Backbenchers Unhappy With Government’s Weak Measures Announced Against Xinjiang

In an attempt to stave off a brewing backbench rebellion in support of Amendment 9 to the Trade Bill (designed to empower the High Court to revoke bilateral trade agreement with states proved to be committing genocide), the Government have brought forward a raft of measures against the Xinjiang region of China. These are:

  • A fresh review of export controls as they apply to Xinjiang in order to prevent the exports of goods that may contribute to human rights abuses in the region.
  • New guidance for companies setting out the specific risks faced by companies with links to Xinjiang
  • Guidance and support for all UK public bodies to use public procurement rules to exclude suppliers where there is sufficient evidence of human rights violations in supply chains.
  • A Minister led campaign of business engagement to reinforce the need for UK businesses to take action to address the risk.
  • The introduction of financial penalties for organisations who fail to meet their statutory obligations to publish annual modern slavery statements, under the Modern Slavery Act.

Yet these reviews and new guidance have not landed well with those involved in the Trade Bill amendment efforts. There is widespread discontent towards the fact that the measures have side stepped the issue of genocide altogether. In the Commons this afternoon Dominic Raab refused to use the word genocide in response to probing from Lisa Nandy, Layla Moran, Iain Duncan Smith, and Nus Ghani.

The new measures only pertain to forced labour in the region, nothing else. Meaning the Government’s action today has nothing to do with internment in concentration camps, forced organ harvesting, sterilisation, rape, torture, indoctrination and the prohibition of religion. Nothing in these measures will have a concrete effect.

Aside from the review of export controls, the measures focus on strengthening compliance with the modern slavery act. Which sounds impressive, yet in reality is simply a report obligation. To comply, companies just have to produce a modern slavery statement on their website. Nothing more. An annual annoyance that does not even guarantee any due diligence.

Iain Duncan Smith tells Guido that the measures are welcome but disappointing.

“The government has promised for months to use the Magnitsky powers to sanction individuals guilty of abuses in Hong Kong and vitally, repression and systematic destruction of the Uyghur people. Yet there was nothing in this statement about any action. Also it is clear that the Chinese are now guilty of Genocide against the Uyghurs and yet the govt opposes a cross party amendment to get UK courts to rule on charges of genocide.

In the week of commemoration of Holocaust, we need to learn the lesson of the past and act against brutal regimes like the Chinese Communist party.”

If the Government thought these measures would quell backbench unrest they’ve seriously misjudged the mood of the House…

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