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China plans to refurbish the building and establish its biggest diplomatic mission in the world at the site, set just back from the River Thames on the outskirts of London’s financial center. It could be years until the embassy actually moves, but it’s already facing opposition from some local councilors and residents.

But accounts of abuse at the camps — including forced labor, forced sterilizations of women and sexual assault — are growing.

“I’m very perplexed as to why the People’s Republic of China would want to be on the edges of a neighborhood that is so multi-ethnic, multi-religious. The Muslim community has a large base here,” said Mo Rakib, a Muslim resident who is active in community affairs.

“The Muslim community is very linked with each other, regardless of what part of the world we’re from. There’s always a feeling of affinity from one community to the other based on shared values and shared faith. And that’s no different for the Uyghur community.”

Some local opposition councilors say that they too are concerned about the implications of embassy’s move and want the issue debated at council meetings. But they don’t outright oppose the mission coming into their neighborhood.

What’s playing out at this borough and its council isn’t so different from what’s happening in the UK’s national government, as well as those of many other democracies, for that matter — striking the right balance between reaping the economic benefits of working with China and criticizing it for rights abuses is difficult.

Tower Hamlets is one of the most deprived boroughs in London. Its mayor, John Biggs, has welcomed the Chinese mission as “a vote of confidence” in the borough as an “open and dynamic place to live and work,” according to local reports.
Rabina Khan was one of several local councilors who, at a council meeting Wednesday, tried to introduce an emergency motion — usually reserved for urgent matters — on China. It was rejected due to time constraints, the mayor’s office told CNN, adding it would discuss the issue at the next meeting in November.

The motion calls on the council to send a letter to Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming expressing its concerns over the country’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslims, as well as its clampdown on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

“What we want is to send a message to China that if they move here, they need to be aware that our borough — in all of its diversity — is a place where we’re very proud to stand up for human rights,” Khan said.

Biggs said in a statement to CNN that Tower Hamlets was “open and tolerant” but also wants “to be good partners and support good relationships.”

He acknowledged, however, that he and the community were concerned about China’s rights record, “in particular the appalling treatment of the largely Muslim Uyghurs,” and that it was right to challenge the Chinese government on the issue.

Any problems with the embassy plans could prove troublesome for China’s international image. At a ceremony to hand over the site to the Chinese mission in 2018, Ambassador Liu said he hoped the embassy would become a London landmark and that the new premises should be a symbol of China’s current role and influence in the world.

In a statement, the Chinese embassy in London said the move had “approval and support from the UK government” and that “the relocation of the Chinese embassy to [Tower Hamlets] will bring more vitality into the area.”

The embassy added that the “Chinese government attaches great importance to safeguarding human rights,” and said critics should “abandon their lies and deceptive words on Hong Kong and Xinjiang” and “stop using human rights as an excuse to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

Trade vs. Rights

Demonstrators on Thursday gathered in dozens of cities around the world to protest China’s treatment of certain groups in the country, including Uyghurs, Tibetans and people in Hong Kong.

One of the organizers, Rahima Mahmut from the World Uyghur Congress in London, said countries were choosing trade over human rights.

“It’s very obvious that trade relationships are being prioritized, not just in the UK. We see this in African countries and China’s neighboring countries that are already trapped in debt to China. And Turkey too. Turkey was the country that we Uyghurs always felt we could rely on or seek refuge in,” said Mahmut, a Uyghur who left Xinjiang in 1997.

Turkey is increasingly relying on China to dig itself out of debt. It was previously one of the few Muslim-majority countries to have criticized China’s actions in Xinjiang, early last year denouncing the camps as a “great shame for humanity.” It has since softened its tone toward Beijing, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party voted against launching a probe into the alleged abuse against Muslims in China.

The UK took some action against China following its implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong, which has stifled a pro-democracy movement in the former British colony. Westminster opened a pathway for citizenship for Hong Kong residents with the right to a British National Overseas passport, which includes potentially 3 million Hong Kongers.

The UK has also condemned China several times over the camps in Xinjiang, including at the recent UN Rights Council meeting, where the Foreign Office’s junior minister Tariq Ahmad called on Beijing to allow a UN team “unfettered access” to Xinjiang to investigate allegations of abuse there.

But activists like Mahmut say they want so see the UK go further and impose sanctions on the people and organizations running the camps in Xinjiang.

In a recent letter to a British MP, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the government was “carefully considering” new designations on its sanctions list in regard to China over the National Security law and postponement of elections in Hong Kong. The Liberal Democrats, one of several opposition parties, is calling for more sanctions in relation to the treatment of Uyghurs as well.
As is the case with many of China’s trade partners, there is reluctance in the UK to confront Beijing over rights. China is the UK’s sixth-biggest export market. That’s a rapid rise from 26th place in 1999.

China has shown that it’s not afraid to wield retaliatory economic tools in response to political pressure, as it did in the case of Australia, imposing tariffs of 80% on barley imports soon after Prime Minister Scott Morrison led calls for an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19, which was first reported in central China late last year. Beijing said that the tariffs were in response to Australia selling the grain too cheaply.

Activists are urging big brands to eradicate traces of human rights abuse in Xinjiang from their supply chains
The strongest response against China this year has come from the US, which has issued sanctions over Beijing’s treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang, while its House of Representatives last week passed a forced labor bill that would effectively ban imports from the region if it becomes law.

There are calls by opposition parties in the UK to do the same, but Steve Tsang, director of the School of Oriental and African Studies’ (SOAS) China Institute in London, said the US may struggle to get its usual allies to follow its lead.

“What would be useful is if countries, not just in Europe, but if all countries that care about human rights and ethical trading insist they will stop working with companies operating in Xinjiang unless they can independently verify the supply chain conditions,” he said.

“But the Trump administration has discredited itself in terms of moral leadership. I mean, who believes Donald Trump when he says he defends human rights?”

While Tsang does see the public growing more interested in the Uyghur issue, he says more evidence needs to come out about the alleged abuse in Xinjiang to really galvanize a public response that will force governments to confront China more aggressively.

In Tower Hamlets, councilors are mulling how to welcome the opportunities the new embassy will bring to their neighborhood while sending a clear message to Beijing that it does not approve of rights abuses.

One of them, Andrew Wood, suggested a symbolic gesture to show support for people who have challenged Beijing, such as the student protesters of Tiananmen Square in 1989, or the people of Taiwan seeking formal independence from China.

“There is a little lane near the embassy site that doesn’t have a name. We’re wondering if we could call it Tiananmen Road or Taipei Road. It might be just one way of sending a message that governments have to look after all their people.”

This story has been updated with a comment from the Chinese embassy in London.

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Nigeria protests: Eyewitnesses say security forces fired at protesters

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Demonstrators have taken part in daily protests across the country for nearly two weeks over widespread claims of kidnapping, harassment, and extortion by a police unit know as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Tuesday saw the state governor impose a 24-hour curfew and deploy anti-riot police to the city.

One witness at the protests, Akinbosola Ogunsanya, said the shooting began after the lights were turned off at the Nigerian city’s Lekki tollgate. “Members of the Nigerian army pulled up on us and they started firing,” he said. “They were shooting, they were firing straight, directly at us, and a lot of people got hit. I just survived, barely.”

Ogunsanya added that barricades on either side of the scene were blocking ambulances.

Another witness, Temple Onanugbo, said he heard what he believed were bullets being fired from his home nearby and that the sound lasted “for about 15 to 30 minutes.”

Speaking to CNN from the scene of the shooting, Onanugbo said he saw “multiple bodies laying on the ground,” when he arrived to help those injured.

CNN has not yet been able to confirm casualties.

The State Government has ordered an investigation into the incident, according to the Lagos Governor’s spokesman, Gboyega Akosile. According to a tweet by Akosile, Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has also “advised security agents not to arrest anyone on account of the curfew.”

The protests at the Lekki toll gate have been mostly peaceful, with demonstrators singing the national anthem, staging sit-ins, and praying.

Earlier in the day, Sanwo-Olu had imposed a 24-hour curfew, including the closure of all Lagos schools. Only essential service providers and first responders have permission to be on the streets of Lagos, which has an estimated population of more than 20 million people.

“Dear Lagosians, I have watched with shock how what began as a peaceful #EndSARS protest has degenerated into a monster that is threatening the well-being of our society,” Sanwo-Olu tweeted as he announced the 4 pm (local time) curfew.

SARS was disbanded on October 11 and a new police unit to replace it will be trained by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Reuters reported Monday. Protesters are demanding further protections against the police, including independent oversight and psychological evaluation of officers.

Death and severe injuries amid the protests have been reported since the weekend.

Amnesty International said on its Twitter account Tuesday that it has received “credible but disturbing evidence” of “excessive use of force occasioning deaths of protesters.”

A 17-year-old died in police custody on Monday in Kano, a city in the north of the country, after allegedly being tortured, according the human rights group. Many protestors and journalists were assaulted by police and thugs in the capital Abuja on the same day. Videos on social media show dozens of cars belonging to protestors burning and Amnesty International said three people died.

“While we continue to investigate the killings, Amnesty International wishes to remind the authorities that under international law, security forces may only resort to the use of lethal force when strictly unavoidable to protect against imminent threat of death or serious injury,” Amnesty also tweeted.

Other videos show a mass breakout of hundreds of prisoners from the Benin Correctional Center in Edo state in southern Nigeria. It is uncertain who is to blame for the breakout, with protestors claiming it was staged by police. The Nigeria Police Force said in a tweet that protestors carted away arms and ammunition from the armory before freeing suspects in custody and setting the facilities alight.

Edo state governor Godwin Obaseki imposed a curfew on Monday, tweeting about “disturbing incidents of vandalism and attacks on private individuals and institutions by hoodlums in the guise of #EndSARS protesters.”

Riot police have been deployed across the country. According to a tweet from the Nigerian Police Force on Tuesday evening, the Inspector-General of Nigeria’s Police has ordered the immediate nationwide deployment of anti-riot police officers “to protect lives and property of all Nigerians and secure critical national infrastructure across the country.”

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Judge tosses lawsuit challenging DeVos’ sexual misconduct rule for schools, colleges

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Background: The ruling comes as a major victory for DeVos, whose Title IX policies will be a key part of her legacy as secretary. She has said the rule officially codifies protections to hold schools accountable by ensuring survivors are not brushed aside and no student’s guilt is predetermined.

The ACLU had charged that DeVos’ Title IX rule, which took effect in August, violated the Administrative Procedure Act because the provisions “were arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion.” The lawsuit had sought to vacate the rule.

On behalf of four plaintiffs, the ACLU argued that the rule will reduce the number of sexual assault and harassment complaints requiring a response from schools.

The lawsuit took aim at the rule’s definition of sexual harassment, as well as provisions that allow institutions to use a “clear and convincing evidence standard.” The groups that brought the lawsuit also take issue with the fact that DeVos’ rule only holds institutions accountable under Title IX for “deliberate indifference” and only requires a school or school official to respond to sexual harassment if there is “actual knowledge.”

Other legal challenges: The lawsuit was one of four ongoing cases challenging the Title IX rule. The other three are still pending but have been largely unsuccessful. All argue that the Education Department violated the law with its new rule by acting beyond its authority, and that the rule is arbitrary and capricious.

A circuit court judge in the District of Columbia denied a request from attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia to stop the new rule and to block it as legal action continues. Another judge also denied a motion to block the rule from taking effect in New York while the litigation is ongoing. Southern District of New York Judge John G. Koeltl said state officials failed to show they are likely to win in their argument that the Trump administration acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” when it finalized its rule.

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Labour Will Force A Commons Vote Over A “Fair Deal” For Areas Facing The Harshest Lockdown Restrictions

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Talks between the government and mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham collapsed without a deal in place (PA)

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Labour are set to force a Commons vote on Wednesday demanding a “fair deal” for regions which are facing new lockdown restrictions.

The vote will ask MPs to agree that ministers should publish a “clear and fair national criteria for financial support for jobs and businesses” in those facing the highest level of restrictions.

It comes after Number 10 scrambled to reassure politicians in Greater Manchester that a £60m financial settlement is still on the table after Boris Johnson said the region was going into a Tier 3 lockdown with no deal in place.

The government has so far only agreed to hand over an extra £22million for helping with track and trace and enhanced enforcement of the restrictive rules, which will shut pubs, gyms, casinos and soft play centres.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick is understood to be set to approach each local council in Greater Manchester tomorrow to hammer out a package individually after talks with the metro mayor Andy Burnham collapsed today.

MPs had reacted with fury to the news their constituencies will face the toughest coronavirus restrictions for at least a month without extra economic support.

The news was set out on a call with the health secretary Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson’s senior adviser Sir Edward Lister, shortly after Mr Burnham gave a press conference saying Downing Street was unwilling to offer enough support for businesses and employees.

One of those MPs on the line, Labour’s Andrew Gwynne, told PoliticsHome: “Does the government really hate Greater Manchester that much, that they acknowledge that we have a need for support, then dangle what we would say is insufficient, though not an insubstantial amount of money in front of us, and then withdraw it completely?”

The Denton MP said Mr Hancock was repeatedly asked about any additional money to help businesses but obfuscated, however it was Sir Edward who came on the call at the end and delivered the “cup of cold sick” news that Greater Manchester was not getting anything more.

“The government agreed there was a case for support but don’t agree with what that amount should be. This is an atrocious way to treat businesses and people’s livelihoods,” said Gwynne.

Other Labour MPs, including shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy, also expressed their anger on social media.

But updating MPs on the plans, Mr Hancock said the £60m support package for the region remained “on the table”.

“Over the last 10 days we’ve sought to reach agreement with local leaders and unfortunately we were not able to reach an agreement,” he said.

“As well as the support we’ve outlined we’ve made a generous and extensive offer to support Manchester’s businesses.

“This offer was proportionate to the offer we’ve given Lancashire and the Liverpool city region but unfortunately the Mayor rejected it.

“That offer remains on the table. Our door is open to further discussions with local leaders in the coming days about business support.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said people in Greater Manchester “will be watching the news in disbelief”.

“They will be asking why was it right to cover 80 per cent of wages in March and just two-thirds of their wages in October,” he said.

“What happened to that Chancellor who plastered across social media soft focus selfies of himself boasting he would do whatever it takes?

“That Chancellor is forcing people on the national minimum wage to live on just £5.76 an hour. From ‘whatever it takes’ to taking from the lowest paid.

“Where is the Chancellor? He should be here to defend the consequences of his decisions that will mean a winter of hardship across the North.”

And he insisted the civic leaders had been “willing to compromise” over the level of financial support.

“Rather than finding the £5 million extra, the Prime Minister pulled the plug on negotiations and then took £38 million off the table,” he said.

“What a petty, vindictive, cowardly response. The Prime Minister may think he’s punishing the politicians, in fact he’s punishing the people.”

He added: “This isn’t a game, it’s about people’s lives. People need proper financial support. This is a national crisis and we won’t defeat this virus on the cheap.”

Meanwhile, in a statement following the announcement, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said ministers had treated local communities with “contempt”.

“This is not just a matter of fairness for people in Greater Manchester, but for people across the country who could find themselves in Tier 3 in the weeks ahead,” he said.

“Families and businesses will be deeply anxious that they might not be able to make ends meet under the Government’s wholly inadequate proposals.

“The Prime Minister and the Chancellor need to make good on their commitment to the British people to do whatever it takes to help us through this pandemic…

“I would urge all Conservative MPs, particularly those in areas of the country that are most affected by this, to vote with us tomorrow and force the Government’s hand.”

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