British lawmakers have approved a motion that accuses China of committing genocide against its Uyghur minority population.
The non-binding motion passed Thursday, although doesn’t compel the British government to take action, is still a huge step forward in raising awareness about the plight of UyghurMuslims.
The resolution was brought by Conservative lawmaker Nus Ghani, one of the five British lawmakers China has recently sanctioned for openly criticizing Beijing’s policies.
“There is a misunderstanding that genocide is just one act — mass killing. That is false,” Ghani said, arguing that genocide as an intention to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group is “evidenced as taking place in Xinjiang.”
The move puts the U.K. next to the U.S. as well as Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada, who have all made similar accusations against China, although Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been reluctant to use the term genocide.
For years, the Chinese government has confined over 1 million Uyghur people to camps in Xinjiang, reports by various governments and right groups suggest.
The local authorities running the camps are stand accused of imposing forced labor, systematic forced birth control and torture.
The Chinese government insists the camps are for job training to support economic development and combat Islamic radicalism. It has strongly rejected reports of torture and mass incarceration of the Uyghurs.
International clothing and shoe brands have over the past years denounced Beijing’s treatment of the community and announced decisions to stop using cotton from Xinjiang over concerns of forced labor. China has been trying to reverse the trend.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been called upon from within the Conservative Party to take a louder stance.
The Parliament has also mounted numerous attempts to pass a bill that would allow the High Court to decide whether other countries are committing crimes against humanity, in an attempt to block U.K. trade deals with China.
Johnson has described the attempts as fueled by a “Cold War mentality” towards China and called on the lawmakers to instead think of ways to nurture partnerships with Beijing.
The U.K. joined thee European Union, Canada and the United States last month in imposing coordinated sanctions against Chinese officials playing a key role in the Uyghur issue, provoking swift retaliation from Beijing.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended the move as an extension of the “intensive diplomacy” csmpiagn by world powers to force action on the issue.