British lawmaker Nusrat Ghani, 49, launched an inquiry in the House of Commons in September 2020 to examine the U.K.’s supply chain of products made with Uyghur forced labor in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region. The report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee issued in March 2021 urged the government to toughen anti-modern slavery requirements for businesses and to develop new measures to compel companies to ensure that forced labor is not present in their supply chains. The conservative politician also played a key role in introducing a “genocide amendment” to the U.K. Trade Bill that would curb the government’s ability to make trade deals with countries found to have committed genocide. Because of Ghani’s criticism of China over its treatment of the Uyghurs, Beijing sanctioned her and four other U.K. MPs. In April 2021, she submitted a motion to the House of Commons for Parliament to determine that China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs. The motion passed unanimously. Ghani spoke to Alim Seytoff of RFA’s Uyghur Service on Tuesday about her interest in the Uyghur issue, the genocide amendment, and China’s sanctioning of her and other lawmakers. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
RFA: Where does your passion to help Uyghurs and other oppressed people come from?
Ghani: My passion to help the Uyghurs is because I’m seeing one of the world’s greatest atrocities unfold in front of our eyes in my lifetime. As an elected representative of my constituency, as a member of Parliament, I believe it is my duty to expose what the Chinese Communist Party is doing to the Uyghur people. Over a lifetime ago, many parliamentarians would have worked on dealing with Nazi Germany and dealing with the Holocaust. And now we’re having a situation where genocide is unfolding in real time in front of our eyes, and we have to step up and say something. That’s the reason why I am involved.
As I mentioned earlier on today, freedoms don’t come easy. We need to fight for freedom — the freedoms that you and I have to conduct this interview. We need to make sure that freedom is also accessible to other people around the world and for the Uyghur people because they are being brutalized in such a mass quantity — two million in prison camps, the birthrate being dropped by 80%, hundreds of thousands of Uyghur children removed from the parents. There are no other group of people on the planet that are being brutalized as much as the Uyghur people.
RFA: Before China started committing atrocities against the Uyghurs, could you have ever imagined something like this would have happened in your lifetime in the 21st century?
Ghani: The extraordinary thing is that it’s hard for us to contemplate, but there is a difference between grotesque human rights abuses and a genocide. There are also five markers of genocide, and the last marker is the intent to destroy a group of people. All the evidence exists today to showcase to us that the Chinese Communist Party is carrying out the intent to commit a genocide. The United Nations has a chance to investigate and prevent a genocide, but the United Nations is handcuffed. It is locked in by China and Russia and can’t even undertake the duty that it has to investigate what’s happening to the Uyghur people, let alone to prevent the genocide from continuing.
RFA: China sanctioned you because of your work pushing through the U.K.’s “genocide amendment.” What does the sanctioning mean to you?
Ghani: I think it is a sanction of the U.K. Parliament. I think it was a way to try and silence us, to intimidate us, to control us. But what the sanctions have done is they’ve backfired. That’s made me more vocal, more determined, and more able to coordinate my work with parliamentarians around the world, including here in Washington. The sanctions have just been the absolute reverse of what the Chinese Communist Party wanted to do. Furthermore, by sanctioning British parliamentarians, it has made other parliamentarians ask what is going on. What more do we need to know? What is the Chinese Communist Party hiding? The sanction I wear is a badge of honor. My duty is to continue exposing the abuse of the Uyghur people.
RFA: You and many other MPs have been very active, calling out China’s genocide of the Uyghurs and taking real and meaningful action. But at the same time, the Boris Johnson government is doing very little. Why?
Ghani: Oh my goodness, that’s a difficult one to answer. But look, we have some fundamental values in our country. One of those values is that we ended slavery some time ago. And then to see slavery taking place within those factories in Xinjiang and within the cotton picking fields of the Uyghur [region], and those products ending up on our market, we are now involved in this slave labor. We need to make sure that no firm, no country, is profiting from slave labor. That is a motivation that drives a number of us. A number of parliamentarians are also anxious about China’s ability to harvest data and what they can do to capitalize on that data and then control countries that they have data on. We are incredibly anxious about the threat that China poses to our democracy and to our values and to our freedoms.
Edited by Roseanne Gerin.