Government sees off Tory rebellion to defeat ‘genocide amendment’

Lords proposal targeted at Chinese treatment of Uighur Muslims overturned by 18 votes

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 22 March 2021 20:56 GMT
The gate of what is officially described as a skills centre in Xinjiang’s Uighur region
The gate of what is officially described as a skills centre in Xinjiang’s Uighur region (REUTERS)

The government tonight saw off a backbench Tory revolt to defeat measures which would have blocked trade deals with any country guilty of genocide.

The vote came after the House of Lords three times passed amendments targeted at preventing a deal with China while it remains under accusation of committing genocide against the Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang province.

The so-called “genocide amendment” to the government’s Trade Bill was defeated by 318 votes to 300 in the House of Commons, despite passionate speeches in its favour from Tory MPs.

Some 29 Conservative MPs rebelled including former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, ex-party leader Iain Duncan Smith and former Brexit secretary David Davis.

The amendment would have created a parliamentary judicial committee to make independent assessments of whether allegations of genocide are substantiated.

Mr Duncan Smith told the Commons that the proposal gave MPs a chance “to send a message … that we simply won’t put up with this, we’re not frightened of finding that this is genocide and we’re not frightened of saying it from the steeple-tops”. 

Shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry urged MPs to “vote with their conscience”,.

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Ms Thornberry asked: “Should Britain be willing to sign trade deals with governments which are engaging in torture, mass detention, slave labour, organ harvesting and non-judicial executions – not on an isolated basis, but on an industrial scale against the Uighur population in Xinjiang?

“Should Britain be willing to sign trade deals with a government which is separating hundreds of thousands of children from their parents and re-educating them in different languages, religion and history in an attempt to wipe the Uighur culture off the Chinese map?”

But trade minister Greg Hands said that the parliamentary judicial committee would “destabilise the balance of powers between parliament and judiciary, whilst not actually helping those suffering at the hands of the Chinese authorities”.

The vote came after foreign secretary Dominic Raab announced that the UK, US, Canada and EU have slapped sanctions on Chinese officials deemed to be responsible for appalling human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Mr Raab announced a package of travel bans and asset freezes against four senior officials and the state-run Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau (XPCC PSB).

The foreign secretary said the abuse of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang was “one of the worst human rights crises of our time” and the international community “cannot simply look the other way”.

- Tory rebels were: Adam Afriyie, David Amess, Bob Blackman, Crispin Blunt, Peter Bone, Andrew Bridgen, Rehman Chishti, Christopher Chope, David Davis, Richard Drax, Iain Duncan Smith, Mark Francois, Nusrat Ghani, Sally-Ann Hart, Philip Hollobone, Jeremy Hunt, Bernard Jenkin, Andrew Lewer, Julian Lewis, Tim Loughton, Craig Mackinlay, Kieran Mullan, Caroline Nokes, Matthew Offord, Andrew Rosindell, Bob Seely, Derek Thomas, Charles Walker and David Warburton.

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