,” he noted.

China denies allegations of human rights violations in its Xinjiang province.


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