The Foreign Secretary has placed diplomatic pressure on the United Nations to respond to China’s “appalling treatment” of the Uighur Muslims and people in Hong Kong.
Addressing the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, Dominic Raab said “no-one can ignore the evidence any more” of a deteriorating human rights situation in China and called for international action.
It comes amid heightened tensions between Britain and China after Beijing banned BBC World News in retaliation after broadcast regulator Ofcom stripped state TV channel China Global Television Network of its UK broadcasting licence.
The UK last year also banned technology giant Huawei from being used in the country’s 5G communications network out of fears it could be used by the Chinese government to spy on Britain.
In his online speech, Mr Raab said people’s rights in Hong Kong are being “systematically violated” and that the national security law is a “clear breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration” that is having a “chilling effect on personal freedoms”.
“Free and fair legislative elections must take place, with a range of opposition voices allowed to take part,” he urged.
The Cabinet minister criticised the continued restricted access to Tibet before turning his attention to the “systematic” human rights violations in Xinjiang.
He told council members the treatment of Uighur Muslims and other minorities in the region was “beyond the pale”.
The tone of Mr Raab’s speech was in stark contrast to remarks allegedly made by the Prime Minister earlier this month.
Boris Johnson, according to The Guardian, is said to have told a Downing Street roundtable with Chinese businesses that he was “fervently Sinophile” and determined to improve ties “whatever the occasional political difficulties”.
But Number 10 looked to stamp out talk of a rift between the Conservative Party leader and the Foreign Secretary on Chinese relations, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman telling reporters Mr Johnson had been “outspoken in his condemnation” of human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
During his UN speech, the Foreign Secretary said: “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.”
Mr Raab used his eight-minute address to call for a UN motion to be passed to allow investigators into Xinjiang.
He said the Government had already taken action domestically by putting in place measures that ensure no company profiting from forced labour in Xinjiang can do business in the UK.
“It must be our collective duty to ensure this does not go unanswered – UN mechanisms must respond,” he continued.
“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, or another independent fact-finding expert, must – and I repeat, must – be given urgent and unfettered access to Xinjiang.
“If members of this Human Rights Council are to live up to our responsibilities, there must be a resolution which secures this access.”
China has defended the presence of “re-education” camps in Xinjiang, saying they aim only to promote economic and social development in the region and to stamp out radicalism.
Mr Raab also voiced concerns about the military coup in Myanmar and the treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Russia.