The commitment made by Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, to strengthen businesses’ supply chain requirements under the Modern Slavery Act are welcome, if overdue (China’s treatment of Uighurs amounts to torture, says Dominic Raab, 12 January).
For him to choose the situation facing the Uighurs in China to do so also seems appropriate, but it represents a blunt instrument for the task in hand. Fines for companies that refuse to issue modern slavery statements will increase the number of statements, but not necessarily their quality.
Most statements do not capture the salient risks in many global supply chains worldwide, such as recruitment fees charged to millions of migrant workers. It is welcome that the UK will now produce “robust and detailed guidance” to businesses – guidance that the government must also follow in its public procurement, development assistance and export credit.
In relation to the Uighur forced labour specifically, this is increasingly becoming an all-China issue and raises the issue of other economic sanctions beyond Xinjiang, such as targeting individuals’ economic interests under the Magnitsky Act.
Chief executive, Institute for Human Rights and Business
• “We have a moral duty to respond,” was Dominic Raab’s conclusion in the Commons last week, after cataloguing the scale of the Chinese government’s repression of its Uighur Muslims.
Considering the foreign secretary’s charge sheet – “internment camps, arbitrary detention, political re-education, forced labour, torture and forced sterilisation. All on an industrial scale” – it is impossible not to agree with his conclusion.
Why, then, is he trying to dissuade Tory backbenchers from supporting the “genocide amendment” to the trade bill when it is debated this week? Should he not welcome the chance for a UK court to examine the nature of China’s actions – especially when the only alternative, the UN’s genocide convention, is retroactive and hands the perpetrator a veto?
MPs have a chance to send a message of warning to tyrants and hope to the Uighurs. They should vote for the amendment. That would be the moral response.