Diane Abbott apologises for appearing alongside Chinese human rights abuse denier

·3-min read

Diane Abbott has apologised for appearing at an event alongside a China human rights abuse denier.

The Labour MP, who was shadow home secretary under Jeremy Corbyn until April this year, spoke at a webinar where claims were made that any mistreatment of Uighur people were a "fiction" cooked up to try and start a "racial war".

She did not challenge or address the allegations in her own remarks, but tweeted after the news emerged that she and Labour "condemn the human rights violations" and was sorry if her comments "sent a different message".

Uighurs are an ethnic minority who live in China's western Xinjiang province.

Sky News has spoken previously to families of those who have been "disappeared", with those missing thought to have been sent for "re-education" in camps or thrown in prison.

Leaked documents revealed last November also showed how minorities are locked up to change their beliefs and language, and are graded according to how well they speak Mandarin, remember China's communist ideology, and even stick to a list of rules on toilet breaks and bath times, though Beijing denies this.

Ms Abbott joined a panel titled "uniting against racism and the new Cold War" on Saturday, which featured a series of speakers who accused the US and other Western countries of unjustly ramping up tensions with China.

Among them was Li Jingjing, a Chinese journalist who hosts a shown on CGTN - an English-language Chinese state broadcaster.

She said people of all ethnicities in China live peacefully and disputed any claims of mistreatment against the Uighurs.

"Until very recently, some government and some media trying to create a regional conflict in China, like talking about the Uighur issues or Xinjiang or Tibet issues," she said.

"Until recently, they started caring about a certain group of ethnic groups in China.

"I notice there are some narratives that these people tend to push, basically saying 'those ethnic groups' culture and language are being wiped out, their mosques or temples are being destroyed or those people are being used as forced labour'.

"And I think those people who are fabricating those fictions either don't understand China or don't bother to dig out in the Chinese world..."

She added it was "another lie" by "those people who try to create racial war in China".

Ms Abbott was invited to speak next, but the host remarked it "looks like she's still logging on", so gave her talk five minutes later, in which she said there was a "very steep rise" in Sinophobia.

Sinophobia refers to anti-Chinese sentiment.

"I think this meeting is very important," she said.

"I think it's very important that we fight racism in general and that we fight anti-Chinese racism, and that we make our leaders aware that we don't want to fall back into the inward-looking xenophobic politics of Trump or his friend the prime minister of Britain."

When her appearance alongside Li Jingjing became public, Ms Abbott said she never meant to condone the other panellists' comments.

"Both I and the Labour Party condemn the human rights violations in Uighur," she tweeted.

"I apologise if my involvement in Saturdays (sic) event sent a different message. I continue to campaign against racism and for human rights internationally."