by James Pheby
Britain’s main opposition Labour Party on Tuesday urged ministers and the royal family to snub the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics unless China allows the UN to probe rights abuse claims.
The government in London has repeatedly condemned China and demanded the UN be allowed to examine claims that Uyghur Muslims in the western Xinjiang region are victims of abuses like torture and forced sterilisation.
But it has resisted calls to boycott the showpiece event.
China last month accused the United States of “politicising sports”, after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was seeking consensus among allies for a possible boycott.
“We have consistently pressed the government for more robust actions to address this appalling situation, including more extensive sanctions against senior officials responsible for what is taking place in Xinjiang and more robust measures against forced labour,” said Labour foreign affairs spokeswoman Lisa Nandy and culture spokeswoman Jo Stevens.
“We are now calling on you to use the occasion of the Games to press the case for unfettered UN access to Xinjiang to conduct a full, transparent and independent investigation. This has been repeatedly sought by the UK and other governments but has not yet been realised.”
Beijing denies international claims that more than a million Uyghur Muslims have been arbitrarily detained, and that some have been tortured or undergone forced sterilisation.
If the UN is not granted access by September 14, when the UN General Assembly’s 76th session opens, “the UK government should not send ministers, royal family members or senior representatives to participate in any official duties or ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics,” said the Labour MPs.
“A political boycott by the UK and other states would send a strong signal of the deep global concern with the plight of the Uyghurs and prevent the Games being a PR exercise for the Chinese authorities.”
Britain’s parliament recently took the unprecedented step of calling the treatment of Uyghurs “genocide”, although the government maintains that only courts can make that legal definition.
More than 40 countries led by Canada voiced concerns at the UN Human Rights Council last month about China’s actions in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet — triggering a fierce backlash from Beijing.
Beijing must allow UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet and other independent observers “immediate, meaningful and unfettered access” to Xinjiang, and end the “arbitrary detention” of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, a joint statement read.
The statement cited reports of torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilisation, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children from their parents.
China denies mistreating the Uyghurs, once a clear majority in their ancestral homeland until the state helped waves of ethnic Han Chinese migrate there.
Beijing insists it is simply running vocational training centres designed to counter extremism.