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On 25 November 2021, the House of Lords is due to debate a motion moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench) that “this House takes note of the reported remarks of the Foreign Secretary that a genocide is underway against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang, China”. 

A Times article from 1 November 2021 reported that Elizabeth Truss, the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, had previously accused China of committing genocide against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang. This accusation was alleged to have taken place during a private meeting in October 2020 when Ms Truss was the Secretary of State for International Trade. Ms Truss has not publicly responded to the report. 

The term ‘genocide’ refers to five specific acts committed with the intent of destroying a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. For several years, the international community has accused China of human rights violations of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region of China. Most recently, several countries and parliaments have described China’s treatment of the Uyghur community as amounting to genocide. 

China strongly denies the accusations and has accused western politicians of “choosing to believe lies” for ulterior motives. China has defended what it calls “education and vocational training” in Xinjiang, stating that they are there to counter terrorism and alleviate poverty. 

To date, the UK Government has not described China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang as genocide. It has emphasised its long-standing policy that it is not for the Government to make this determination. However, it has expressed public concern about alleged human rights violations in the region. The UK Government imposed sanctions on certain Chinese officials in 2021 as part of a collaborative action by several countries.

China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang has been raised several times in the House of Commons and House of Lords. Notably, in April 2021, the House of Commons passed a motion that Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang were suffering crimes against humanity and genocide.

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