Dominic Raab has called on the United Nations to investigate China’s “industrial scale” human rights abuses in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang.
The Foreign Secretary said in an address to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday that China’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority was “beyond the pale” and called on the body to pass a resolution granting access to investigators.
The remarks came as he launched a verbal broadside against Russia, Belarus, and Myanmar over human rights abuses.
“No one can ignore the evidence anymore,” Mr Raab said. “In Hong Kong, the rights of the people are being systematically violated… In Tibet the situation remains deeply concerning.”
“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. It must be our collective duty to ensure this does not go unanswered.”
“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.”
The strongly worded remarks are likely to provoke fury in Beijing which has repeatedly condemned British criticism of its human rights record as “interference” in its internal affairs.
Activists and UN rights experts have said that at least 1 million Muslims are detained in camps in the remote western region. China denies abuses and says its camps provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.
Mr Raab also called on the body to take on what he called the “dire and shocking” behaviour of Vladimir Putin’s government in Russia.
“It is disgraceful that Alexey Navalny, himself the victim of a despicable crime, has now been sentenced on arbitrary charges,” he said referring to the opposition figure head who has been jailed after surviving an attempted assassination.
“We call on other members of the Council to consider whether Russia’s actions are in line with its international human rights obligations and the values that we seek and that we have pledged to uphold.”
He attacked Belarus for a “human rights crisis” following the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators there and demanded that Myanmar’s military junta release Aung San Suu Kyi and return the government to civilian control.
He said the UK wants to co-sponsor a resolution renewing the mandate of Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Southeast Asian country.
Last week, Mr Andrews warned he was “terrified” that a torrent of fresh violence, disappearances and detentions looms as protests continue against the military takeover of the government. .
Mr Raab’s speech came as the UK returns to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, which is made up of 47 member states, as a voting member. Britain was re-elected in October for a three-year term.
At the upcoming session, which runs from Monday until March 23, the UK will lead resolutions on Syria, marking the tenth anniversary of the conflict, as well as Sri Lanka and South Sudan.
Mr Raab’s long-term focus will be promoting girls’ education, championing freedom of religion and belief, defending media freedom, and advocating the values of liberal democracy.