Never Again: The UK’s Responsibility to Act on Atrocities in Xinjiang and Beyond Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

The multilateral system

1.The Government should accept Parliament’s view that Uyghurs and other ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang are suffering genocide and crimes against humanity, and take action to bring these crimes to an end. (Paragraph 13)

2.The UK should call directly for the immediate disbandment of the internment camp system in Xinjiang, the cessation of forced sterilisation of women and separation of children, and an end to mass forced labour programmes such as Xinjiang Aid. (Paragraph 17)

3.The UK Government should increase pressure on the Chinese government to allow international observers access to Xinjiang, especially the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Government should use every opportunity it has at UN organs, summits, and treaty bodies to raise the issue. To do this, the UK should engage more closely with partners and those nations not currently taking action to ensure support on UN votes and statements. (Paragraph 18)

4.If the Chinese government continues to stall and prevent in-country investigations, the UK should propose a Human Rights Council motion that the High Commissioner for Human Rights conduct an investigation into the atrocities in Xinjiang from outside of China. The Government should also explore the prospect of a Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry. (Paragraph 19)

5.The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination provides a viable avenue through which the UK Government, with others, may hold the Chinese government accountable, and another forum through which likeminded countries can draw attention to and pursue accountability for human rights abuses in Xinjiang We recommend that the Government urgently raise a complaint against China to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. (Paragraph 20)

6.We recommend that the UK moves for special sessions of the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Human Rights Council to find solutions to the crisis in Xinjiang. (Paragraph 21)

7.We recommend that the Government engages in dialogue with the International Criminal Court about the feasibility of a proprio motu investigation into crimes committed against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang and beyond. (Paragraph 22)

8.The collection and preservation of evidence will be essential for future accountability for these crimes. We recommend that the Government allocate funding for the creation of an international mechanism for collecting evidence on the crimes in Xinjiang, and provides further resources to help locate and record the details of those who have gone missing under the Chinese Communist Party’s internment system so that they do not remain nameless victims. (Paragraph 23)

9.The ‘D10’ model of democratic countries is a good starting point for coalition-building but cannot be the limit—significant diplomatic efforts should also be focused on states in Africa, South America, Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. The Government should lead efforts to create a more consistent coalition of democratic countries to coordinate action on Xinjiang through the UN and other institutions. (Paragraph 24)

10.We recommend that the Government commits financial and bureaucratic resources to ensuring future Build Back Better World projects meet all internationally recognised standards, including on labour rights, environmental measures, and transparency. (Paragraph 25)

11.If the British Olympic Association and competing teams decide not to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the Government should not attend and should urge others not to do so. The Government should suggest the British Olympic Association does not participate in the opening or closing ceremonies, beyond one representative carrying the Union Flag. It should abstain from sending government officials to any ceremonies or functions, strongly discourage UK businesses from sponsoring or advertising at the Olympics, encourage fans and tourists to stay away, and discourage athletes from supporting or accepting the Chinese government’s propaganda efforts while in-country. (Paragraph 27)

12.For sanctions to be effective, they must be used in full coordination with allies and against those with whom ultimate responsibility for the Xinjiang atrocities lies. We recommend that the Government intensify efforts to coordinate sanctions with allies to consistently sanction senior individuals and entities with the most responsibility for or connection to abuses in Xinjiang. (Paragraph 28)

13.The UK Government should push for an urgent, independent review of UNESCO’s investigatory powers and processes, and formally request that the organisation pursue its mandate with determination and commitment. The UK should adopt a policy of coordinating with allies to block and reduce the influence of the worst human rights-abusing countries on the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. (Paragraph 31)

Diaspora and culture

14.The Government should conduct an urgent consultation with members of these communities in the UK to determine the extent of harassment they are facing and the type of support they require, offering support and protection as appropriate. (Paragraph 34)

15.We recommend that the Government implement an asylum fast track for Uyghurs and members of other minority ethnic groups who are fleeing persecution in China. (Paragraph 35)

16.The UK should form a coalition of ‘sanctuary states’ that will publicly recommit to the principles of non-refoulement. Doing so will signal to members of persecuted minority groups such as the Uyghurs that they will be safe in these countries, and it will apply further diplomatic and reputational pressure on those states guilty of deporting Uyghurs to China. (Paragraph 36)

17.We recommend that, where there is credible evidence of a state party to the United Nations Convention against Torture deporting Uyghurs and members of other persecuted minority groups to China, the UK should raise a complaint against that state to the Committee against Torture. (Paragraph 37)

18.The British Council should prioritise cultural protection funding for the preservation and promotion of Uyghur tangible and intangible cultural heritage. The BBC World Service should broadcast in Uyghur in areas where substantial Uyghur communities live. (Paragraph 38)

Forced labour and the private sector

19.In its response to this report, we ask that the Government inform us of when the Department for International Trade will share the export review’s findings and actions with Parliament. (Paragraph 42)

20.As well as imposing punitive fines for non-compliance with the reporting elements of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, we recommend that the Government introduce new legislation that will create a legal requirement for businesses and public sector bodies to take concrete measures to prevent and remove the use of forced labour in their value chains. This new duty should be backed up by meaningful sanctions and penalties for non-compliance. (Paragraph 43)

21.We recommend that the Government review the £36m threshold for businesses to be required to produce Modern Slavery Statements, with a view to reducing it. (Paragraph 44)

22.Trade commissioners, envoys, and officers should be equipped with regularly updated toolkits and training to ensure they are fully informed of the forced labour risk associated with the countries in which they are working. This should be supported by a public Government-led grading system of countries’ adherence to global labour standards as set by institutions like the International Labour Organization. (Paragraph 45)

23.The Government should explore the possibility of banning the import of all cotton products known to be produced in whole or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, in line with WTO rules. While we primarily heard evidence on the cotton industry, we believe this ban should be extended to other industries. (Paragraph 48)

24.The Government should issue guidance to business to implement modern means of traceability and product origin verification as part of their due diligence measures. (Paragraph 49)

25.The Government should share Post-level intelligence on specific risk areas and factors with UK companies operating in China when appropriate to do so, to ensure it contributes to and supports private sector due diligence within the country. (Paragraph 50)

26.The Government should use information gained from local sources, Posts, and civil society to identify specific factories and companies that make use of forced labour and prohibit them from importing to the UK through the sanctions regime. (Paragraph 51)

27.The UK should press for the International Labour Organization to conduct a full investigation of the Xinjiang region in order to verify the extent of forced labour there as a matter of urgent priority. (Paragraph 52)

Technology and research

28.Where a Chinese institution possesses known or suspected links to repression in Xinjiang, or substantial connections to Chinese military research, UK universities should avoid any form of technological or research collaboration with them. They should also conduct urgent reviews of their current research partnerships, terminating them where involved parties are found or suspected to be complicit in the atrocities in Xinjiang. (Paragraph 55)

29.We recommend that the Government fund and manage the creation of a regularly-updated due diligence and intelligence database to provide universities with a directory of Chinese institutions and companies that possess strong or suspected connections to technology-aided human rights abuses. The FCDO should convene a panel to oversee and discuss due diligence, to include government officials and members of the academic community. This panel should use all means available to exert public pressure on institutions, ensuring compliance. (Paragraph 57)

30.Equipment manufactured by companies such as Hikvision and Dahua should not be permitted to operate within the UK. We recommend that the Government prohibits organisations and individuals in the UK from doing business with any companies known to be associated with the Xinjiang atrocities through the sanctions regime. The Government should prohibit UK firms and public sector bodies from conducting business with, investing in, or entering into partnerships with such Chinese firms, to ensure that UK companies do not provide either blueprints or financing for further technology-enabled human rights abuses. (Paragraph 59)

The UK’s approach to atrocity prevention

31.We recommend that the Government introduce a national, cross-departmental strategy for atrocity prevention. (Paragraph 61)

32.While the FCDO is the lead department for mass atrocity prevention, we recommend that the Government issue clear guidance and training to all relevant departments about their specific responsibilities for mass atrocity prevention. The departments involved should have senior staff members designated as atrocity prevention leads. The newly announced Conflict Centre should coordinate these departmental leads and ensure it offers departments access to experts in international law, sanctions, multilateral coordination, intelligence, aid programming, and so on. (Paragraph 62)

33.The Government should provide atrocity prevention ‘toolkits’ and atrocity prevention training for FCDO staff, with a mandatory refresher course every three years for all staff in diplomatic, programming, or policy-related roles. (Paragraph 63)

34.The Government should implement additional early warning tools specifically focused on predicting mass atrocities, and mainstream non-conflict atrocity prevention thinking in the newly announced Conflict Centre. The Conflict Centre should be renamed to the Conflict and Atrocity Prevention Centre, to ensure atrocity prevention thinking is prioritised in its operations. (Paragraph 64)

35.We recommend that the Government appoint a Special Envoy on Atrocity Prevention to ensure that the prevention of mass atrocities is consistently championed in Parliament and Government. (Paragraph 65)

36.The Government should commit to funding further such research, which is doing vital work to expose those injustices which the Communist Party of China is eager to hide. (Paragraph 66)


37.In a wider context, when in 2001 the People’s Republic of China was accepted into the World Trade Organization (following its admission to the UN Security Council in 1971 and the recognition of its national Olympic Committee by the IOC in 1979) it was expected that this would lead to less repression within China and a general improvement in international relations. It has not. In recent years, the Chinese government has tested and challenged the way we trade and engage with each other to breaking point, undermining the fundamental principles that have ensured peace and stability, and which were written by those envoys from the states that had so suffered in the Second World War, including China. It is incumbent on all countries and governments that support this system to find innovative ways of working together to hold powerful nations to account for their actions. Xinjiang is one example of what happens when states are allowed to act with impunity. We must ensure that this does not set a dangerous precedent. (Paragraph 67)

38.While we commend the ongoing work of the UK Government in speaking out and leading on the issue of Xinjiang at the United Nations, we are concerned that its actions do not match its rhetoric and have so far proved ineffective. A crisis of this scale requires a cross-government, cross-sectoral, international approach. In this report, we have made recommendations on multilateral action, private sector reforms, the support required for members of persecuted diaspora, and the Government’s approach to atrocity prevention. The implementation of these recommendations would provide a much more robust and comprehensive Government response to the Xinjiang crisis, ensuring that all support possible is given to the people suffering from identity-based persecution. (Paragraph 68)

Published: 8 July 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement