Dominic Raab does not rule out Winter Olympics boycott over Uighur Muslims

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Dominic Raab "considering further action" over Uighur Muslims

Dominic Raab has not ruled out boycotting the Beijing Winter Olympic Games over the treatment of the Uighur Muslims by the Chinese government.

The foreign secretary said it was his "instinct to separate sport from diplomacy and politics" but that there "comes a point where that might not be possible".

He said there had been "egregious human rights abuses" against the group.

China has faced growing accusations over its treatment of the Uighurs.

It is believed the government has detained up to one million of the population in "re-education camps" in the Xinjiang region.

There are also claims it has carried out the forced sterilisations of Uighur women.

In July, Mr Raab accused China of "gross" human rights abuses against the population and said he would not rule out taking sanctions against the country.

But the Chinese Ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said the accusations were baseless and that Uighurs "enjoy peaceful, harmonious coexistence with other ethnic groups of people".

Mr Raab was appearing at the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and was asked about what the UK was doing to combat persecution of Uighur Muslims.

He said: "In the UK, our concerns can only be growing about the reports of what's happening in Xinjinag and we would want to work very closely with our international partners to give the most powerful message, whether it is in the UN... or whether it is in applying sanctions.

"We do need to look at what action to take. The concerns of what's happening to the Uighurs, the detention, the mistreatment, the forced sterilisation, is something that we cannot just turn away from."

The foreign secretary said the UK needed to "call them out [and] hold China to account", adding: "We need to be making the point to China, as a country that rightly has expectations to be treated as a leading member of the international community, that this is at odds with the responsibilities that come with being a leading member of the international community."

'Further action'

Asked by fellow Conservative MP Alicia Kearns whether boycotting the Winter Games in 2022 would send a strong message, Mr Raab said: "Generally speaking my instinct is to separate sport from diplomacy and politics but there comes a point where that may not be possible.

"I would say, let's gather the evidence, let's work with international partners, let's consider it further in the round with further action we need to take."

The chair of the committee, Conservative Tom Tugenhadt, also asked Mr Raab whether he would encourage the Duke of Cambridge whether to attend on behalf of the British government.

The foreign secretary said that decision would be "part of a wider process" and he would look at it "very closely and carefully".