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Sajid Javid is under pressure to ban work with a blacklisted Chinese genomics firm over concerns it has been used to suppress the country’s Uyghur population.
A group of MPs, Lords and campaigners have written to the Health Secretary calling for a moratorium on work with BGI Group, which has been awarded Government Covid testing contracts.
It comes after The Telegraph revealed that Mr Javid had banned new installations involving Hikvision, the Chinese CCTV camera company, over human rights concerns.
BGI was added to the US entity list, which prevents American companies and government entities from doing business with it, in 2020.
The Department of Commerce said BGI had been “allegedly conducting genetic analyses used to further repress Muslim groups” in Xinjiang in western China.
The letter to Mr Javid, authored by the Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, is signed by MPs Nusrat Ghani, Geraint Davies and Layla Moran, peers Lord Alton and Lord Bishop, and Uyghur organisations.
BGI won an £11m Covid testing contract last year that expired in November, and does not have any ongoing work with the Government. However, it is part of the National Microbiology Framework, set up to improve diagnostic testing, and has worked with UK universities and the Wellcome Trust charitable foundation.
“All of this adds up to a shocking partnership between the UK and a notorious supporter of genocide,” the letter says.
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The Health and Social Care Secretary stands united with the rest of Government in condemning the scale and severity of the human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghurs and other ethnic minority groups.”
BGI Group has previously announced plans to build a “gene bank” in Xinjiang. The company has said it does “not engage in unethical practices and does not provide gene technology for the surveillance of Uyghurs” and that the project in the region has not carried out any business so far.
After a procurement review, Mr Javid recently ordered officials to stop buying cameras from Hikvision, which has been accused of helping the Chinese government to spy on its Uyghur minority. The department has dozens of cameras made by Hikvision in its buildings.
Mr Carmichael said: “It is basic common sense that our government should not fund or enable Chinese firms implicated in human rights abuses in Xinjiang. If we want to be taken seriously as international defenders of human rights then this should not be a difficult action to take. We recognise the Government's work in stopping Hikvision from bidding for contracts with the Department for Health but we need a consistent approach to ensure firms like BGI do not slip through the cracks."
A BGI Group spokesman said: "BGI is a globally renowned and respected life science company and has made vital contributions to world health research and development through our scientific research and medical technology solutions.
"BGI strongly refutes the allegations made in a May 18 letter by Members of the Parliament. BGI Group does not engage in unethical practices and does not provide gene technology for the surveillance of Uighurs. BGI Group does not condone and would never be involved in any human-rights abuses. The letter in large part relies on factually inaccurate information about BGI that has appeared in a number of media reports. BGI has previously refuted this inaccurate information.."