LONDON: Britain has expressed deep concern over the plight of Uighur Muslims in China and speaking over the issue on behalf of the government at the floor of House of Lords, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Lord Tariq Ahmad said that we have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, including the use of political re-education camps and widespread surveillance and restrictions, which are targeted particularly at Uighur Muslims.
“Indeed, our diplomats recently visited Xinjiang. We highlighted our serious concerns at the September UN Human Rights Council, during China’s universal periodic review in November and in my subsequent public statement. The Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific also raised the issue with their Chinese counterparts”, he added.
The discussion on Uighur Muslims was held on Wednesday (December 19) and altogether seven members including Lord Tariq Ahmad, Lord Alton, Lord Anderson, Baroness Northover (LD), Lord Collins, Lord Elton and Lord Hylton
expressed their views.
Responding to individual questions fielded by the members, Lord Tariq Ahmed referred the initial question raised by Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB), Lord Tariq Ahmed said that when we talk of religious persecution and the rights of different minority communities around the world, the plight of the Uighur Muslim is often forgotten.
“I have certainly been aware of this. The noble Lord will know that we raised this issue in a deliberate, focused way during the universal periodic review with the specific reference to the plight of the Uighur Muslims. To answer his question directly, that has resulted in strong support at an international level, not just among Muslim leaders, but in other states, ensuring that we raise the bar on raising this issue consistently with the Chinese authorities”.
He said that indeed, as I said earlier, our diplomats have recently returned from the region. The reports they provided are quite challenging and even quite horrific in certain respects, with people being asked to remove any sign that they are of a particular faith.
In response to query by Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab), Lord Tariq Ahmad said that our stance on human rights predates our membership of the European Union. The noble Baroness is right to say that we have worked very closely with our European partners. In bilateral discussions with EU partners and beyond, the importance of human rights and the impact of raising those issues when we stand together is clear. Unity of action on these issues is clear, and it is my view that after we leave the European Union, we will continue to work very closely with our European partners on human rights issues and the benefits we have seen will continue.
Lord Tariq Ahmad assured the House that through our membership of the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, we raise these issues with like-minded partners but also with countries from the Islamic world—to which the noble Lord, Lord Alton, referred—to ensure that a consistent message is delivered. China is an important partner of the United Kingdom on a range of different issues, but that should not preclude our raising human rights issues clearly and unequivocally.