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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Dave Burke

Fury over government plans to meet with genocide 'mastermind' in London

MPs have reacted with fury to government plans to meet a "mastermind" of the sickening genocide in China - amid calls for him to be sanctioned and prosecuted.

The Commons heard that Erkin Tuniyaz, governor of Xinjiang, plans to travel to the UK on a diplomatic passport, and could meet Whitehall officials despite not being invited.

It has been estimated that more than 1.5million Uyghurs and members of other Muslim groups have been detained in Xinjiang, sparking worldwide condemnation.

Foreign Office minister Leo Docherty said he officials "would be prepared to offer him a meeting" - but only to make their "abhorrence of the treatment of the Uighur people" "absolutely clear".

His statement was met with disbelief, with senior Tory Alicia Kearns, fuming: "In Xinjiang women are being forcibly sterilised, children are in concentration camps, there are forced labour camps and systemic rape, yet... the minister has just confirmed from the despatch box that ministers approved of this visit to one of the masterminds of this genocide."

Ms Kearns, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, called for him to be sanctioned and told Mr Docherty: "I'm afraid minister this just simply is not good enough."

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said that the Chinese politician should be dealt with in a court of law.

He said: "Whether or not the Foreign Office is tough, this is a propaganda coup for the Chinese Government. The governor has defended the use of mass detention centres and doubled down and expanded their use.

"During his tenure over one million Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities were detained in Xinjiang.

"I remind the minister, a man that actually declares that nothing is going on is hardy likely to be bothered by a Foreign Office official telling him 'now now, you've got to stop this'."

Sir Iain told the Commons the UK had only sanctioned "three rather junior people" involved in Xinjiang compared to the "punitive sanctions" and other actions carried out by the US.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith has said the governor should be tried in a court of law (Getty)

He added: "The place to deal with these individuals is in a tribunal or a court of law, not in the quiet office of a Foreign Office official."

And Labour shadow foreign office minister Catherine West said a meeting with the governor of Xinjiang would be "ill-judged and inappropriate".

Ms West said: "I'm acutely aware of and in principle agree with the general points of engagement which the minister has outlined, however, we do have to be very robust in regards to human rights."

She added: "I fear that this planned visit to the UK highlights the serious lack of political leadership at the Foreign Office. The minister knows the views of this House and should have made it clear that this meeting was ill-judged and inappropriate."

In 2021 Parliament voted to declare the treatment of Uyghur Muslims as a genocide, although this definition has not been adopted by the Foreign Office.

Mr Docherty told the Commons that Tuniyaz would not be "dignified" with a ministerial meeting.

He said: "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 or by the FCDO and we have no confirmation that he will in fact travel.

"Our expectation is that he will be travelling on a diplomatic passport, and has not yet been granted, therefore, a visa. If he does visit I can assure this House that under no circumstances will he be dignified with a ministerial meeting."

No 10 has defended the meeting, with the Prime Minister's official spokesman saying: “My understanding is FCDO officials are meeting the governor of Xinjiang to make clear the UK is abhorrent over the treatments of the Uyghur people and to underline we will not relent from exposing the horrors to which they are being subjected.”

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