Johnson Wins U.K. Vote on Genocide Rulings After China Sanctions
(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson narrowly defeated a rebellion from members of his Conservative Party pressing for U.K. courts to rule on cases of genocide, a move they hoped would prevent the government from doing trade deals with countries found to be committing the crime.
Rebel Tory MPs, whose focus is on the plight of minority Uyghur Muslims in China, voted in favor of inserting the measure into the government’s trade legislation put to the House of Commons on Monday, but failed to win a majority. A defeat would have undermined the prime minister’s trade strategy and potentially jeopardized his efforts to strike a balance over trade and values in the U.K.’s dealings with China.
Ahead of the vote, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the U.K. had joined the U.S., European Union and Canada -- a total of 30 nations -- in sanctioning four Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses against the Uyghurs. China has repeatedly denied any accusations of human rights abuses against its Uyghur minority.
“We’re sending the clearest message to the Chinese government that the international community will not turn a blind eye to such serious and systematic violations of human rights, and we will act in concert to hold those responsible to account,” he told members of Parliament Monday.
While Johnson had already defeated the rebels twice on the issue, the margins of victory -- just 15 votes last month and 18 this time -- showed how thorny an issue U.K.-China relations are to British lawmakers. The ruling Conservatives have an effective majority of over 80 votes.
The U.K.’s main opposition Labour Party criticized the timing of Raab’s announcement as a “grubby and cynical” attempt to shore up votes against the rebel’s amendment.
Raab “has repeatedly refused to sanction Chinese officials for more than two years and only now, after the U.S. and EU have done so and he is facing defeat in the Commons, is he reluctantly forced to take action,” Labour’s foreign policy spokeswoman, Lisa Nandy, said in the House of Commons.
Johnson’s government argues courts should not be involved in U.K. trade policy and that genocide should be decided by the International Criminal Court -- though the rebels counter that China’s seat on the United Nations Security Council prevents that. Last month, 31 Conservative MPs voted against the government.
”The government has been forced to move a long way from their original position,” prominent Tory rebel Iain Duncan Smith said after the vote. “I consider we have won a 90% success.”
Speaking to MPs, Raab said “there are no realistic prospects of a free trade deal on the horizon” with China. Johnson told Parliament this month the U.K. must be ready to increase trade with Beijing, arguing that the government would protect both British interests and values in doing so.
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