Outcry as Chinese governor from region where Uyghur Muslims are being ‘sent to concentration camps’ is given the green light to visit Britain
- Tory MPs blasted Foreign Office minister Leo Docherty over the visit
- The House of Commons heard that Erkin Tuniyaz may travel to UK next week
Ministers have been accused of handing a propaganda coup to China over a visit by a controversial official.
The row came after it emerged that the governor of the country’s Xinjiang region could meet diplomats from the Foreign Office in the UK next week.
Tory MPs last night blasted Foreign Office minister Leo Docherty over the visit by Erkin Tuniyaz. A cross-party parliamentary group says the Chinese politician has played a central role in the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in his region.
The House of Commons heard that Tuniyaz may travel to the United Kingdom next week and could meet Foreign Office directors, despite Government condemnation of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Erkin Tuniyaz (file photo). Tory MPs last night blasted Foreign Office minister Leo Docherty over the visit by Erkin Tuniyaz. A cross-party parliamentary group says the Chinese politician has played a central role in the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in his region
These include claims of forced female sterilisation and sending children to ‘concentration camps’.
‘This is a propaganda coup for the Chinese government,’ former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned Mr Docherty, who had told the Commons: ‘We understand from the Chinese embassy that the governor of Xinjiang may visit the UK next week.
‘To be very clear, he has not been invited by the UK Government.’
He added: ‘Robust engagement to challenge human rights violations and to stand up for the rights of the oppressed is at the core of the UK’s diplomatic work.’
Officials would be prepared to offer him a meeting, but only to ‘make absolutely clear the UK’s abhorrence of the treatment of the Uyghur people’.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith (file photo). The former Tory leader said: ‘This is a propaganda coup for the Chinese government.’ He added: ‘To be very clear, he has not been invited by the UK Government’
Sir Iain called Mr Docherty’s response ‘weak’ and said it hid the fact that Tuniyaz would be welcomed by British officials.
‘During his [Tuniyaz’s] tenure, more than one million Uyghurs and other people from predominantly Muslim minorities have been detained in Xinjiang,’ he added. ‘A man who declares that nothing is going on is hardly likely to be bothered by a Foreign Office official telling him, “Now, now, you’ve got to stop this”.’
Alicia Kearns, chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee, said: ‘The only meetings with him should be in a courtroom. Deny the visa or arrest him.’
A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘We do maintain diplomatic channels so we can pass on these messages and make clear our position. For now, we think the right approach is to personally deliver the message to the governor of Xinjiang.’
The UK has paid £2.3billion to the EU to settle claims that it allowed Europe to be flooded with cheap Chinese clothes and shoes. The EU’s anti-fraud office says British customs failed to stop imports by criminal gangs. The case dates from 2017, and the UK is still liable for any law breaches before Brexit.
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