Apr 22, 2021 - World

U.K. Parliament declares China's treatment of Uyghurs to be genocide

Members of the Uyghur community and human rights activists protesting

Members of the Uyghur community and human rights activists protesting outside Parliament. Photo: David Cliff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The U.K.'s House of Commons unanimously approved a non-binding motion on Thursday to declare the Chinese government's repression of Uyghur Muslims to be a genocide.

Why it matters: British backbench lawmakers join the Dutch and Canadian parliaments, as well as the U.S. State Department, in recognizing China's sweeping campaign of mass detention, surveillance, forced labor and forced sterilization against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.

Between the lines: The motion will not have an impact on the policies of the U.K. government, which has insisted that the attribution of genocide is a matter for the international courts, and fought against an amendment to give British courts jurisdiction in making the determination.

  • However, it is sure to exacerbate tensions between Beijing and London, whose relations have already been strained over China's crackdown on Hong Kong, a former British colony.
  • The U.K. responded to the imposition of a draconian national security law in the semi-autonomous city earlier this year by sanctioning Chinese officials and offering Hong Kongers a special visa and pathway to citizenship.

What they're saying: “Statements of solidarity mean a lot, but Uyghurs need them to be followed up with meaningful action," World Uyghur Congress U.K. director Rahima Mahmut said in a statement.

  • "Only when the Chinese government faces the consequences of its actions will it be deterred from further abuses. The Chinese government cannot be allowed to continue to carry out crimes against humanity and genocide with impunity."

Go deeper: U.S. human rights report documents China's "genocide" in Xinjiang

Go deeper