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Sinn Fein MP Hazzard's China 'solidarity' tweet prompts backlash

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Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard (Liam McBurney/PA)

Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard (Liam McBurney/PA)

A tweet from Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard expressing solidarity with China has prompted a backlash.

On Saturday the South Down MP tweeted that it was "great to see President Xi has announced the end of absolute poverty in China this week".

"China has spent more than ¥1.6trillion in this historic endeavour including 10million new homes & 25million renovated homes," the tweet read.

"Xi has vowed now to eradicate health inequalities #Solidarity."

Mr Hazzard's tweet drew a large backlash critical of his decision to show support for the oppressive Chinese regime, which has been accused of a litany of human rights abuses.

The country's communist leadership have been accused of conducting a campaign of genocide against the Uighurs (also spelt Uyghur), a Muslim minority group which lives in the Xinjiang region.

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China's government has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Earlier this week Prime Minister Boris Johnson described China's treatment of the Uighurs as "appalling".

"We're leading international action in the UN to hold China to account and will continue to work with the US friends and partners around the world to do just that," he said.

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Uighurs and Tibetan people demonstrate against China (Salvatore di Nolfi/AP)

Uighurs and Tibetan people demonstrate against China (Salvatore di Nolfi/AP)

AP/PA Images

Uighurs and Tibetan people demonstrate against China (Salvatore di Nolfi/AP)

Speaking earlier this month US President Biden said there would be repercussions for China as a result of its human rights abuses.

Mr Hazzard's tweet drew criticism from across the political spectrum.

In response a Sinn Fein spokesperson said the party was "opposed to the suppression of any ethnic or religious grouping on the basis of their culture or belief system".

SDLP South Belfast MP Claire Hanna said she had a "genuine question" for the Sinn Fein leadership following the tweet.

"Does this solidarity extend to the Uyghurs who are experiencing egregious human rights abuses, including concentration camps and forced sterilisation, at the hands of the government," she said.

Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry noted the tweet came at a time when "in Parliament, there is an ongoing battle to ensure that there is a robust amendment to the Trade Bill covering genocide, with the Uyghur people uppermost in our thoughts. More key votes expected this week".

Former Labour MP Baroness Hoey wrote: "Is this a parody account? Unbelievable."

Amnesty International UK's Northern Ireland Programme Director Patrick Corrigan said that his solidarity was "with the Uighur and Kazakh Muslims of Xinjiang, a million of whom have been put in mass internment camps for “re-education” at Xi’s direction".

His Amnesty colleague Grainne Teggart asked if Mr Hazzard had "any comment on egregious human rights abuses? Draconian national security law? The internment and persecution of 1 million Uighur and Kazakh Muslims? The list goes on".

Fianna Fail Senator Malcolm Byrne said Sinn Fein had once again reiterated their support for the Chinese Communist Party.

"The oppression of minorities and the abuse of human rights is unacceptable," he said.

Green Party Belfast councillor Brian Smyth said the Chinese regime were "also doing their best to eradicate the Uighurs. More than a million men and women held in concentration camps for supposed re-education".

The Chinese Embassy in Ireland also responded to Mr Hazzard's tweet, quoting former South African President Nelson Mandela saying “overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life".

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: "The campaign against the Uighurs in China is a gross breach of human rights".

"Sinn Fein has raised our concerns with the Irish government and with the Chinese Ambassador," the spokesperson said.

"Sinn Fein will continue to campaign to highlight the plight of those who face persecution, are subject to coercion in any form and continue to be denied basic human rights.”

Belfast Telegraph


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