Lawyers for Uyghur Rights Responds to UK Huawei Ban

Press release: 15 July 2020

Uyghur activists pushing for Huawei to be banned from the UK's 5G network have welcomed the Government's decision to say no to the Chinese telecom giant, but are dismayed that human rights were not given as the reason for the Government’s U-turn on the table.

Following the announcement in the House of Commons yesterday, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said it was “absolutely right to raise the issue of human rights abuses”, but would not confirm that violations of human rights played a part in the decision. Mr Dowden did say that the government considered “wider relations with and responses to China” when making the decision.

The Government’s edict yesterday means that all Huawei equipment must be removed from the network by 2027, however Uyghur campaigner Rahima Mahmut is disappointed that UK policy makers are not willing to confront the company with its role in the crushing and exploitation of her people in China's north west Xinjiang province.

“Although I welcome the cancellation of the deal," she said following the announcement, "I am disappointed that the Government did not also cite Huawei's use of Uyghur slave labour in its factories and supply chain, and spotlight the company's critical role in the ongoing Uyghur genocide." 

She called for a clearer message to Huawei that its complicity in the surveillance regime underpinning the arrest, interrogation and incarceration of more than 1 million Turkic people in internment camps, would not be tolerated by the civilized world.

Despite this week's significant reversal of a January ruling which would have given Huawei a limited role in non-core areas of the UK 5G network, Michael Polak, director of Lawyers for Uyghur Rights, regretted that the judgement did not go far enough. 

As the barrister instructed by London lawyers, Irwin Mitchell, to represent the Uyghur activists, Rahima Mahmut and Enver Tohti Bughda in the case against Huawei, Michael Polak welcomed the turn around. "Given that there is strong evidence which we have presented to the UK’s telecoms companies which indicates that Huawei is deeply implicated in the ongoing surveillance, repression and persecution of the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim communities, the onus is now on them to follow their own human rights and anti-slavery policies and agree to stop stocking Huawei products or using their infrastructure." 

He also hoped there would be an international ripple effect from this week's judgement. "We hope that countries which are currently considering allowing Huawei to provide 5G infrastructure such as Canada and Italy will take into account the evidence of Huawei’s role in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and the crimes against humanity which are taking place there against the Uyghur and other Turkic people," he added.

Oliver Carter, specialist human rights lawyer at Irwin Mitchell said: “The decision to allow Huawei to be involved in the UK’s 5G network caused a lot of anger and upset for many. Security issues and human rights issues were among the concerns. It is important that governments and companies meet their human rights obligations when conducting business transactions."

Aris Georgopoulos Asst Professor of European and Public Law at the University of Nottingham and Co-Lead of Research Unit on Public Procurement, Human Rights and Social Sustainability, PPRG who has been part of the legal team on this matter said:

"The exploitation of Uyghur forced labour in Huawei's supply chain is the elephant in the room. The Government must face up to this reality. The 5G project is aimed at catapulting the UK into the 21st century. Such a flagship project cannot be tainted by let alone tolerate exploitation of forced labour in its supply chain"

LfUR has written to each of the major UK telecom providers requesting that they abide by their own human rights anti-slavery policies and respond by 20 July 2020 as to how they can possibly continue to do business with Huawei given the evidence put before them. 

“While phone companies have until 2027 to remove this equipment we would urge them to treat this with the highest urgency and remove equipment well ahead of this date if possible,” said Mr Carter. “We await their replies.”

Media Requests 

We are happy to accommodate any media requests. To arrange please email or call Michael Polak on 0741 519 1591

Notes to Editors 

Lawyer for Uyghur Rights, is a group made up of barristers, solicitors, paralegals, academics, and students who are working together to develop strategies to combat the mass oppression and atrocities being carried of the Uyghur people and other Turkic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (East Turkestan) The organisation is chaired by Michael Polak. 

Michael Polak is a barrister practising in both international and domestic human rights law as well as criminal law defence. He practises from Church Court Chambers in London and is a Director of Justice Abroad ( He is chair of Lawyer for Uyghur Rights and works closely with the World Uyghur Congress and the Uyghur community. 

Oliver Carter is a solicitor in the Public Law & Human Rights team at Irwin Mitchell, specialising in judicial review, health and social care, inquests and actions against the police. In July 2019, he received a Legal Aid Practitioners Group Special Award for making an exceptional contribution to legal aid and access to justice at the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards.

Dr Aris Georgopoulos is Assistant Professor in European and Public Law at the School of Law, University of Nottingham and Head of the Research Unit for Stra-tegic and Defence Procurement of the Public Procure¬ment Research Group (PPRG). He has been a Global Governance Fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS) of the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, and a Grotius Fel¬low at the Law School of the University of Michigan and has acted as expert advisor to national authorities, international organisations and institutions (such as the OECD, the World Bank, the European Central Bank, The European Court of Auditors and USAID) 


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