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Tory rebels may block China trade deal over Uighur genocide concerns

by Will Maule
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Source: Twitter

A group of conservative backbenchers led by Sir Iain Duncan Smith have requested that a 'genocide amendment' be inserted into to the post-Brexit trade deal after becoming concerned about the Chinese government's treatment of a religious minority. The amendment would limit the government's ability to strike trade deals with nations that have been deemed to commit genocide by UK judges. 

Alongside putting human rights concerns on the table of bilateral trade negotiations, those seeking to push the amendment have also voiced their desire to implement a mechanism which would allow English courts to rule on whether China’s persecution of Uighur Muslims amounts to genocide.

"Since the Second World War, we have protested about the concept of genocide but literally nothing has ever been done,” Duncan Smith said on the announcement of the amendment. "It’s a cop out." 

In the commons, Duncan Smith said the amendment "is not anti-China, it is anti-genocide". 


The amendment has already been passed by the House of Lords and will be voted on Tuesday night.

Despite talking at length about the necessity for ethical trade deals and calling China's treatment of Uighur's as “torture”, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has opposed the amendment, believing it would be ineffective and counterproductive. 

Speaking to Premier, former MP and Parliamentary Director of Conservative Christian Fellowship, David Burrowes, said this was a good chance for the government to stand up against country's that continue to violate the human rights of religious minorities, such as the Uighur and Rohingya peoples.  

The amendment, he said, would "send a really strong message that the UK will not in any way tolerate any regime state that comes close, or that is involved in, genocide".

"This is an opportunity for MPs to give a won't be the answer to the question of genocide plainly, but it gives a very, very important signal that there is an opportunity for courts to determine genocide," Burrowes added. "And I think that would have a ripple effect, even in these criminal states that are also causing such problems to many minorities." 

Conservative MP Nus Ghani urged colleagues to join the rebellion and support the amendment. 

“Over 50 years ago the UK signed the UN Genocide Convention, to ensure that atrocities like the Holocaust could ‘never again’ take place," she said. "Britain must not look the other way on the genocide that is happening today in China.”

She added: “As we form trade deals with new partners, we must honour our sacrosanct responsibility never to let economic concerns trump ethical ones by dealing with genocidal states. Britain must not be complicit and genocide cannot mean business as usual.”

Andrew Boyd of persecution watchdog Release International said that MPs were "trying to take a stand against persecution" by proposing the amendment, noting that there are many Christians amongst the Uighur people who are also being persecuted. 

Boyd welcomed the proposal, noting that "human rights and persecution has to be front and centre in the way that Britain as a sovereign nation deals with other nations".  

He added that the hope is that the prospective amendment puts pressure on countries who are violating human rights and encourages them to change their ways.

"Countries like China can no longer say we will not talk about these things, that they are not relevant, that they're not part of the discussion," he said. "They are now, and that's part of British government policy, and that is to be welcomed." 

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