A cross-party group of 12 MPs and Peers have written to Boris Johnson criticising the Government’s failure to address widespread Uyghur forced labour in UK supply chains. The parliamentarians called on the Prime Minister to use the upcoming G7 Summit to join US-led efforts to ban imports of goods produced with Uyghur forced labour.
The letter, a copy of which is attached, comes after the Government rejected nearly all the recommendations made by the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee to prevent Xinjiang slave labour in UK supply chains. The letter urges the Government to reconsider these recommendations by strengthening accountability mechanisms in the Modern Slavery Act and blacklisting firms operating in Xinjiang that fail to provide evidence of slavery free supply chains.
Ahead of the upcoming G7 Summit, the signatories also call on the Government to keep in step with its key allies in taking a tougher stance on China. The letter urges the UK to emulate the US ban on imports of high risk goods from Xinjiang and to stand with the European Union in freezing trade negotiations until Chinese government sanctions on British and European parliamentarians are lifted.
The letter is led by Nusrat Ghani MP, author of the BEIS Committee report into Xinjiang slave labour, and was signed by members of the cross-party Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China. Among the signatories are a number of those sanctioned by the Chinese government for their advocacy on Uyghur abuses, including former Conservative party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Labour Peer Baroness Helena Kennedy and Tim Loughton MP.
Nusrat Ghani MP said:
“The reality is this. Britain cannot claim to be the world leader in tackling modern slavery and continue to ignore the world’s largest prison slave labour camps in Xinjiang. It is that simple. It is well documented that Xinjiang is home to industrial scale forced labour abuses. Products tainted by genocide end up on our supermarket shelves. Companies must also be held accountable for their supply chains in the region.”
“The UK hosts the G7 Summit while being out of step with its key allies on major issues concerning China. The US has banned high risk imports from the Xinjiang region and the EU has frozen its major trade agreement with China until sanctions on its parliamentarians are lifted. The UK has done neither. The government has been tough on rhetoric towards China, now it needs to be tough in action.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
10 Downing Street
10 June 2021
Dear Prime Minister,
As you prepare to host the 47th annual G7 Summit, we ask that you consider how the United Kingdom can lead efforts to eradicate modern slavery from global supply chains.
We note with particular concern the widespread prevalence of forced labour in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Up to 1.6 million Uyghurs and other minorities are believed to be at risk of forced labour through coercive labour transfer schemes, affecting supply chains in both the XUAR and elsewhere in China. At least one million are interned within the region’s prison camps and are also regularly subjected to forced labour, with inmates working in factories operating inside the camps. These abuses take place within a wider context of severe persecution of Uyghurs and other minorities in the region, leading to credible accusations of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. Indeed, our Parliament examined the evidence and declared that that all five markers for genocide were being met in the XUAR, joining four other countries in this assessment.
Unless urgent action is taken, British firms and consumers risk complicity in these abuses. The XUAR is deeply embedded in international supply chains, accounting for 20% of the global cotton production and 45% of the world’s solar technology grade polysilicon supply. There is a very real threat that goods produced tainted with Uyghur forced labour are bought and sold by firms and consumers across the UK.
The G7 Summit presents an opportunity to set new global standards in supply chain transparency. In addition to joining G7 calls for an end to Uyghur forced labour, the UK must lead by example. We must bring forward the promised changes to the Modern Slavery Act without delay. Further, the recommendations put forward by the Business, Energy and Industrial Skills Committee should be reconsidered. Companies which knowingly falsify their Modern Slavery Statements should be subject to severe penalties. Our tough rhetoric must be matched by tough action.
We also urge the Government to bring forward measures to address the unique challenge of widespread state sponsored forced labour in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. A “Uyghur Slave Labour Government Procurement Blacklist” should be created for companies unable to evidence that their direct supply chains in Xinjiang are slave labour free. Firms operating in the region should be required to demonstrate adequate standards of disclosure and transparency, and those which don’t must be prevented from selling into the UK, in line with the stated aspirations of the Foreign Secretary to keep UK supply chains free from Uyghur slavery.
Finally, the Government should, in line with our allies the United States of America, put in place an import ban on products sourced from Xinjiang which are at high risk of being tainted by Uyghur slave labour. Acting in sync with the European Parliament, we should also suspend trade negotiations with China until the CCP removes sanctions on British citizens. And we must work with our allies and likeminded democracies to create an infrastructure fund for developing nations as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
We look forward to the initiatives arising from the Summit and offer you our continued support for efforts to eradicate the modern slavery abuses worldwide.
Nusrat Ghani MP
Lord David Alton
Chris Bryant MP
Alistair Carmichael MP
Janet Daby MP
David Davis MP
Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP
Baroness Helena Kennedy
Tim Loughton MP
Siobhain McDonagh MP
Layla Moran MP
Wera Hobhouse MP
Bob Seely MP
Members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China