UK firms face fines if they are linked to China's abuse of Uighurs

Dominic Raab blasts ‘harrowing’ human rights abuse by China against Uighur minority as he warns UK firms they face fines if they are linked to sickening forced labour

  • Firms will have to prove their supply chains are free from forced labour in China
  • The Beijing government has been accused of widespread abuse in Xinjiang
  • Members of Uighur minority group have reportedly been made to pick cotton 
  • Concerns British consumers could inadvertently be buying tainted goods

British firms will face heavy fines if they are lined to Chinese human rights abuse, Dominic Rabb said today as he blasted Beijing’s ‘harrowing’ treatment of its Uighur minority.

Companies will have to meet requirements showing their supply chains are free from forced labour in the Xinjiang province, the Foreign Secretary told the Commons this afternoon.

The Beijing government has been accused of widespread abuse in the area, home to the Muslim Uighurs, including allegations of forced sterilisation, slave labour and mass internment.

Members of the Uighur minority group have reportedly been made to pick cotton in Xinjiang province, leading to concerns British consumers could inadvertently be buying tainted goods.

It came the day after Boris Johnson launched a blistering attack on China, blaming its ‘demented’ traditional medical practices for the coronavirus pandemic.

In a speech to world leaders yesterday he attacked people who ‘grind up the scales of a pangolin’ in a bid to become more ‘potent’.

Mr Raab said companies will be given robust guidance on how to carry out due diligence checks to make sure they are not sourcing products tainted by the human rights violations in the province. 

He told MPs the picture of human rights abuses in Xinjiang was ‘harrowing’ and the UK had a ‘moral duty to respond’.

Companies will have to meet requirements showing their supply chains are free from forced labour in the Xinjiang province, the Foreign Secretary told the Commons this afternoon.

The Beijing government has been accused of widespread abuse in the area, home to the Muslim Uighurs, including allegations of forced sterilisation, slave labour and mass internment

Members of the Uighur minority group have reportedly been made to pick cotton in Xinjiang province, leading to concerns British consumers could inadvertently be buying tainted goods

He said: ‘Internment camps, arbitrary detention, political re-education, forced labour, torture and forced sterilisation – all on an industrial scale.

‘It is truly horrific. Barbarism we had hoped lost to another era, being practiced today as we speak in one of the leading members of the international community.’

Under the Modern Slavery Act, firms with a turnover of more than £36 million must publish statements setting out what action they have taken to ensure there is no slavery in their supply chains.

That will now be backed up by the threat of heavy fines for companies which fail to comply, with details to be set out later.

Lucrative Government contracts will only go to firms which adhere to their obligations in ensuring their supply chains are free from Xinjiang links.

There will also be a review of export controls to prevent UK firms supplying products to the Xinjiang camps.

Mr Raab said: ‘Here in the UK we must take action to make sure that UK businesses are not part of the supply chains that lead to the gates of the internment camps in Xinjiang.

‘And to make sure that the products of the human rights violations that take place in those camps don’t end up on the shelves of supermarkets that we shop in here at home, week in and week out.’

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy questioned why no sanctions have been applied to officials responsible for ‘appalling’ human-rights abuses in Xinjiang.

She told Mr Raab in the Commons: ‘The strength of his words are once again not matched by the strength of his actions, and I’m sorry to say that that will be noticed loud and clear in Beijing.’

Ms Nandy said she had been left ‘slightly lost for words’ by Mr Raab’s statement given she believed not much of the content was new – something the Foreign Secretary rejected. 

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