China’s human rights abuses can no longer be swept under the rug

As the US and UK take action over Xinjiang, China's atrocities are increasingly defining the world’s perception of it

<a data-caption="Four Uyghur inmates of the Kaifaqu internment camp in Lop county, with their names written in Uyghur, are (L-R) Mamtimin, Aziz Haji S...

 (Xinjiang Judicial Administration WeChat account photo)

KAOHSIUNG (Taiwan News) — The Trump administration might be on its way out but it is certainly not going quietly, and it is doing its utmost to ensure the incoming Biden administration remains strong in its handling of China.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a directive that banned the importation of all cotton and tomato products from East Turkestan/Xinjiang. This is the region where well over a million Uyghur Muslims have been held in concentration camps by the Chinese Communist regime, with hundreds of thousands of the ethnic minority thought to be working as slave laborers in these industries.

“The CBP will not tolerate the Chinese government’s exploitation of modern slavery to import goods in the United States far below fair market value,” said CBP Acting Commissioner Mark A. Morgan. With 84 percent of cotton grown inside China thought to come from this region and the U.S. being one of the biggest markets, this is a blow to the Chinese economy.

But it is not just the U.S. that is calling out the CCP’s enslavement of the Uyghur population. Just two days earlier, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stood up in the House of Commons to announce new measures to prevent British companies and companies operating in Britain from sourcing materials out of Xinjiang if slave labor is suspected to have been used in its production.

“Our aim, put simply, is that no company that profits from forced labor in Xinjiang can do business in the U.K.,” Raab explained to the British Parliament.

His announcement was broadly welcomed by all political parties in the U.K., and what criticism there was argued that his new policies didn’t go far enough. Raab is a Conservative Party MP, and the day after his announcement, his party’s Human Rights Commission published a lengthy report entitled ‘The Darkness Deepens: The Crackdown on Human Rights in China 2016-2020’.

The harrowing report includes first-hand testimonies of the atrocities being perpetrated in East Turkestan and during the annexation of Hong Kong. It also details less publicized abuses in Tibet as well as details of the shocking use of torture in the Chinese penal system, the persecution of religious minorities, the widespread practice of organ-harvesting, and much more.

It was endorsed by a number of senior Conservative Party MPs, including former leader Iain Duncan Smith who, at the launch event for the report, compared the Chinese Communist regime to Nazi Germany.

The report calls for a complete reassessment of U.K-China relations, and while it is unlikely this will be immediately forthcoming, the report is shaping the perception of China in the hearts and minds of the next generation of British politicians.

What we have seen in the past week alone is action against China’s human rights abuses in East Turkestan/Xinjiang by two of the world’s most prominent democratic governments. For the CCP, this should be viewed very much as a shot across the bow.

The blunt truth is that awareness of the regime’s myriad human rights abuses is now widespread in the Western world. It is getting increasingly hard for the regime to cover them up and for Western governments to look the other way.

Look at the backlash that the European Union has faced since it announced its investment agreement with China at the start of the year. While the CCP will have seen this as a propaganda coup, the EU has faced a barrage of criticism for hopping into bed with a regime whose values are so far removed from their own.

The days of Western countries putting economics and trade deals ahead of human rights have gone. The backlash they will receive domestically will simply be too great for it to be worth their bother, no matter how much money is at stake.

The CCP’s dollar diplomacy might still work with developing economies, but with the big economic powerhouses, this strategy is now being called into question. And this is just the beginning. Pressure is mounting in Washington and London to go even further.

Next week, Parliament will vote on an amendment that, if approved, would allow a British court to pass judgment on whether China’s abuses in East Turkestan/Xinjiang amount to genocide. Even though the British government officially opposes this, the amendment looks increasingly likely to pass.

If it does, this will be a watershed moment in China’s relations with, not just the U.K., but the entire western world. It will be the start of a slippery slope to international ostracization.

Updated : 2021-03-09 00:31 GMT+08:00