UK should create asylum fast-track for Uyghurs, say MPs

MPs have called on the Government to broadcast the BBC World Service in Uyghur in areas where “substantial” communities reside.

In a new report by the Foreign Affairs Committee, titled Never Again: The UK’s Responsibility to Act on Atrocities in Xinjiang and Beyond, it calls on efforts to support members of the Uyghur diaspora in order to support the “survival of Uyghur culture”.

“The Chinese government’s actions in Xinjiang represent a concerted effort to systematically target Uyghur and Islamic heritage and cultural practices in the region,” the report reads. “Multilateral bodies such as UNESCO are failing to intervene in any meaningful way.”

It states that the “absence of action from UNESCO” presents an “opportunity for the UK to play a leading role in supporting the preservation of Uyghur culture”.

“The British Council should prioritise cultural protection funding for the preservation and promotion of Uyghur tangible and intangible cultural heritage,” it adds. “The BBC World Service should broadcast in Uyghur in areas where substantial Uyghur communities live.”

The report also recommended that the British Government should increase pressure on the Chinese government to allow international observers access to Xinjiang, especially the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

It was also suggested that the UK should implement an asylum fast-track for Uyghurs and members of other minority ethnic groups who are fleeing from persecution in China. It called on the UK to form a coalition of “sanctuary states” that will publicly recommit to the principle of non-refoulement.

Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the committee, said: “The evidence of severe human rights abuses and crimes against the Uyghur people is already overwhelming and indisputable, and parliament has called it as genocide. This report moves the conversation forward, away from the question of whether crimes are taking place and on to what the UK should do to end them.”

He warned that “no country is so powerful that it should be able to perpetrate atrocities with impunity”. 

It comes as Boris Johnson said he was “instinctively” against boycotts after the Labour Party urged ministers and the Royal family to snub the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights abuses of the Uyghurs.

The Prime Minister told MPs: “I will certainly consider the proposal debated, but I must say that I am instinctively and always have been against sporting boycotts.”

More than 40 countries led by Canada voiced concerns at the UN Human Rights Council last month about China’s actions in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet – triggering a fierce backlash from Beijing.

China denies mistreating the Uyghurs, insisting it is simply running vocational training centres designed to counter extremism.

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