The governor of China’s western region of Xinjiang will not be visiting Britain this week, according to the UK Foreign Office, after a backlash from MPs over alleged human rights abuses in the region.
British officials had said if Erkin Tuniyaz visited this week, they would have been prepared to meet with him to raise concern over the human rights situation in Xinjiang. But those plans faced backlash from politicians who highlighted human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims in the region.
“The UK government will continue to use all opportunities to take action against China’s unacceptable human rights abuses in Xinjiang.”
Rights groups accuse Beijing of abuses against Uyghurs, the mainly Muslim ethnic minority that numbers about 10 million in Xinjiang, including the mass use of forced labour in internment camps.
China is also alleged to have forcibly sterilised women in the province.
Britain’s parliament has declared the treatment of the Uyghurs amounts to genocide, but the government has said it will not make such a determination.
While the United States has sanctioned Tuniyaz, Britain has not. A Foreign Office officials said that as Tuniyaz was expected to travel on a diplomatic passport, no visa was required.
Last week a Foreign Office minister said Tuniyaz had not been invited by Britain and would not have been “dignified” with a ministerial meeting, but officials were prepared to meet him as part of “robust engagement” over alleged rights violations.
On Monday, Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith accused Tuniyaz of murder while attending a protest outside the Foreign Office.
Duncan Smith told protesters: “We do not meet with people who murder others. Government should be above that.
“There is no negotiation until China stops what it is doing and restores the rights, privileges and freedoms for the people of Xinjiang who are Uyghur.”