An issue which is often raised with me is how our country is upholding its responsibilities on the global stage by standing up for human rights.
Seven months ago, I stood at the General Election on a manifesto which included a pledge to introduce a Magnitsky-style sanctions regime to tackle human rights abusers.
Soon afterwards I wrote to the Foreign Secretary on behalf of a number of Crawley residents who shared my eagerness to see such sanctions introduced by the UK. I was told that the necessary regulations would subsequently be laid, and the Government has been true to its word.
Last week, Dominic Raab stood up in Parliament to announce this regime, named after the late auditor Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered widespread corruption by a group of Russian tax and police officials.
The new sanctions target 49 people and organisations, including 25 Russian nationals involved in the mistreatment and death of Mr Magnitsky.
Also included are 20 Saudi nationals involved in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, two high-ranking military generals from Burma involved in systematic violence against the Rohingya people and other ethnic minorities, and two organisations involved in forced labour, torture and murder in North Korean gulags.
The UK can now decide its own sanctions policy while continuing to work with international partners. This is Britain’s first autonomous human rights sanctions regime, allowing us to work independently alongside allies including the United States, Australia, Canada and the European Union.
Earlier this year Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, published a report about how the Chinese communist dictatorship’s disinformation has cost lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is far from the extent of Beijing’s actions which must be called out.
The erosion of free speech in Hong Kong and the oppression of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang are not just issues on which we disagree with the Chinese government; we must also act to address them.
In Xinjiang, at least 120,000, and possibly over 1 million, Uyghurs are detained in mass detention camps, called ‘re-education camps’, which seek to change their political views, identities and religious beliefs.
I am supporting efforts in Parliament which call on the Foreign Secretary to ensure those responsible for the Chinese Communist Party’s actions in Xinjiang face sanctions.
I welcome Dominic Raab telling the Commons last week that the next wave of designations are already being worked on and I look forward to these being announced at the earliest opportunity.
Henry Smith MP