UK Paid £150m to Chinese Concentration Camp Connected Companies for Covid PPE

A worker wearing a protective suit holds masks to package at Naton Medical Group, a company which makes medical equipment in Beijing on April 24, 2020. - At a mask factory in a Beijing suburb, workers in blue protective suits are operating machine tools around the clock: the Chinese company …
WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images

The British government sent nearly £150 million to firms connected to the concentration camp regime in the Chinese region of Xinjiang for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

The government paid out £122 million alone to Winner Medica, which supplies some of its cotton from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a paramilitary group that has been barred from selling in the United States following accusations of slave labour.

The government also shelled out £19m contract to the pharmaceutical company China Meheco and another £16.5 million to Sinopharm. Both companies have been linked to slave labour camps in the region, according to The Telegraph.

China Meheco lists the XPCC as a company used for “labour services” in its “account payable” ledger, while Sinopharm is listed as being involved in the Xinjiang Labour Transfer Programme, which has been accused of the forced relocation of Uyghurs throughout China.

The PPE contracts to the Chinese firms continued into May, well after the initial panic buying phase of the first wave of the coronavirus.

Survivors of the camps in Xinjiang have reported widespread sterilisation of women, as well as torturerape, and organ harvesting.

In September, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) attempted to rebrand the concentration camps with a lighter image, claiming that the purpose of the camps was the “facilitation of employment“, and accused the United States of trying to inflict “forced poverty” on the region for opposing them.

The Conservative Pary chairman of the British Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, said: “Slavery was abolished under British law almost 200 years ago but now it’s alive and well in Xinjiang making us complicit in some of the worst human rights abuses and undercutting legal suppliers. We need to use the G7 to set global standards stopping slave-goods reaching free countries.”

Nick Davies, of the Institute for Government, said: “These are incredibly serious allegations. Government is rightly committed to keeping its supply chains free from modern slavery.

“While some mistakes in the initial rush to secure PPE are understandable, to repeatedly use questionable suppliers, and to award such a large contract in late May would be a serious failure of due diligence,” Davies added.

Luke De Pulford, of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, said: “A national emergency doesn’t justify exposing UK consumers to slavery.

“The wider issues exposed by this work demonstrates the huge issues in regard to supply chains, which need to be confronted,” De Pulford urged.

In response to the accusations, the government said: “We take every allegation of modern slavery extremely seriously and all our suppliers must follow the highest legal and ethical standards or they can be removed from consideration for future contracts.

“Proper due diligence is carried out for all Government contracts and all suppliers appointed to our frameworks must comply with the Labour Standards Assurance System which upholds robust rules to prevent abuses of labour.”

While sending millions of pounds to Chinese companies in exchange for PPE, British companies were sending millions of pieces of the protective medical equipment to countries in the European Union.

In April, firms in the British Healthcare Trades Association claimed that the government repeatedly ignored offers from UK companies to supply the medical equipment — which was in short supply at the time — forcing the companies to ship the PPE to countries like Italy, Spain, and Germany instead.

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves reported at the time that she had received messages from “lots of manufacturers” who claimed to have contacted the government with offers to help the National Health Service (NHS), yet they heard “nothing back”.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here: @KurtZindulka

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