Nusrat Ghani, MP for Wealden, has called for a diplomatic, not sports, boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022. Nus warned that the Chinese Communist Party, the CCP, will use the event to sportswash the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang. She backed the motion put forward by Conservative MP Tim Loughton, which passed unanimously. This means Parliament supports this motion.
Speech (check on delivery)
I’m grateful to my good friend the Honourable Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) for bringing this to the House. He has been a powerful campaigner on Tibet, Hong Kong and the Uygur His integrity on some of the key issues of our day continues to be a source of inspiration to all of us.
The topic of a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics is both timely and critical. Before my words are misinterpreted, I want to make it clear that I’m not generally for boycotts – it’s not the sort of Conservative I am. I’m rising to speak in favour of a diplomatic boycott, which is very different to a sporting boycott and its nothing new.
Mr Speaker, as you know, I am one of the MPs sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party, the CCP, not for committing gross human rights abuses but for trying to prevent them taking place. The fact that democratically elected officials from this House have been sanctioned by China should in itself give enough cause to have a diplomatic boycott of these Genocide Olympic– but here we are.
And if there’s any confusion on what this House’s view on the Uyghur genocide is, three months ago, this Parliament, based on the evidence presented, took the unprecedented decision to unanimously declare that all five markers of genocide were being met at the hands of the CCP against the Uyghur in Xinjiang. These are: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm, inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births, and separating children.
We are a signee to the 1948 convention on the crime of genocide. This is not a word to be used lightly. The word “genocide’ came into our own vocabulary thanks to a Polish Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, who had seen over 40 of his own family murdered during the Holocaust. Under the convention we have a legal obligation to predict signs of genocide, prevent it from happening, protect those affected and prosecute those responsible. The States parties know or should know that there is, at the very least, a “serious danger” that a genocide is being committed or will be committed by China against the Uyghur people.
Before anyone starts claiming the UN can help, we know this process is broken. We do not stand alone in declaring genocide either. Parliaments in the Netherlands, Slovakia, Canada and the Czech Republic have all passed their own motions, and the Biden Administration has continued to declare the situation in Xinjiang as an ongoing, active genocide. United States Speaker Nancy Pelosi is supportive of a diplomatic boycott on these grounds. What is the view of our Speaker? Who will represent the views of this house when our Government hasn’t the courage to do take a stand.
By attending the Beijing Olympics at a Government level, we will be playing an active role in helping the CCP ‘sportswash’ an ongoing genocide. This makes a mockery of the statements put out by our Secretaries of State, including the Foreign Secretary’s description of Xinjiang - “internment camps, arbitrary detention, political re-education, forced labour, torture and forced sterilisation —all on an industrial scale.”
Politics is about choices and defending our values and our British laws. We need action, and a diplomatic boycott is a clear, low risk high reward way of establishing Global Britain’s values. As the Foreign Secretary has stated – “we have a moral duty to respond”. There is precedent for this – Prime Minister David Cameron did not attend the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia following the country passing anti-LGBT laws. We knew showing up then was wrong, just as we know showing up now will be too.
China plays by one set of rules – its own. It consistently undermines global norms and international laws. There’s increasingly the assumption that the game is over, and that we have to play by China’s rules. But President Xi and his party do have weaknesses. Xi fears domestic reform failure. Xi fears international isolation. And Xi fears a financial crisis. Any or all three of these have the power to undermine his legitimacy and grip over China.
We have significant soft-power assets and a legitimacy that Beijing craves on the world stage – whether they want to admit it or not. A diplomatic boycott of the Genocide Olympics robs President Xi of the prestige and legitimacy on the international stage he desperately desires.
In isolation, China can shrug off one or two countries choosing not to send representatives. But Parliaments all over the world are currently debating and discussing this exact situation. Look at the European Parliament, which approved a motion calling for diplomats to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics less than a week ago. It passed with the overwhelming support of 578 votes from across the political spectrum. The Biden Administration is also debating not sending officials to the Games, and yesterday the U.S. Senate passed legislation to ban the import of products from Xinjiang region. The mood music is clear from both the European Union and the States. So why are we letting ourselves become sole torchbearers for this Genocide Olympics? Doing so makes a mockery of the G7 statement on slave labour; a mockery of the Foreign Office, a mockery of our Modern Slavery Act, and a mockery of Global Britain.
One of the things this diplomatic boycott would also do is shine a light on the role of the slave market of today that is the forced labour industry in Xinjiang, which is being exploited by a handful of businesses. It is a travesty that products tainted by genocide are still ending up in UK supply chains and in British supermarkets. If the BBC is broadcasting the Genocide Olympics, it must live up to its pledge of being impartial and show viewers the situation for human rights in Xinjiang and across China.
Mr Speaker – there is no easy answer here, but there is a right one. Politics and power isn’t for the faint hearted. We as MPs have to decide how we best represent the interests of our constituents and the values of our country.
Is it in our interests to attend the Genocide Olympics at a diplomatic level? The Games lasts 16 days, or around 1.3million seconds – nearly a second for every Uyghur imprisoned, abused or forced into labour under President Xi. Is that what we want Global Britain to be? Let’s not repeat our mistake when we chose not to boycott the 1936 Olympics, which didn’t stop the slaughter of millions of Jews.
I urge this House to support this motion and push for a full diplomatic boycott of the Genocide Olympics.
Speech (as delivered)
I must put on record my thanks to my hon. Friend Alexander Stafford for cutting his speech short to allow me to speak this afternoon; I am incredibly grateful for his generosity. I am also grateful to my hon. Friend Tim Loughton—my good friend—for bringing this very important debate to the House. He has been a very passionate and powerful campaigner on Tibet, Hong Kong and the Uyghur, and his integrity on some of these key issues of the day continues to be a source of inspiration to all of us.
Before my words are misinterpreted, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not generally for boycotts—that is not the kind of Conservative I am. I am rising to speak in favour of a diplomatic boycott, which is very different from a sporting boycott. A diplomatic boycott of the Olympic games is nothing new, as has been mentioned in many speeches today. I also put on record the fact that these Olympics will no doubt take place and that I will be supporting our British athletes and hoping that they win gold in every competition that takes place. But that is very different to supporting the CCP as it sportswashes what is happening in Xinjiang.
As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am one of the MPs sanctioned by the Chinese Communist party, and not for committing gross human rights abuses or being a terrorist or a warlord—unless my colleagues who have been sanctioned too have something that they wish to share about themselves—but speaking up against genocide. If my Government think they have any way of persuading the CCP to conduct itself any differently in the face of our values and norms, I am afraid they have lost the plot completely.
If there is any confusion on this House’s views on genocide, let me say that just three months ago this Parliament took an unprecedented decision, based on the evidence, to unanimously declare that all five markers of genocide were being met at the hands of the CCP against the Uyghur in Xinjiang. Let me just remind people about this. Of course one of the markers is killing members of a group. Others are causing serious bodily or mental harm; inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction, in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births—we know that is happening, with the forced sterilisation of Uyghur women; and the barbaric act that is taking place against Uyghur families, with Uyghur children in their hundreds of thousands being separated from their parents. That is what is taking place in China and this is what they do not want us to talk about as these games take place.
Of course we are signatories to the 1948 convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, which is why I would never use the word lightly. Before the Minister at the Dispatch Box has to hold the embarrassing position that only the UN can declare genocide, I must point out that we know the UN is broken when it comes to preventing or even researching genocide when it comes to China.
We should also reflect on what this House has said. We are not the only ones in the world who recognise that the evidence exists that genocide is taking place. The Netherlands, Slovakia, Canada and the Czech Republic have all debated their own motions, and Biden’s Administration have continued to declare the situation in Xinjiang an ongoing, active genocide. More importantly, Mr Deputy Speaker, I wonder whether you could take a message back to Mr Speaker, reflecting on what the US Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said about the Olympic games. She is on the record as saying that she supports a “diplomatic boycott” on those grounds. Mr Speaker may have an opportune moment at some point to let us know what his position is, because somebody in this place has to reflect the view of this House; unfortunately, I am worried that the Government may not be bold enough to hold that line.
My anxiety is that if we have diplomats and politicians attending the Beijing Olympics—the genocide Olympics, as they have been referred to—it enables the CCP to sportswash what is happening in Xinjiang and it makes a mockery of everything we stand for. When the Foreign Secretary talks about:
“Internment camps, arbitrary detention, political re-education, forced labour, torture and forced sterilisation—all on an industrial scale”—[Official Report, 12 January 2021; Vol. 687, c. 160.]
what does it mean if we then turn up to these genocide Olympics? I know it is difficult for the Government, but politics is about choices and at some point we have to defend our values and our British laws. A diplomatic boycott will have an impact and is a low-risk, high-reward way of establishing global Britain’s values. As the Foreign Secretary has already been on record to say
“We have a moral duty to respond.”—[Official Report, 12 January 2021; Vol. 687, c. 160.]
And we can, by making sure that we do not have a diplomatic presence at the Olympics.
Such a measure is nothing new. A former Prime Minister, David Cameron, did not attend the 2014 winter Olympics after the country in question passed anti-LGBT laws. Let us remind ourselves that the CCP believes that homosexuality is a mental illness and it is killing or destroying millions of Uyghur people. The situation is no better—I would argue it is much worse—so we should not be turning up diplomatically at the genocide Olympics.
There is some anxiety that we cannot take action unilaterally, but that is also nonsense. Many Parliaments around the world are currently debating, discussing or putting motions in place to ensure that politicians and diplomats will not be turning up at these Olympics. It is also quite exciting to note how forceful and bold the Biden Administration are being on this. Just last night, a motion was moved in the Senate to declare that all goods coming in from Xinjiang are slave labour goods and will now be blacklisted and not allowed to be imported into America. These are the motions we should be moving in this House; our position should not be to say, on the one hand, that this is an industrial-scale version of human rights abuses and, on the other hand, that there is nothing we can do.
Politics is not for the fainthearted. Every decision has consequences, but a diplomatic boycott would enable us to stand by what this House and our allies believe—that a genocide is taking place in Xinjiang.
The games last 16 days, or about 1.3 million seconds. That is a second for every Uyghur imprisoned, abused or forced into labour under President Xi. We as global Britain have to make a stand. Do we stand by those oppressed, or do we stand by President Xi? A lifetime ago, the 1936 Olympics were not boycotted, and that did not stop the slaughter of millions of Jews. We cannot make the same mistake again. I urge this House to support this motion and push for a full diplomatic boycott of the genocide games.