Parliament has packed up for the holidays, with MPs and peers spending their final days in SW1 desperately dodging the omnipresent Omicron variant. But Mr S was intrigued to see an interesting intervention in the Lords on the day that recess was declared. Crossbench peer Baroness Finlay popped up to grill Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad about China's treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, an unusual topic for the professor of palliative medicine to raise.
She told Ahmad that she understood the BBC 'has film evidence of the atrocities' that have been addressed in the Uyghur Tribunal, but that the Corporation has been 'reluctant to show the programmes to date, having set the evidential test so unrealistically high that it cannot be met.' Finlay asked the minister as to whether the films could be 'available for a private viewing to inform parliamentarians, so that people may be better informed in their own thinking and have another source of information.'
Her claims come 10 months after a major BBC report released in February which detailed allegations of systemic rape in internment camps in Xinjiang region. Responding for the government, Ahmad promised to 'reflect on and take back that suggestion' noting that he often sees detailed reports of such 'harrowing' atrocities. He concluded that: 'I can only imagine what some of these pictures would depict, but I will certainly reflect on what the noble Baroness has said.'
Behind the scenes Steerpike understands that an almighty back-and-forth has been going on at the Corporation, with some of the staff who have seen this footage keen to get the evidence out there. But bosses at the Beeb have thus far refused to countenance its release owing to the high evidence bar needed to prove Beijing's culpability and the systematic nature of such atrocities. The original report in February provoked a fierce backlash in China, with BBC reporters targeted in the wake of it.
A BBC spokesperson refused to discuss details of Finlay's claims but only told Steerpike that the Corporation will 'continue to cover' human rights abused and the Uighurs, adding that: 'While we never comment on ongoing investigations, everything we broadcast must adhere to the BBC’s editorial standards.' Watch this space...