Foreign aid destined for China will be diverted to fighting human rights abuses

Danielle Sheridan
·2-min read
Dominic Raab - JOHANNA GERON/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
Dominic Raab - JOHANNA GERON/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Chinese foreign aid will be devoted to fighting human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Dominic Raab has said.

It comes after the Government was criticised last year for funding schemes to China including a photography project to understand the country’s past, syphilis tests for gay men and improving cancer screening in rural areas.

The Foreign Secretary told the International Development Committee that he had cut China's Official Development Assistance by 95 per cent.

He said: "There is £900,000 left and that will go towards human rights and open society programmes.”

Mr Raab added that he assumed colleagues would not want to see this funding cut “given the pressures and challenges in Xinjiang and Hong Kong".

His comments come as MPs on Thursday night approved a House of Commons motion which declared Uyghur Muslims and other minorities are "suffering crimes against humanity and genocide" in Xinjiang. Although the motion is non-binding, it is a further sign of Parliament's wish for the Government to act.

China hit back on Friday morning, calling the "unwarranted accusation" of genocide "the most preposterous lie of the century, an outrageous insult and affront to the Chinese people, and a gross breach of international law and the basic norms governing international relations".

"China strongly opposes the UK's blatant interference in China's internal affairs," Beijing's UK embassy said in a statement.

Mr Raabalso insisted his department acted in a "fully transparent way" in setting out how foreign aid would be spent after he was accused of "sneaking out" cuts to the budget.

In a written ministerial statement published on Wednesday evening Mr Raab set out the priorities for how the £8.11 billion of the aid budget will be allocated by the Foreign Office, accounting for approximately 80 per cent of the total UK spend.

However, Sarah Champion, chairwoman of the Commons International Development Committee, said the timing of the statement showed "a lack of respect" for Parliament.

"To sneak out a written statement at the end of the day shows a lack of respect for both Parliament scrutinising these cuts and the aid organisations that are hearing about the spend for the first time only now," the Labour MP said.

Mr Raab claimed that thematic spending would not "normally" be set out at this point of the financial year and that the process for country allocations does not take place until 2022.

The Government reduced its manifesto commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas aid to 0.5 per cent due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis.

However, Mr Raab said that ministers intended for the 0.7 per cent target to return "when the fiscal situation allows".

He said: "We had always said that we would return as soon as possible, this was always an emergency measure, if you like, because of the economic damage wreaked by the pandemic.”