Erkin Tuniyaz is due to visit the UK next week. Photograph: Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Erkin Tuniyaz is head of the Xinjiang region, where human rights abuses are alleged to be taking place
The former Conservative party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has joined calls for a governor from a region of China where the UN has said crimes against humanity may be taking place to be arrested during a potential visit this week.
The Tory backbencher said that the governor of Xinjiang, Erkin Tuniyaz, should be arrested if he arrives in the UK. The House of Commons heard this week that he was due to visit the UK next week and may meet Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) officials.
Tuniyaz is the head of the Xinjiang region, where it is claimed genocide, crimes against humanity and human rights abuses are occurring.
He is accused of overseeing widespread attacks against the Uyghur ethnic group and other Turkic Muslims in the region.
China has denied the allegations of human rights abuse.
These include mass arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour, sexual violence and forced sterilisations. In August 2022, the UN high commissioner for human rights said that abuses in the province “may amount to crimes against humanity”.
The member of the Chinese Communist party’s central committee has been sanctioned by the US government. Ahead of his potential visit, Human Rights Watch has urged the UK and EU to follow suit.
Duncan Smith is one of the authors of a cross-party letter to the attorney general, Victoria Prentis, asking her to consider a private prosecution from a Kazakh citizen who said he had been “tortured” in Xinjiang.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday, Duncan Smith said: “I want the Foreign Office to say ‘No, we will not see him when he comes.’ I would love them to sanction him.
“There is an attempt to get a private prosecution against him, which the attorney general has been written to and has to then approve. I would call on the attorney to think very carefully about allowing that private prosecution to come through.
“In which case, if this man lands, he will be detained pending prosecutions considering crimes against humanity, which the UN has said China has been guilty of.”
He added: “Yes, I do want him to be arrested.”
Duncan Smith accused the Foreign Office of “weasel words” about Tuniyaz’s visit. In the Commons this week, the Foreign Office minister Leo Docherty said he had not been invited by the government or FCDO.
“The British government is going to give, I believe … a propaganda coup. This is all about being able to go all round the world saying ‘it’s all right, we’re OK, nothing is happening.’
“The truth is, it will be propaganda, that’s what they are after. They are busy using slave labour to manufacture goods that we are using in the UK. They have got a million people in forced labour camps, they’ve got well-documented rape and the systematic sterilisation of women and the little kids are now in reeducation camps.”
The Chingford and Woodford Green MP referenced the situation not only in Xinjiang, but also in Hong Kong where a new national security bill has led to a crackdown on the previously more liberal island, which was ruled by Britain until 1997.
“We have got to start being much tougher on China, to say if you want to be part of the free market, if you want to be treated by the rest of the world as a partner then you have to start abiding by the standards, laws and responsibilities that come with that, including full human rights,” he said.