No trade deals with genocidal states – but don’t rely on British courts

In December, the House of Lords passed an amendment to the Trade Bill that would stop the UK making or maintaining trade deals with states that the High Court determines has committed genocide. It was supported by Labour and other opposition parties, and opposed by the Tory government. It will be put to a vote in the House of Commons soon.

The Coalition for Genocide Response has provided a tool you can use to write to your MP in support of the amendment.

We now have extensive evidence from a wide range of different sources that the Chinese state’s actions against the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples of East Turkestan meet the definition set out in Article II of the UN Genocide Convention. In particular, preventing reproduction by coerced contraception and sterilisation and family separation, and removing children from families for forcible cultural assimilation, can both constitute genocide.

The UK doesn’t currently have a trade deal with China, but it would be welcome if the government used what leverage it has against this ongoing genocide and others. On that basis, we encourage everyone to support the campaign for the Trade Bill amendment.

However, we also need to sound a note of caution. We cannot place trust or reliance in the British courts and British “justice” system to defend human rights.

The British state has its own record of human rights violations, from Northern Ireland and the conflicts of the War On Terror (from which Chinese state security learned as it built its apparatus in East Turkestan), to the racist murders and abuse committed with relative impunity by UK police. Successive governments have been more than happy to turn a blind eye to violations when committed by allied countries, and even to profit from them – selling weapons for the Saudi tyrants to slaughter Yemeni civilians and for US police to attack Black Lives Matter protesters. When campaigners challenged Saudi arms sales in court, sales were ultimately allowed to continue.

Even though the evidence is clear, there is no guarantee that British courts will find the Chinese state guilty of genocide. For one thing, judges may well be reluctant to set a precedent that could in future disrupt profitable relations with human-rights-abusing allies.

So we have to be clear: it will be positive if the British courts and government can be pressed into supporting the rights of the Uyghur people, but we will not put our faith in either their rulings or their actions. If the courts rule contrary to the clear evidence of genocide, that will not dampen our determination to stand up for the rights and freedom of the people of East Turkestan. The bedrock of our campaign will always be building grassroots solidarity between workers and oppressed people around the world.

Once you’ve done that, please also consider sending our template letter to MPs demanding a new law that would force corporate giants to investigate their supply chains, open their books to the public, and cut ties to forced labour and human rights abuses – whether in China or anywhere in the world. Find out more here.

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