British lawmakers on Thursday approved a parliamentary motion declaring that China’s policies against Xinjiang’s Uighur minority amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity.
The motion is nonbinding and does not compel the British government to act.
However, it is another move signaling the growing outcry among British officials over alleged human rights abuses in China.
The motion was moved by British lawmaker Nus Ghani, one of five members of parliament sanctioned by China for criticizing its treatment of Uighurs.
“There is a misunderstanding that genocide is just one act — mass killing. That is false,” she said, adding that all the criteria of genocide — an intention to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group — “are evidenced as taking place in Xinjiang.”
The US government and the parliaments of Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada have accused Beijing of genocide, although Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been reluctant to use the term.
More than 1 million people have been confined to camps in Xinjiang, according to foreign governments.
Authorities there are accused of imposing forced labor, systematic forced birth control and torture in mass internment camps.
The Chinese government has strongly rejected complaints of abuses, and says that the camps are for job training to support economic development and to combat Islamic radicalism.
Beijing yesterday said that Britain should “immediately right its wrong moves,” referring to the parliamentary motion.
“The unwarranted accusation by a handful of British MPs [members of parliament] that there is ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is the most preposterous lie of the century, an outrageous insult and affront to the Chinese people, and a gross breach of international law and the basic norms governing international relations,” the Chinese embassy in London said in a statement.
“China strongly opposes the UK’s blatant interference in China’s internal affairs,” the embassy said.
The Chinese government is pressing foreign clothing brands to reverse decisions to stop using cotton from Xinjiang due to reports of possible forced labor there.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced increasing pressure from within his own government to take a tougher stance against Beijing.
Lawmakers have tried to push through a bill aiming to give the British High Court the right to decide whether a country is committing genocide — and ultimately block trade deals — but the moves were defeated by the government.
Johnson has warned against a “cold war mentality” toward China.
Britain, alongside the EU, Canada and the US, last month launched coordinated sanctions against a handful of officials in China over the Uighur issue, provoking swift retaliation from Beijing.
British Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Dominic Raab said that the measures were part of “intensive diplomacy” to force action amid mounting evidence about serious rights abuses against Uighurs.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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