On Wednesday 26th June 2019, the Bar Human Rights Committee in conjunction with the All Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group, held an important panel discussion in Parliament to consider the treatment of Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China and to explore how to hold China to account for human rights violations there.

It is estimated that over 1 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims are being detained in “political education camps”, with millions more subject to restrictions on their liberty.

Human Rights Watch describes that: “In those camps, they are subjected to forced political indoctrination, renunciation of their faith, mistreatment, and, in some cases, torture. Numerous UN experts, treaty bodies, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights have expressed grave concern about the situation in Xinjiang and called for unrestricted access to the region.”

Redress for rights violations is usually administered through the application of the law, by lawyers and judicial determination. In China, however, human rights defenders and lawyers are systematically prevented from challenging the unlawful exercise of State power, through arrest, prosecution for sedition and disbarment.

Given the scale of unlawful detention; curtailment of liberty, freedom of religion and expression; and interference with private life, the situation in Xinjiang merits urgent and innovative attention.

The event was chaired by Afzal Khan MP, with observations from Nicola Macbean – Executive Director of the predominantly China-focused human rights NGO, The Rights Practice; Rahima Mahmut – Uyghur singer, award-winning translator, and human rights activist; and Serena Gates – UK Barrister and former investigator for the UN Syrian Commission of Inquiry.

Attending the event were policy makers, lawyers, interested organisations and academics and Uighur people from Xinjiang now living in exile in the UK.