UK tenses relations with China over repression of Uighurs and medicinal use of pangolins


  • The British Foreign Minister bans imports from Xinjiang, where ethnic Uighur Muslims are used as forced labor


  • It accuses the Xi Jinping government of violating human rights, of “torture” and “barbarism”, while Beijing denies all accusations


  • Johnson blames them for spreading covid through pangolins, highly prized mammals credited with healing and sexual powers.

Relations between the United Kingdom and China have been strained this week based on comments from Foreign Minister Dominic Raab and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that the Chinese communist government has not liked anything. First it was Raab who, this Tuesday, in parliament, announced a series of measures to ensure that British companies cannot take advantage of Uighur forced labor en la provincia de Xinjiang.

It prohibited the import of products that are suspected of this practice and the export of any good that could be used to repress this ethnic group. AND accused China of violating human rights, of “torture” and of “a barbarism that we believed had been left behind in other times”.

A few hours later, during an international summit on the protection of biodiversity, Johnson called Chinese natural medicine “insane” and blamed it for triggering the coronavirus pandemic. He referred to the use of pangolin scales, which are used medicinally in China. He said this led to the illegal trade in these mammals and the spread of the virus. China, which was represented at the summit by its vice president, Han Zheng, attacked Johnson very hard.

Uighur prison camps

The Uyghur ethnic group lives in the Xinjiang region, in northwest China, an area very rich in oil. They speak Turkic and are Muslim. Beijing labels them as separatists and terrorists. There are about 11 million Uyghurs. It is estimated that one million They are locked up in so-called “re-education camps”, which are nothing more than prison camps. The BBC was one of the media that shared secret documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in 2019.

These documents included the directives of the senior government officials to those responsible for the fields and showed the systematic brainwashing they undergo. How they are locked up, indoctrinated and punished. They are forced to learn Mandarin, Islam is banned, and cameras have been installed everywhere, including toilets and showers, without blind spots, so that no one thinks of leaving. They are only released if authorized by four committees and they consider that they have already “reeducated” themselves.

Another report from the agencia Associated Press June 2020 revealed a repression campaign in the last four years in the region of Xinjiang classified by some experts as “demographic genocide”. The report was prepared from statistics, interviews with former detainees and government documents. They reveal a birth control program started in 2016 with more than 60,000 surgical operations to sterilize women, the implantation of intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUD) to more than 400,000 women and forced abortions. In just two years, Xinjiang went from being one of the areas with the highest population growth to being the one with the lowest birth rate.

Cotton slaves

Another think tank investigation Centre for Global Policy, based in Washington, published on December 14, denounced that there were 570,000 Uyghurs who were used as slave labor to work in the cotton fields region of. Xinjiang produces 85% of all Chinese cotton and 20% of the world. Children are separated from their parents and placed in schools and parents are put to work all day in factories or cotton fields because they do not have time to go to pray or participate in community activities. He also explains that every year they go to the villages 70,000 police officers to recruit workers and who often have to take the elderly because most of the young people are in “re-education camps”.

Companies like Nike, Gap or Adidas have been accused of using forced labor Uyghur in its manufacturing chain. UK stores Marks and Spencer have said they will not sell products containing cotton from Xinjiang. It has also been discovered that the Chinese technology company Huawei created a facial recognition system to identify Uighurs in crowds and follow them.

An important group of Conservative MPs led by former leader Iain Duncan Smith he is pressuring the government to report the Uighur genocide to the British courts. China is the 4.4% of all UK exports and 6.8% of all imports. Raab said this is the work of international tribunals. As well explained that they have satellite images showing the scale of the internment camps, the presence of factories within them and the destruction of mosques. China continues to consistently deny all accusations and does not allow any human rights commission to enter the region.

Illegal trade in pangolins

Johnson’s statements were not liked in Beijing either accusing China of having originated the pandemic through pangolins. Pangolins are small and harmless mammals, toothless, with a long tail and covered in tough scales. Tens of thousands of these animals are killed each year for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Healing powers, almost miraculous, are attributed to its scales.

They are made of keratin, like nails or horns. They are used in traditional Chinese medicine to cure ailments ranging from lactation difficulties to arthritis. They are ground into powder. They believe that their blood and embryos heal impotence. Its meat is considered a delicacy among the Chinese and Vietnamese wealthy classes. For this reason it has become a very precious animal. Represents neither more nor less than 20% of all illegal wildlife trade. It is an endangered species.

In his participation in the conference on biodiversity, the prime minister said that the covid pandemic “it was the product of the imbalance of man’s relationship with the natural world”. He also said that it is “a zoonotic disease [que se transmite de animales a seres humanos] which originated from bats or pangolins and the insane belief that if you grind the scales of a pangolin, you will somehow become a more powerful person [sexualmente] or whatever people believe ”.

The origin of the coronavirus

Boris Johnson is not so misguided“Explain to the NIUS Pablo Pardo, correspondent for ‘El Mundo’ in Washington and one of the leading experts on pangolins and the illegal wildlife trade. “Could be a bat urinating on a pangolin in Malaysia”. Scientists believe that some of the worst outbreaks of recent viral diseases such as SARS, MERS, Ebola or Covid originated in bats.

Two groups of virus-related coronaviruses have been identified in Malay pangolins smuggled into Chinaaccording to a study by the University of Hong Kong. Scientists have called for the closure of street markets like the one in Wuhan where wild animal meat is sold. Scientists from the Guanghzou University. Pardo too refers to the sexual and healing properties attributed to pangolins as “sheer hoax” and that “saying ‘traditional Chinese medicine’ is like calling the horoscope ‘prospective’”.

And explain that nothing is done to stop the illegal traffic of pangolins because they are not “emblematic like whales, elephants, rhinos or tigers” and “they do not attract the attention of public opinion or the Western media”, and also because “China is the largest trading partner and investor of the countries that export it.” The Chinese government criticized Johnson’s words, saying it was “speculation.” and that all they do is “disrupt international cooperation”. This Thursday a group of international epidemiologists from the World Health Organization arrived in China to study the origin of the virus. It is the third time they have allowed their entry.

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