Xinjiang Gov. Erkin Tuniyaz has cancelled his plan to visit London and Europe this week following strong criticism of his human rights record. In an email to The Epoch Times on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the British Foreign Office said the department was aware that Tuniyaz had cancelled his trip to the UK. The spokesperson added that the UK government would continue to take action against China’s unacceptable human rights abuses in Xinjiang. An EU spokesperson also confirmed to The Epoch Times that the Chinese mission had informed them that the visit had been postponed.
U.S. publication Politico and French newspaper Le Monde reported on Monday that Tuniyaz had cancelled his plan to visit Paris, citing unnamed diplomatic sources. The Epoch Times has requested comment from the French Foreign Ministry. When asked about the reports that the Xinjiang governor would no longer visit Paris and Brussels, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said he did not have specific information. He called the reports of human rights abuses in Xinjiang “the misinformation of the century made by anti-China forces,” and accused “related sides” of politicising Xinjiang issues and interfering with Chinese domestic affairs.
Tuniyaz, governor and deputy Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary in Xinjiang, had been the region’s deputy governor since 2008. The U.S. Treasury department sanctioned him in 2021 under the Global Magnitsky Act, saying more than a million Uyghurs had been detained in Xinjiang during his tenure. In December 2021, an independent people’s tribunal in London, led by Sir Geoffrey Nice, KC, ruled that the Chinese communist regime had committed genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the far-west Xinjiang region.
Beijing had not announced or confirmed Tuniyaz’s plan to visit the UK and Europe. The news first broke out after the British Foreign Office wrote to Uyghur groups in the UK to inform them of the planned visit and ask them to submit their views. After a Foreign Office minister confirmed on Feb. 9 that Tuniyaz was not invited by the UK but officials would meet him if he arrived, MPs criticised the decision, with former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith saying the meeting would be “a propaganda coup for the Chinese government.”
Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Alicia Kearns said it was “not good enough” to approve an “official visit to one of the masterminds of this genocide.” MPs urged the UK government to sanction Tuniyaz, with Kearns saying the “only meetings with him should be in a courtroom.” Rahima Mahmut, UK director of the World Uyghur Congress and executive director of Stop Uyghur Genocide, previously told The Epoch Times that she was “incredibly hurt” the Foreign Office agreed to meet Tuniyaz and that it was “ridiculous to suggest” that meetings will “convince him to change course on directives that come from straight the top.”
The EU also faced criticism for being prepared to meet Tuniyaz. EU spokesman Peter Stano confirmed that “meetings will be granted” upon China’s request, saying, “We see this as an opportunity to convey directly the EU’s long-standing concerns on the human rights situation in Xinjiang.” NGO Human Rights Watch stated that the UK and the EU “should not be drawn into meetings with senior Xinjiang officials so that China can whitewash its atrocities in the Uyghur region” and “should be investigating and imposing sanctions on Tuniyaz and other top Chinese officials for their role in crimes against humanity.”