In a decisive vote, the House of Lords has proposed a fresh amendment to the trade bill; suggesting that a parliamentary panel of judicial experts be established to determine whether genocide has occurred.
The vote, passed by a majority of 153 (367 to 214), is the third time peers have proposed measures that would allow for judicial assessment of evidence that could indicate genocidal conduct.
The new amendment proposes that an assessment would be made following government plans to sign post-Brexit trade deals and economic agreements.
Lord Alton, a Crossbench peer, said that the panel could potentially:
“provide a credible analysis that no select committee is empowered to achieve”
Boris Johnson’s government will likely face another rebellion on the amendment when the trade bill returns to the commons, with Iain Duncan Smith, a preeminent Tory rebel, stating that, following a:
“week of discussion with various ministers that were amenable and positive at this approach. At no stage were any objections raised.”
Pressure on the British government to permit the establishment of such a committee will undoubtedly increase, driven by the exposure of the extent of Beijing’s persecution of its Uyghur minority.
In February 2021, a formal legal opinion concluded that, in Xinjiang, there is evidence of state-mandated behaviour that constitutes genocidal conduct, finding evidence of:
“enslavement, torture, rape, enforced sterilisation and persecution”
Despite British calls for a UN probe of Uyghur camps, and Dominic Raab’s condemnation of China’s “deteriorating human rights situation”; the government remains hesitant to classify the CCP’s actions as genocide.
Only two countries have so far made such a determination, with the US declaring the persecution of Uyghurs genocide in the final days of Trump’s presidency, and the Canadian parliament following suit just over a month later.
The UK government’s tentative approach to the adoption of this amendment is likely influenced by ambitions for the expansion of trade with the likes of China in the wake of Brexit.
Boris Johnson’s government must ensure that the rights of persecuted groups are not violated and that genocidal conduct is not overlooked for the sake of economic gain.