The abuses have been “on an industrial scale,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in categorical comments that will do little to improve ties with Beijing, strained by its repression in Hong Kong.
“It is a truly horrible barbarity that we hoped to lose in another era, in practice today as we speak, in one of the main members of the international community,” he told Parliament .
“We have a moral duty to respond.”
Raab presented plans to ban British companies that inadvertently or willfully profit or contribute to human rights abuses against Uyghurs in northwest China’s Xinjiang Province.
The measures included a tightening of the UK Modern Slavery Act to introduce fines for companies that violate transparency rules, the extension of the law to the public sector and an “urgent review” of controls in the country. export to Xinjiang.
The move contrasts with a December trade deal between the European Union and China, which approved major investments and opened up the Chinese market to the 27-member bloc.
The deal has been criticized because of widespread allegations of forced labor in Chinese supply chains and has put the EU at odds with like-minded partners including the US, Australia and the UK. Uni, who have all sought to verify China’s ambitions.
The UK left the EU in January last year and, as of January 1, this year is no longer bound by its rules.
He hopes to use Brexit as a way to promote a more world-oriented Britain beyond Europe.
Its “Global Britain” strategy includes targeted sanctions against perpetrators of human rights violations, which so far have imposed restrictions on individuals and groups from Russia and Saudi Arabia to North Korea.
Relations between the UK and China have become increasingly frigid over the past two years, especially amid criticism from London of the crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong and its offer of citizenship to its residents.
London also expressed concerns that the textile industry is not checking carefully enough whether products from Xinjiang, which supplies nearly a quarter of the world’s cotton, are made using forced labor.
Raab told members of parliament that steps should be taken to “ensure that British companies are not part of the supply chains leading to the gates of the internment camps in Xinjiang.”
The government had to ensure that “the proceeds of human rights violations that take place in these camps do not end up on the shelves of the supermarkets where we shop here at home, week after week”, a- he added.
British retailer Marks and Spencer last week vowed not to use cotton from Xinjiang, as concerns grow in the fashion industry about their supply chains.
International human rights groups have documented growing evidence of forced labor, as well as forced sterilizations, torture, surveillance and repression of Uyghur culture.
According to experts, at least one million Uyghurs have been detained in recent years in political “re-education camps” in the vast region of China bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Beijing has dismissed the accusations, saying it runs vocational training centers to counter what it sees as “Islamist radicalism” following a series of attacks attributed to the Muslim group.