UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to confront China over its alleged “deteriorating” human rights situation in Xinjiang.

“No one can ignore the evidence anymore”, Raab said, accusing China of “systemic” violations in Hong Kong, namely after Beijing passed a National Security Law to crack down on violent secessionist protests in the semi-autonomous region.

He slammed the National Security Law as a “clear breach” of the 1997 Sino-British Joint Declaration and urged the region to have “free and fair legislative elections” with a “range of opposition voices”.

According to Britain’s top envoy, nearly “daily reports” had also revealed alleged violations “perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang”.

“The situation in Xinjiang is beyond the pale. The reported abuses – which include torture, forced labour and forced sterilisation of women – are extreme and they are extensive. They’re taking place on an industrial scale. It must be our collective duty to ensure this does not go unanswered”, Raab said in his speech.

He called on the UNHRC or other “independent fact-finding expert” to launch an inquiry with “urgent and unfettered access” to the westernmost region, adding Westminster had taken steps to pass legislation blocking countries accused of human rights violations from doing business in the UK.

The British Foreign Minister also urged the Council to respond to allegations of human rights abuses in Russia, Myanmar and Belarus, namely after the military coup which forced State Councillor Aung Sang Suu Kyi out of power and detention of Russian opposition figure Alexander Navalny.

The comments come after Britain returned to the 47-member UNHRC as a voting member after being re-elected in October.

FM Raab also made similar statements in late November after three opposition figures in Hong Kong were sentenced over pro-secessionist activities in the region.

“We will keep using our voice to help strengthen the Council, and to support countries working to improve their human rights record. We will continue to hold to account all those responsible for the worst violations and abuses”, UK human rights minister Lord Ahmad said in a statement at the time.

The Human Rights Council’s fourty-sixth regular session opened on Monday and is heard from President of the UNHRC Nazhat Shameem Khan, UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and Swiss representative and head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis.

The session will run from Monday to Tuesday and will discuss further resolutions on Syria, ten years after the conflict erupted, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, global human rights concerns, and many other issues.