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Iain Duncan Smith accuses Xinjiang governor of ‘murder’ at Uyghur protest

Demonstrators gathered in Westminster after reports Erkin Tuniyaz was to meet UK officials

By Jane Clinton

February 13, 2023

Iain Duncan Smith (right) joined a vigil outside the Foreign Office in London to protest at the planned visit to the UK of Erkin Tuniyaz, governor of the Chinese region of Xinjiang. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Iain Duncan Smith has accused the Chinese governor of Xinjiang of murder as he joined Uyghur activists protesting against his reported visit to Britain.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on Monday after it emerged that Erkin Tuniyaz, the chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region, could meet UK officials, a scenario Duncan Smith branded “unacceptable”. Tuniyaz was expected to come to the UK this week, according to the reports, with some speculating he has already arrived.

The UN has accused China of “serious human rights violations” in Xinjiang and human rights groups believe more than 1 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have been detained in camps. China is also alleged to have forcibly sterilised women in the province.

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.”

He added: “We face the reality that there is a strong possibility that the government may end up in some other location with officials meeting the man who is responsible for what we believe to be a genocide in Xinjiang. That is simply unacceptable.

“It is unacceptable for the government to pretend that because a minister doesn’t meet him somehow it is unofficial. It is not.”

Protesters gathered outside the FCDO’s headquarters in Westminster waving placards reading: “Freedom for Uyghurs” and “China, stop your genocide against the Uyghurs” before delivering a letter to the FCDO.

There were speeches by activists and Labour peer Helena Kennedy, who co-chairs the inter-parliamentary alliance on China.

She said: “I’d love to know who it was who extended the invitation to this man, who is on the United States’ own list of those who must not be given visas, who must not be allowed entry into the United States and is sanctioned by the United States of America.

“Why did we not, despite our urging, have him put on to a sanctions list as well? And why have we allowed him to come here? Who invited him and what is the purpose of those meetings?”

In 2021, MPs approved a non-binding Commons motion declaring that Uyghur Muslims and other minorities are “suffering crimes against humanity and genocide” in Xinjiang.

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