Boris Johnson narrowly avoids defeat on genocide bill aimed at ChinaFebruary 9, 2021
London: Boris Johnson has narrowly avoided being defeated on the floor of the Commons despite using parliamentary tactics to prevent MPs giving British courts the power to determine whether genocide is being carried out in China’s Xinjiang province.
Rebel MPs were poised to vote on an amendment, earlier narrowly rejected in the Commons but passed by the Lords, that would have given the British High Court the power to make a ruling about whether or not genocide was occurring in a third country.
Satellite images of a detention facility near Dabancheng, Xinjiang region.Credit:AP
The amendment was put forward by China-hawks and attached to the trade bill, meaning it would effectively veto any trade agreement Britain struck with China if the court ruled that genocide was happening in Xinjiang province, where more than one million Uighur Muslims are detained in camps.
But the government combined the vote on the amendment with another Labour one, effectively preventing a vote on that measure alone which rebels were confident would come down to the wire.
The government’s majority, of 87, was cut to 15, with the bill narrowly passing 318 votes to 303.
Rebel MPs vowed not to give up.
The bill goes back to the Lords where Lord David Alton is attempting to force an individual vote on the amendment when it is sent back to the Commons.
British MP Iain Duncan Smith.Credit:Getty
“We will continue to work in the Lords to bring forward an amendment which gives courts their proper role in genocide determination,” Lord Alton vowed.
Junior Trade Minister Greg Hands defended the government’s action.
“It has long been the government’s position that genocide determination is a matter for the relevant court, which includes international courts and domestic criminal courts,” he said.
But Nus Ghani, one of the Conservative MPs who put forward the amendment, said that it was time to take back control from international fora that Russia and China had repeatedly hijacked.
“We are outsourcing our genocide determination to the UN, which is handcuffed by China and Russia.
“Why not bring that back home, why not take back control?” she said.
MPs also took aim at the government’s tactics which successfully denied them a vote.
“Instead of a beacon of light and hope, today we have gone into the dark corridors of procedural purdah,” said Sir Iain Duncan Smith.
The former Conservative Party leader and co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China referred to the name of the pre-election period in Parliament when no decisions are made.
Labour’s Chris Bryant, who sits on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said that Britain could not weep about what happened in the 1930s if it failed to protect today’s victims.
“That means wielding every single instrument, national and international, commercial and diplomatic to protect the victims of abuse.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street.Credit:Getty
“We failed for far too long because we failed in the 1930s and we ended up having to go to war.
“China makes it impossible for us to act in an international court in any international body, so of course we should use the UK courts.
“This county should never trade with any country where genocide is being practised,” he said.
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