Raab refuses to rule out Beijing Winter Olympics boycott over Uighur treatment

6 October 2020, 19:09 | Updated: 6 October 2020, 21:12

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Dominic Raab would not rule out Britain boycotting the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics over the Chinese Government's treatment of Uighur Muslims.

The foreign secretary was being quizzed by MPs on human rights abuses in China, during which he said he would usually try to "separate sport from diplomacy and politics" but in some circumstances "that may not be possible".

He told the Foreign Affairs Committee in Westminster that the UK was reviewing evidence of abuses in Xinjiang, China, to see whether they amounted to genocide.

"I have made clear that there is evidence of serious and egregious human rights violations, gross human rights violations," Mr Raab told the committee.

However, the former war crimes lawyer said that to be classed as genocide it requires proof that there was a deliberate intention to destroy a minority group.

Watch: Maajid Nawaz calls on Pope Francis to condemn Uighur atrocities

Read more: UK accuses China of human rights abuses against Uighurs

"Certainly, I think the more that we see of that evidence, and I think the more the international community addresses its mind to it, the more I think we do need to look very carefully at what action we take," Mr Raab added.

"I think the concerns of what's happening to the Uighurs - the detention, the mistreatment, the forced sterilisation - is something that we can't just turn away from."

At the United Nations (UN), the UK was one of 39 countries to raise concerns about the security crackdown in Hong Kong and the abuse of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Watch: Uighur activist reads harrowing first-hand testimony of "re-education camps"

Watch: Tory MP lambasts China's "shameful spiel" on treatment of Uighur Muslims

The foreign secretary was asked by Conservative MP Alicia Kearns whether boycotting the 2022 winter games would send a strong signal to Beijing.

He replied: "Generally speaking, my instinct is to separate sport from diplomacy and politics. But there comes a point where that may not be possible.

"I would say let's gather the evidence, let's work with our international partners, let's consider in the round what further action we need to take."

Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat MP then asked whether the government would be encouraging the Duke of Cambridge to attend the Beijing Winter Olympics.

"That would be a corollary of the wider process of evaluating the evidence and working with our international partners and whatever further decisions we come to," Mr Raab replied.

The UK, along with Germany, France and the United State, agreed in a statement at the UN that they were "gravely concerned about the existence of a large network of 'political re-education' camps" in Xinjiang where "credible reports indicated that over a million people have been arbitrarily detained".

Concerns were also raised about the imposition of the Hong Kong national security law, which allows some legal cases to be transferred to mainland China for prosecution.

The statement called on Beijing to "uphold autonomy, rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, and to respect the independence of the Hong Kong judiciary".

China's embassy in the UK tweeted in response: "Issues related to Xinjiang, Tibet, & Hong Kong are China's internal affairs and have nothing to do with human rights.

"Some Western countries should discard their ideological prejudice and stop abusing the UN platform and provoking confrontation."