The UK has sought to increase international pressure on China over human rights abuses, with Dominic Raab refusing to rule out a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.
At the United Nations, the UK was one of 39 countries to raise concerns about the security crackdown in Hong Kong and the abuse of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told MPs at Westminster that evidence of abuses in Xinjiang was being reviewed to see whether it amounted to genocide.
Alongside 38 countries, today the UK took a lead in standing up for human rights in Hong Kong & Xinjiang. We call on China to recognise the breadth of concern. The international community will not turn a blind eye to human rights abuses. https://t.co/vnQcwjNc85
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) October 6, 2020
He told the Foreign Affairs Committee: “I have made clear that there is evidence of serious and egregious human rights violations, gross human rights violations.”
But to be classed as genocide, Mr Raab, a former war crimes lawyer, said it had to be proved that the deliberate intention was the destruction of a minority group.
“Certainly, I think the more that we see of that evidence, and I think the more the international community addresses its mind to it, the more I think we do need to look very carefully at what action we take,” Mr Raab said.
“I think the concerns of what’s happening to the Uighurs – the detention, the mistreatment, the forced sterilisation – is something that we can’t just turn away from.”
Asked by Tory MP Alicia Kearns whether a boycott of the 2022 games would send a strong signal to the Beijing government, Mr Raab said: “Generally speaking, my instinct is to separate sport from diplomacy and politics. But there comes a point where that may not be possible.
“I would say let’s gather the evidence, let’s work with our international partners, let’s consider in the round what further action we need to take.”
Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat asked whether the Government would be encouraging the Duke of Cambridge to attend the 2022 games.
Mr Raab replied: “That would be a corollary of the wider process of evaluating the evidence and working with our international partners and whatever further decisions we come to.”
At the UN, the UK and allies including Germany, France and the United States agreed a statement saying they were “gravely concerned about the existence of a large network of ‘political re-education’ camps” in Xinjiang where “credible reports indicated that over a million people have been arbitrarily detained”.
The also raised concerns about the imposition of the Hong Kong national security law, which allows some cases to be transferred to the mainland for prosecution.
The statement called on China to “uphold autonomy, rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, and to respect the independence of the Hong Kong judiciary”.