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China has been accused of holding over a million Muslims, predominantly Uyghurs, in detention camps in the north-western province. There have been accusations of widespread human rights abuses including torture, sexual abuse and forced sterilisation.
Beijing denies the claims but is refusing to allow international journalists to visit the area affected.
A new cross-party amendment, which has been added onto a trade deal, would give the UK high court the power to rule on whether China is responsible for genocide.
Any such move would likely cause a dramatic decline in UK-China relations and could scupper hopes of a post-Brexit trade deal.
The amendment has been tabled by former Conservative minister Lord Forsyth, Labour’s Lady Kennedy and crossbencher Lord Alton.
China could be accused of genocide in Xinjiang by British courts
Up to a million Uyghur Muslims are reported to be held in Chinese camps
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a former Tory leader and prominent Brexit advocate, has also given his support.
According to The Guardian Trade Secretary Liz Truss is happy for the Government to back this measure.
However, the Foreign Office is said to be opposed arguing international courts, not British ones, should determine whether China is guilty of genocide.
Foreign Office minister Nigel Adams warned there could be an “asset flight” if the UK rushes in new sanctions targeted at Chinese officials suspected of involvement in Xinjiang human rights abuses.
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There are widespread reports of abuse in Chinese detention camps
Speaking to MPs he said: “It is not right to speculate or rush into the measures.
“There is a pretty good chance you are going to see asset flight if that is the case.”
However, Mr Adams conceded there is “credible, troubling and growing evidence” of forced Labour being used in Xinjiang, following reports detention camp prisoners are required to carry out hard work without pay.
He added: “All businesses involved in investing in Xinjiang or with parts of their supply chains in Xinjiang should conduct appropriate due diligence to satisfy themselves that their activities do not support, or risk being seen to support, any human rights violations or abuses.”
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Xinjiang’s cotton industry is reported to be “tainted” by forced labour
A protest in India against the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China
Around 20 percent of the world’s supply of cotton comes from the Chinese province of Xinjiang.
A report released last week by the Centre for Global Policy suggested half a million people have been forced to pick cotton in Xinjiang, with the industry “tainted” by forced labour.
Earlier this year the US imposed import restrictions on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a paramilitary organisation which produces around a third of the cotton from the province.
For the past decade China has been fighting nationalist and Islamist insurgents in Xinjiang, some of whom want the province to breakaway as the independent nation of East Turkestan.
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Extremists have conducted a number of terrorist attacks across the country including a 2013 attack on Tiananmen Square which left five people, including three attackers, dead.
China claims its detention camps are used purely to counter extremist ideology but independent observers have alleged they hold hundreds of thousands of innocent people, with any expression of religiosity being punished.
In September UK minister announced they would update the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to add tough penalties for non-compliance, including where companies fail to carry out thorough checks.
There is anger in the US that a planned EU-China investment summit is going ahead in this climate.
A protest in the US against the treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang
Jake Sullivan, widely tipped to be national security advisor to President Biden, has urged European restraint.
In a tweet he called for “early consultation with our European partners on our common concerns about China’s economic practices”.
Relations between the US and China deteriorated sharply under the Trump presidency over trade, coronavirus, human rights abuses and territorial disputes.