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Xinjiang governor cancels controversial trip to UK

by editor

LONDON — The governor of the Chinese region of Xinjiang has canceled a visit to London planned for this week amid huge backlash from U.K. officials and human rights activists.

Erkin Tuniyaz, who had not been invited by the U.K. government, has decided against traveling to London, according to a U.K. official and campaigners pressing against his visit. Tuniyaz has also cancelled a trip to France and Belgium planned for later this week.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman told reporters on Monday that Tuniyaz would meet with Foreign Office (FCDO) officials who would convey their “abhorrence” about the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

The FCDO had alerted campaigners in an email of its plan to use his visit as an “opportunity to press for a change in China’s approach and to make requests on specific issues, including individual cases.”

Lawmakers in the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) launched a campaign against Tuniyaz’s visit. Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith and Labour MP Chris Bryant penned a joint article calling for Tuniyaz to be detained upon his arrival to London to face trial, amid a push by human rights activists to persuade the U.K.’s attorney general to prosecute the governor.

An FCDO spokesperson said: “We understand the Governor of Xinjiang has cancelled his visit to the UK. The UK Government will continue to use all opportunities to take action against China’s unacceptable human rights abuses in Xinjiang.”

Campaigners say Tuniyaz has been a vocal advocator of policies such as the use of detention facilities for Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic group in Xinjiang.

Luke de Pulford, IPAC’s executive director, said it is “absolutely shameful” that it took the lobby group “pulling out all the stops to block this visit.”

“It should never have been entertained in the first place,” he said. “Nobody who calls themselves a friend of human rights should want to be seen in the same country as this guy — one of the worst atrocity criminals this century. I hope that the U.K. and EU will now see sense and slap sanctions on him, like they did his subordinates.”

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