Holocaust survivors have written to Boris Johnson pleading for a meeting over the “genocide amendment” to the trade bill ahead of the prospect of another Conservative rebellion over the fiercely contested issue.
In an open letter to the prime minister, Ruth Barnett and Dorit Oliver Wolff said they are “deeply concerned” the UK government is “not doing enough whilst the genocide” against the Uighur Muslim minority in China’s Xinjiang province worsens.
“As survivors of the Holocaust, we know the trauma of genocide,” they wrote. “We are writing to you to invite you to invite to meet with us ahead of the vote in the House of Commons of the genocide amendment.”
The joint letter comes as the so-called genocide amendment to the government’s flagship Trade Bill continues through the legislative tussle between the House of Lords and Commons — known as parliamentary “ping pong”.
Peers are insisting safeguards are put in place to prevent the UK signing free trade deals with foreign powers deemed guilty of genocide.
With proposals still being rejected by No 10, the crossbench peer Lord Alton has put forward a fresh amendment proposing a parliamentary judicial committee to examine evidence of genocide — rather than the High Court as originally proposed.
If peers inflict defeat on the government once again on Tuesday, the issue will be passed back for a vote of MPs in the Commons, paving the way for a possibility of a significant backbench Conservative rebellion.
The issue has gained in recent traction in recent months, with dozens of Tory MPs defying the government and voting for the measures, highlighting growing evidence of human rights abuses against the Uighur people, including reports of forced sterilisation, women being held in detention camps and rape.
In their letter to Mr Johnson, the Holocaust survivors added: “Going forward as global Britain, the UK has a chance to be an international leader on this issue. We in the UK have identified the problems at the UN and with the limited jurisdictions of the international courts.
“Yet, we are proposing no solutions to these problems. The obligation to prevent and punish genocide arises where the UK learns, or ought to learn, of a serious risk that genocide will be committed. It is imperative that the UK makes a preliminary determination of genocide whilst we still have time to act.”
They added: “Trade is not worth the price of a people. We simply cannot stand by when others remain silent. We cannot stand by whilst we carry on business as usual. Please meet with us ahead of the vote on the genocide amendment to discuss the changes we urgent need to see.”
Addressing the UN Human Rights Council earlier this week, the foreign secretary Dominic Raab urged the United Nations to respond to China’s “appalling treatment” of the Uighur people, suggesting “no-one can ignore the evidence anymore”.
He added: “”We see almost daily reports now that shine a new light on China’s systematic human rights violations perpetrated against Uighur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang. The situation in Xinjiang is beyond the pale.
“The reported abuses – which include torture, forced labour and forced sterilisation of women – are extreme and they are extensive. They are taking place on an industrial scale.”