January 15 / 2020
The London-based international human rights group, Lawyers for Uyghur Rights, deeply concerned about the abuse and unlawful detention of vast swathes of the Uyghur population of North West China, has circulated an urgent letter to every politician and association linked with the Conservative Party, urging them to support a key amendment to the Trade Bill to be debated on January 19th 2021.
The Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill, a House of Lords cross-party initiative is designed to prevent the United Kingdom from signing preferential bilateral trade deals with states committing genocide. Tabled by Conservative peer Lord Forsyth, cross bench peer Lord Alton, and Baroness Kennedy the motion is being sponsored in the Commons by Conservative MP, Nus Ghani and Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP.
Marie van der Zyl, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, drawing parallels between the holocaust and present day atrocities against Uyghurs and the Turkic people of North West China, is a prominent advocate of the Amendment. She is quoted in the letter as saying, "We are not willing to stand aside and do nothing as millions of people are herded into concentration camps. As people, stigmatised for their ethnicity and religion, are made to do forced labour. As women are forcibly sterilised. As children are removed from their parents. We have seen this before,” she says. “We know exactly where it can lead."
She urges the UK Government to listen to the many Conservative MPs who support the amendment. "It is not too late to act. Together we can make the Chinese Government very much aware that should they continue in this way, there will be international consequences.”
In addition to Trade Secretary Liz Truss MP, Supreme Court Justice, Lord Hope of Craighead is among other eminent Conservatives supporting the Amendment. "By attaching this amendment to the Trade Bill, it will be ensured that there will be no lucrative trade deals for perpetrators of genocide," he said.
Michael Polak, director of LfUR, explains that the Amendment would also allow UK courts themselves to determine whether genocide is taking place. This would obviate the need to rely on the United Nations Security Council which is currently ham strung by Russia and China exercising their veto powers to curb the investigation and prevention of genocide.
"This Amendment is of great importance as the United Kingdom prepares to set out its path and values internationally following its departure from the European Union," he says. "The passing of this Amendment will send a strong message to the world about the type of country we are and what we stand for."
He reminds MP's of the crucial timing of this Amendment for the United Kingdom after leaving the European Union, “to establish itself as a supporter of international law and those subject to the horrific crime of genocide."