The governor of Xinjiang, sanctioned by the US over the Chinese region’s treatment of its Muslim Uyghur minority, is believed to have cancelled his controversial trip to the UK, the Foreign Office said Tuesday.
Erkin Tuniyaz was due to visit this week, and set to meet with Foreign Office officials in a move that sparked anger among UK lawmakers.
But a ministry spokesperson said Tuesday that “we understand the Governor of Xinjiang has cancelled his visit to the UK.
“The UK government will continue to use all opportunities to take action against China’s unacceptable human rights abuses in Xinjiang,” added the spokesperson.
MPs tabled an urgent question last week to quiz the government about why he was allowed to travel, and why he was meeting with officials.
Foreign Office minister Leo Docherty told MPs that the government had not invited Tuniyaz to the UK, and that the meeting would have been “an opportunity to send a very strong message to someone who is involved in the governance of Xinjiang.”
“Under no circumstances would he be dignified with a ministerial meeting,” he added.
Tuniyaz has defended China’s “de-radicalisation” policies in the country’s north-west, including the use of detention facilities.
He was sanctioned by the US in 2021, with the Treasury saying that during his tenure “more than 1 million Uyghurs and members of other predominantly Muslim ethnic minority groups have been detained in Xinjiang”.
The UK parliament passed a non-binding declaration last year that crimes against humanity and genocide were being committed in Xinjiang.
A recent United Nations report found credible allegations of torture and forced labour there.
However, Beijing has long denied any such accusations, claiming the United States and Western allies are using the issue as a “political tool”.
Former Conservative Party leader and Beijing critic Iain Duncan Smith, who introduced the question, called the government’s actions “weak”, and demanded that Tuniyaz be sanctioned.
On Monday, he accused the governor of murder as he joined Uyghur activists protesting against the visit.
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