In August 2018, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviewed China and called for an end to mass extra-legal detentions in Xinjiang. A year on, China must report on efforts to implement the Committee’s recommendations. It is estimated that 1.5 million individuals are still being deprived of their liberty.

Given the scale of the unlawful detentions the situation in Xinjiang requires urgent and creative action. On 26 June 2019, Nicola Macbean, Director of The Rights Practice, spoke at a UK parliamentary roundtable chaired by Afzal Khan, MP for Manchester Gorton, which explored how to hold China to account. Nicola gave a background into the lack of legal basis in Chinese law for the detentions in Xinjiang. Rahima Mahmut, Uyghur singer, award-winning translator and human rights activist, gave a moving account of her own experience, as well as the stories of other Uyghurs with family members detained in China. Serena Gates, UK barrister and former investigator for UN Syrian Commission of Inquiry, provided an overview of possible avenues for action by the international community. The panel discussion was organised by the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and the All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group.

A new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Religious Freedom in Xinjiang has now been established, jointly chaired by Yasmin Qureishi, MP for Bolton South East, and Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland. They aim to initiate a short inquiry after Parliament returns from recess. The inquiry will explore exactly what is happening and discuss what useful next steps can be taken.

At the annual conference of the European China Law Studies Association, The Rights Practice presented a paper on defining and challenging deprivation of liberty in China. The paper focused on the definition of liberty under international law, the challenges in China in addressing arbitrary detention, “transformation through education” in Xinjiang and the response of the international community. The conference was hosted by Durham Law School and gathered together academics and lawyers working on diverse areas of research in Chinese law.