Friday, July 30

Raab will clamp down on companies linked to forced labor in Xinjiang | Foreign policy

Dominic Raab will address concerns about the UK’s complicity in the use of forced labor in China’s Xinjiang province with more requirements for companies purchasing goods there and possible sanctions on Chinese officials believed to be central to the abuse.

Proposals released by the foreign secretary this week could include fines if companies fail to meet commitments to show due diligence in their supply chains. A proposal for a total cotton ban from the province is believed not to be feasible.

The measures to be announced by Raab and Commerce Secretary Liz Truss in the Commons on Wednesday come as a conservative party human rights commission (CPHRC) backed by former conservative foreign secretaries prepares to demand that the government do more to challenge China.

The Foreign Office does not view its supply chain measures as representing a definitive new government stance on Britain-China relations, and will avoid proposing sanctions against officials involved in the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong.

China, however, will resent suggestions that it allows the use of forced labor. China’s outgoing ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said last week that relations between the two countries “depend on whether the UK views China as a partner or a rival, respects the fundamental interests and main concerns of China. China, and complies with the basic norms that govern relations, including non-interference in the internal affairs of each one ”.

“The ball is in the court of the British team,” he said.

The CPHRC will say that forced labor is rife in Xinjiang province, which supplies nearly a quarter of the world’s cotton. The Chinese government has long denied the claims, insisting that the worker camps are “vocational schools” and the factories are part of a massive, voluntary poverty alleviation scheme.

Ministers are expected to expand the number of organizations subject to reporting obligations under the Modern Slavery Act (MSA); introduce binding rules on the content, timing and publication of modern statements on slavery; and propose a single enforcement agency to oversee compliance with the MSA. Limited financial or civil penalties are also being considered for organizations that do not comply.

Up to five officials were being considered for Magnitsky’s sanctions, which target those involved in human rights abuses. The Foreign Ministry refuses to discuss in advance who may be subject to sanctions soon.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said: “Our approach to China is based on our values ​​and interests. However, when we have concerns, we raise them and hold China to account. We have done this consistently because of the treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. “

Human rights groups claim that Xinjiang’s Uighur minority are being persecuted and recruited for forced labor. Photographic evidence suggests that many of the fields contain factories.

Two select Commons committees are investigating the issue of forced labor, showing the degree of concern. As public awareness rises, many fashion brands are increasingly fearful that it will be revealed that they are inadvertently and indirectly sourcing cotton products from China’s far west region, and have been quick to commit to their chains. of supply.

Raab will also set out his opposition to an all-party amendment to the Lords giving UK courts the right to declare whether countries are committing genocide. A group of Conservative MPs back an amendment passed in the Lords calling for the UK not to sign bilateral trade deals, including with China, if a British high court makes a preliminary assessment that the country has committed or is committing genocide.

The amendment is backed by Iain Duncan Smithand, Labor human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy. The government opposes the measure claiming that the determination of genocide corresponds to international courts.

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