“The Persecution of the Uighur Muslims in China – Where to Go From Now?” Webinar organised by the All Party Group on Uighurs and the Coalition for Genocide Response. Remarks by David Alton

Nov 16, 2020 | Uncategorized

“The Persecution of the Uighur Muslims in China – Where to Go From Now?

It’s a great pleasure to join you for this webinar today – and I would like to begin by thanking Ewelina Ochab and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Uyghurs – of which I am a Vice Chairman – and the Coalition for Genocide Response – of which I am a Patron – for bringing us together this afternoon for this webinar entitled  
The Persecution of the Uighur Muslims in China – Where to Go From Now?”

In Parliament I first raised the plight of the Uighurs as long ago as January 2008 and have done so on 34 occasions – through speeches and questions in parliament since then.

In 2009, one year after I first asked the Government to consider what was happening to the Uighurs, I travelled to Western China and Tibet.

During my visit I went to the Great Mosque of Xining, the Dongguan Masjid Mosque, dating from the 14th century.  It is one the four largest mosques in Northwest China and is the largest and most important mosque in Qinghai Province. Enlarged in 1946 it serves as a reminder of the religious pluralism, which existed  within China before the coming of Chinese Communism.

I do not know what has happened to that beautiful building but on a recent trip to the Nan guan Mosque in Yin chuan, the United Kingdom’s deputy head of mission in China, Christina Scott, in a tweet, deplored the changes to the religious building, saying :. “Domes, minarets, everything gone. Of course, no visitors are allowed either. So depressing.”

But buildings are the least of it.

Over recent months, we have been seeing  report after  report shedding light on new evidence of the atrocities perpetrated against the Uyghurs.

Each piece of evidence adds to the argument that the atrocities amount to international crimes, and highly likely, genocide, although the determination of the atrocities is yet to be made. 

Her Majesty’s Government will not make such a determination because, it insists that such a determination should be made by international judicial bodies, although such international judicial bodies may not always be in a position or willing to do so. 

Because of the failure of the Government to determine genocide and hold to account those responsible for such mass atrocities, over recent years, I have been working on several legislative initiatives to address the situation. 

Among others, my proposed Genocide Determination Bill would invest the High Court of England and Wales—not politicians—with the power to make a preliminary finding on cases of alleged genocide and subsequently refer such findings to the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal.

The proposal responds to the argument of  the Government that the determination of genocide should be made by a competent court—the competent court here is the High Court, not an international court—and recognises that under the genocide convention it is the duty of the State, not international institutions, to act. The Bill is still at very early stages of the legislative processes. 

More recently, I tabled an amendment to the Trade Bill mirroring the Genocide Determination Bill and proposing a mechanism for the interim determination to prevent the Government becoming complicit in such atrocities by doing business with states standing accused of genocide.

The purpose of this amendment is to nullify trade arrangements made under this Bill if the High Court of England makes a preliminary determination that they should be revoked on the ground that the proposed trade partner has perpetrated Genocide.

Only this weekend Byline Times reported on a question which I asked about PPE made in slave labour camps and bought by the UK. Details are on my web site.

It’s one of the reasons why is this amendment is needed- but there are others.

Not having a mechanism or procedure for genocide determination in place means not only that the UK Government is not able to tailor its foreign policy accordingly, but also that the UK is, by default, in breach of its international obligations under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention).

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in its judgment in Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro clarifies that the duty to prevent is a conduct-oriented, not a result-oriented, duty. As such, ‘a State cannot be under an obligation to succeed, whatever the circumstances, in preventing the commission of genocide: the obligation of States parties is rather to employ all means reasonably available to them, to prevent genocide so far as possible.’ 

Genocide determination should not be confused or conflated with the determination of such atrocities by courts for criminal prosecutions of individuals involved.

The analysis and determination discussed here concern the interim determination made by states to inform their responses only and not to determine the criminal liability of an individual.

The Genocide Convention does not make it clear that state parties should conduct their own genocide determination. However, the fact that, according to the ICJ, the duty to prevent is triggered when the state ‘learns of, or should normally have learned of, the existence of a serious risk that genocide will be committed’ ultimately means that the state should have effective monitoring and determination mechanisms in place.

Furthermore, the reliance on the international judicial bodies neglects the issue that often there are no bodies able to engage with the question. The UN-established investigative mechanisms, ad-hoc tribunals and the ICC are the main international bodies most relevant to the question of determination of genocide.

Historically, the UN Security Council, despite being reluctant to deal with the question of genocide, has undertaken steps to ensure that such a determination is made.

In the case of the mass atrocities in Bosnia and Rwanda, the UN Security Council established commissions of experts to examine and analyse the evidence and confirm whether the atrocities amount to genocide. Once the committees of experts confirmed their findings, the UN Security Council then proceeded to establish ad hoc tribunals to deal with prosecutions of the perpetrators. 

But can you imagine them doing that in the case of the Uighurs – given that China has a right of veto?.

The determination and recognition of mass atrocities for what they are is not a matter of good practice only; it derives from states’ international law duties and is conductive of the duties to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.

Indeed, Gregory H. Stanton, former Research Professor in Genocide Studies and Prevention at George Mason University, conducted a study on the perception and effects of using the words ‘ethnic cleansing’ or ‘genocide’ (Stanton, 2015). His research convincingly notes that recognising mass atrocities that meet the legal definition of genocide as genocide has resulted in a more comprehensive response, including to stop the atrocities. Referring to such crimes as ‘ethnic cleansing’ did not have the same effect. As such, empirical reality suggests that there is a difference in the way different international crimes are being addressed by states. 

The mechanism for genocide determination, whether by way of the Genocide Determination Bill or the genocide amendment to the Trade Bill, would equip the British Government with a mechanism to trigger more comprehensive response to mass atrocities than is currently available. Understandably, the determination per se does not mean action. However, without this determination, there will be no action to stop the atrocities.

Interventions in the House of Lords by David Alton – raising the plight of the Uighurs.

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/search/?q=Uighur&pid=13103

Written Answers — Home Office: China: Uighurs (28 Oct 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Williams of Trafford on 14 October (HL8617), what prosecutions for breaches of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, in connection with Uighur slave labour, are either under way or being prepared; what assessment they have made of the United States’ Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act; and what plans, if any, they have to introduce…

Written Answers — Home Office: China: Uighurs (14 Oct 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …(HL Deb, cols GC49), whether they are examining supply chains that may be connected to the use of slave labour in Xinjiang; and what prosecutions for breaches of that Act, in connection with Uighur slave labour,  are either under way or being prepared.

Trade Bill – Committee (5th Day): Amendment 68 (13 Oct 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …of another place for their supportive, bipartisan references to the amendment in their recent Westminster Hall debate entitled “China: Labour Programme in Tibet” and yesterday’s debate on Uighurs. The former leader of the Conservative Party, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, told the House that “should such a new clause come to the Commons, I will absolutely support it”.—[ Official…

Written Answers — Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office: China: Uighurs (2 Oct 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …Ahmad of Wimbledon on 21 September (HL8043 and HL8044), what action they have taken at (1) the UN General Assembly, and (2) the UN Human Rights Council, to address human rights violations against Uighur Muslims in China; and what assessment they have made of the impact of the government of China’s use of veto powers at the UN Security Council on the way in which they conduct their…

Written Answers — Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office: China: Uighurs (2 Oct 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports (1) that Uighur Muslim women have been subjected to forced abortions and womb removals, (2) that Uighur children are being separated from their parents and placed in orphanages, and (3) of the treatment of those children in such orphanages, in China.

China: Uighur Internment Camps – Question (23 Sep 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I should mention I am vice-chairman of the all-party group on the Uighurs. In the light of the near impossibility of arriving at a legal determination of alleged genocide or crimes against humanity in the Uyghur region, which Ministers in the other place have acknowledged, will the Minister join me in welcoming the new initiative of Sir Geoffrey Nice QC in setting up the Uighur…

Trade Bill – Second Reading (8 Sep 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …rights? In 2015, the UK enacted the Modern Slavery Act; yet over recent months, we have seen reports suggesting that many UK-based and UK trading brands are benefiting from the forced labour of Uighur Muslim communities in China. A recent report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimates that some 80,000 Uighurs are working in factories in the supply chains of at least 82…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: China: Uighurs (3 Aug 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to seek international support for a full and impartial investigation into the detention of Uighur Muslims in camps in Xinjiang.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: China: Uighurs (3 Aug 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they last discussed the detention of Uighur Muslims in camps in Xinjiang with the Ambassador of China to the UK; and what response they received to any such discussions.

Written Answers — Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Huawei (3 Aug 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made in establishing how BT verify Huawei’s denials of (1) the use of slave labour, and (2) the use of Huawei technology in oppressing Uighur people.

Telecommunications Legislation: Human Rights – Question (21 Jul 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, has the Minister had the opportunity to watch the video recording I sent her last Wednesday, which appears to show shackled and blindfolded Uighur Muslims in China being led from trains to camps? The Board of Deputies of British Jews has stated: “The World will neither forgive nor forget a genocide against the Uighur people.” The Foreign Secretary has said that this is,…

Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill – Report: Amendment 5 (29 Jun 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …Lady Falkner of Margravine. Their advice and that of Luke de Pulford, the founder of both the anti-slavery charity Arise and the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, whose work in defence of the Uighur people has been outstanding, has been invaluable. I greatly appreciate the encouragement of all noble Lords who have indicated their support for this amendment, some of whom we will hear…

Hong Kong: Human Rights – Question for Short Debate (4 Jun 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …collaborated in the destruction of Hong Kong’s freedoms? What sanctions will await collaborators, including UK banks such as HSBC, for aiding and abetting those who, having incarcerated 1 million Uighur Muslims, now threaten Hong Kong? How does the Minister respond to Jeremy Hunt’s warning today that, following Hong Kong, democratic Taiwan will be next, and subjected to China’s…

Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill – Virtual Committee (1st Day): Amendment 9 (19 May 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, will be excluded from being beneficiaries of the provisions of this legislation. In this context, I should mention that I am a vice-chairman of the APPG on Uighurs and human rights in Xinjiang and that, on 15 occasions since 2018, I have raised in your Lordships’ House the plight of the Uighurs: their incarceration, forced re-education and use as slave…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: China: Biometrics (31 Mar 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of China about the reported (1) use of facial recognition technology in Xinjian to monitor Uighur Muslims resulting in human rights violations, and (2) mistreatment by the Hong Kong police force of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong; what assessment they have made of the impact of any development of…

Written Answers — Home Office: China: Uighurs (23 Mar 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to reports that Uighur detainees in Xinjiang are being used as forced labour, what assessment they have made of Huawei’s compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2015; what consideration they have given to such compliance in regard to their decision to award contracts to Huawei; how they (1) assess, and (2) investigate, such reports; and what…

Organ Trafficking: Sanctions – Question (2 Mar 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …carried out by one of the Sunday newspapers published yesterday, which I have also sent him and which detail these horrendous crimes committed against both Falun Gong practitioners and Uighur Muslims?

UK Telecommunications – Statement (28 Jan 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …with the Secretary of State, and I wonder what consideration has been given to the anti-slavery academics who describe what is happening in Xinjiang—where, as we have heard, probably 1 million Uighur Muslims are incarcerated and where Huawei is a key player—as the world’s worst incidence of state-sponsored slavery. What due diligence will be done on Huawei to ensure compliance with…

Huawei: UK’s 5G Network – Statement (27 Jan 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …in your Lordships’ House on two occasions last week about human rights concerns and the surveillance technology that has been developed by Huawei in places such as Xinjiang, where over 1 million Uighur Muslims have been incarcerated? Will she cast her mind back to ask this question: would we in former times have made this kind of deal and opened up our technology, our security and the…

Sanctions – Question (23 Jan 2020)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, on Monday last the Minister, in answer to his noble friend Lady Warsi, gave a welcome response in the context of the Uighur Muslims, 1 million of whom are incarcerated in Xinjiang in western China. He said that sanctions would be examined in that context. Can he give us some idea of when Magnitsky-style powers might be used in those circumstances? Would he consider holding a…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: China: Surveillance (21 Aug 2019)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that UK investors hold shares totalling £800 million in companies that supply CCTV and facial-recognition technology used to track Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Hong Kong – Statement (23 Jul 2019)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …protesters with iron bars, should Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian regime not understand that the answer to its fears about separatism is to be found in the free air of Hong Kong, not in the Uighur re-education camps of Xinjiang, and that a prosperous, harmonious and stable future for China will never be served by the use of violence?

Religious Persecution – Motion to Take Note (11 Jul 2019)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …what the Burmese military had done in Karen state. In 2000, it was the Christian Karen. Today it is the Muslim Rohingya and Christian Kachin. From Burma to North Korea and Darfur, from China’s Uighur Muslims to Nigeria’s beleaguered Christians, from Pakistan’s Hindu, Christian, Ahmadi and Kalash minorities to Syria and Iraq’s Yazidis and Christians, the story is the same. Ignore…

UK Foreign Policy in a Shifting World Order (International Relations Committee Report) – Motion to Take Note (21 May 2019)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …one’s red lines are and be firm about adhering to them, because one’s Chinese counterpart expects that”. One glaring example is that of the mass detention of over 1 million people in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Normal life for Muslims has become impossible. An excellent briefing by CSW describes what it calls the, “already critical level of fear … Disappearances can happen…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: China: Ethnic Groups (25 Feb 2019)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had, if any, with other governments about the potential to make joint representations to the government of China on the treatment of the Uighur population.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: China: Religious Freedom (25 Feb 2019)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the treatment of different religious groups by the government of China, including the treatment of Uighur Muslims, Christians, Falun Gong and Tibetan Buddhists; and what assessment they have made of whether the treatment of those groups is part of a wider effort by the government of China to suppress religious groups.

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: China: Human Rights (25 Feb 2019)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that Uighur Muslims detained in China have undergone unwanted blood, tissue and DNA tests; what they believe to be the purpose of any such tests; and whether there is evidence of state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting religious prisoners of conscience, including Uighur Muslims.

China: Uighur Muslims – Question (11 Feb 2019)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, in the aftermath of the death in detention of the Uighur poet and musician, Abdurehim Heyit, how does the Minister respond to the Turkish Foreign Ministry—referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia—calling on China to close the camps, alleging, in its words, “torture and brainwashing” and calling them “a shame on humanity”? Can we expect to see the United Kingdom…

China: Uighur Muslims – Question (19 Dec 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to raise (1) with the government of China, and (2) in international fora, the treatment and conditions of Uighur people held in “re-education” camps in China.

China: Uighur Muslims – Question (19 Dec 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, having met Uighurs in western China, I thank the Minister for that very robust reply. Reports suggest that up to 1 million Uighurs have been incarcerated without trial in a network of sinister re-education camps: these are bristling with barbed wire and watchtowers, with torture and brainwashing that demands renouncing god and embracing Communism. People are forced to change family…

Written Answers — Foreign and Commonwealth Office: China: Human Rights (23 Oct 2018)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of alleged human rights violations against China’s Uighur population and of reports that up to one million Uighur have been sent to re-education camps; and what representations they have made to the government of China on these issues.

Human Rights — Motion to Take Note (21 Nov 2013)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …of the Ahmadiyya Muslim communities in Pakistan and Indonesia to the plight of the Baha’is in Iran and Egypt; from the Rohingyas and other Muslims in Burma to Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims in China, and of course Christians in these countries as well as in countries as diverse as Egypt, Syria, Nigeria, Sudan, India, Eritrea and Cuba. But I stress that it is not only…

China: Human Rights (10 Jan 2008)

Lord Alton of Liverpool: …in the talks between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese authorities? There are over 100 million self-described Buddhists in China. They have been shown little tolerance. Nor have the Uighur Muslims, the Falun Gong or Christians. The Institute on Religion and Public Policy—I serve in an unpaid capacity on its board of advisers—details the harvesting of organs of Falun Gong…


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