Liberal Democrat Councillor Rabina Khan and Conservative Group Leader Peter Gold proposed an emergency motion to Tower Hamlets Council on Wednesday 30th September to condemn the treatment of the Uyghur Muslims in China and the situation in Hong Kong, and to issue protest letters to the People’s Republic of China and the UK Foreign Secretary. Despite also being backed by Labour Mayor John Biggs, the Labour Chair said he did not “consider this matter urgent enough to be discussed”.
China is due to move its UK embassy from the West End to the site of the historic Royal Mint in Tower Hamlets. There is international concern about the human rights situation in Xinjiang and China’s deepening crackdown on Uyghur Muslims, which includes the widespread detention of up to 1.8 million Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in “political re-education camps”. The UK government has seen credible reports of forced labour and forced birth control.
Many organisations have condemned the situation, including the Muslim Council of Britain, UN Ambassadors, members of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and a cross-party group of over 120 MPs and peers.
In a speech at the Liberal Democrat Conference this weekend, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Layla Moran, said “We can’t just sit by and watch while a genocide is being engineered against the Uyghurs.”
In Hong Kong, China’s imposition of the National Security Law is a serious breach of the legally binding Chinese-British Joint Declaration, violates Hong Kong’s autonomy and threatens rights and freedoms.
The motion being presented to the full Tower Hamlets Council Meeting on Wednesday 30th September notes that when the Embassy moves, staff will see that in Tower Hamlets different nationalities, backgrounds, religions and ethnicities can live together in harmony. It also states that residents of Hong Kong will be welcome in Tower Hamlets.
The motion then calls for the Council to urge China to implement UN recommendations to end the practices in Xinjiang and allow UN observers unfettered access to the region. It also calls on China to reconsider the National Security Law in Hong Kong and engage with its citizens to prevent a further erosion of their rights.
In addition it calls for the Council to ask the UK Foreign Secretary to continually raise the situation with his Chinese counterparts, and to ask the Chinese Ambassador to immediately stop its human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslims.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Rabina Khan said:
“Tower Hamlets has a rich history of people from migrant communities and those fleeing persecution, all of whom have made the borough their home. From the Jewish people, to French Huguenots, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Vietnamese, Somali, and Eastern Europeans, we are a diverse East End community.
Our call in this motion was for all elected members to come together to issue a letter to the People’s Republic of China, stating that although their new UK Embassy is due to open on the site of the historic Royal Mint in Tower Hamlets, our council condemns the treatment of the Uyghur Muslims in China and stands with the pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. It is very disappointing that the Council decided it was not important and could wait until a future meeting.
For too many years, the Uyghur Muslims in the north-western province of Xinjian, China have been subjected to the most horrendous human rights’ abuses. They have been confined to detention camps, and endured forced labour, torture and even murder. Women have been forced to undergo abortions and sterilisation, children are being separated from their communities, mosques have been destroyed and halal diets have been forbidden. This is outrageous and must be addressed collaboratively.”