London denounces Beijing’s “barbarism”

The government wants to ban imports and exports linked to the forced labor of this oppressed Muslim minority.

Correspondent in London

Unlike other European leaders, Boris Johnson is not afraid to anger Beijing. Denouncing the Chinese crackdown on the Uighurs, London on Tuesday unveiled measures to ban the goods linked to the forced labor of this Muslim minority in Xinjiang, in the great northwest of China.

The head of the British diplomacy did not mince his words. It’s a“Barbarism that we hoped to relegate to the past which is practiced today”, declared Dominic Raab in front of the deputies, evoking“Arbitrary detention, political re-education, forced labor, torture and forced sterilization” Uighurs. All practiced“On an industrial scale”. Faced with these“Unacceptable violations of human rights”, the UK had the “Moral duty” to react, continued the minister. It is estimated that at least one million Uighurs are held in internment and political re-education camps. Beijing denies and retorts that these are vocational training centers intended to distance them from the temptation of Islamism, separatism and terrorism. Dominic Raab called on China to allow an independent investigation.

In an already tense context, the announcement of these measures will further deteriorate relations between London and Beijing

The measures adopted by London aim to ban imports and exports linked to forced labor by Uighurs. On the one hand, it is about ensuring that“British companies do not participate in the supply chains that lead to the portals of the internment camps in Xinjiang.” On the other, that“Products resulting from human rights violations do not end up on supermarket shelves” British. UK companies flouting these guidelines will face fines. A vast region in northwestern China, Xinjiang is notably a major supplier of cotton at the world level. Last week, the Marks & Spencer chain pledged that the clothes it sells would not be woven from this cotton, becoming the first major UK company to join the“Call to action” for the Uighurs launched by some 300 NGOs.

Doubting the impact of these measures, conservative deputies would like the government to go further by introducing “Magnitsky” type sanctions against Chinese officials. These sanctions target people accused of human rights violations and bear the name of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in prison after being arrested in 2008 for exposing the corruption of senior Russian officials. London has so far refused to go that far but Dominic Raab has said he is keeping this possibility in reserve.

A courageous position

In an already tense context, the announcement of these measures will further deteriorate relations between London and Beijing. China was thus outraged by criticism of its brutal takeover of Hong Kong and the decision to exclude Chinese giant Huawei from the British 5G network. Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun on Tuesday asked the UK“To stop interfering in the internal affairs of China”. But Canada has already followed suit in London.

While the European Union and China have just signed a controversial investment agreement – championed in particular by Paris – this courageous stand by London is seen as the manifestation of a new independent post-Brexit foreign policy. Dominic Raab said that Britain always wants a positive and constructive relationship with China,“But that it will not sacrifice its values ​​or its security”.

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