Terming China’s recent actions on India’s border an example of Chinese ‘aggressive expansionism’, British MPs on Monday night demanded a review of the UK’s dependence on China and highlighting the issue of human rights of Uyghur Muslims in international fora

China was the focus of an extended debate in the House of Commons based on a new report by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China that said there is new evidence suggesting that China is pursuing a birth-prevention programme targeted at Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region.

Iain Duncan-Smith, former Conservative leader, who tabled the urgent question, said it cannot be “business as usual” with China given what he called “bullying behaviour” in relation to India, Hong Kong and elsewhere.

Citing figures from the report of falling birth rates among the minorities in Xinjiang, he said: “Of course the world wants to deal with China, but we cannot continue with business as usual while this sort of blatant activity continues”.

He added: “(Given) the Chinese Government’s appalling record on human rights, their attack on freedoms in Hong Kong, their bullying behaviour in border disputes from the South China seas to India, their blatant breaching of the rules-based order governing the free market and their delayed declaration on Covid-19, will the Government now initiate an internal review of the UK’s dependence on China, with a view to significantly reducing that dependence, and call on the free world to come together to ensure that this growing threat from China is dealt with together before, as history teaches us, it is too late?”

Nigel Adams, minister for Asia, responded that the Boris Johnson government had raised concerns with China at many levels. Britain was pressing China for access to Xinjiang; the last time British diplomats visited the region was in November 2019.

He said: “Our approach to China remains clear-eyed and is rooted in our values and interests. It has always been the case that when we have concerns we raise them, and that where we need to intervene we will”.

“We have consistently led international efforts to highlight concern about the worsening human rights situation in Xinjiang, and I assure my right hon. Friend that the United Kingdom will continue to do so”.

Labour’s Stephen Kinnock wanted the Johnson government to recognise that the actions of the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang “reflect a wider pattern of behaviour of increasingly authoritarian policies at home and aggressive expansionism abroad, including in Hong Kong, Ladakh and the South China sea”.

Calling upon China to allow the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights unfettered access to the region, Adams reiterated that London had “concerns about the detention and human rights abuses, with more than a million Uyghur Muslims and other minorities detained in political re-education camps”.

The Johnson government has recently strongly criticised Beijing for enacting a security law applicable to the former British colony of Hong Kong that, according to the British perspective, goes against international law and agreements signed before the 1997 handover to China.