The Subcommittee on International Human Rights is calling on Canada to take immediate action to address the Chinese regime’s escalating aggression against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in China, saying the situation amounts to genocide.
In 2018 and again in the summer of this year, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development convened meetings to shed light on the plight of Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang.
After hearing testimony from academics, civil society, and survivors of the atrocities in the region, the Subcommittee said it “was profoundly disturbed by what it heard and is convinced of the need for a strong response.”
“The Subcommittee heard that the Government of China has been employing various strategies to persecute Muslim groups living in Xinjiang, including mass detentions, forced labour, pervasive state surveillance, and population control,” the Subcommittee said in an Oct. 21 press release.
“Based on the evidence put forward during the Subcommittee hearings, both in 2018 and 2020, the Subcommittee is persuaded that the actions of the Chinese Communist Party constitute genocide as laid out in the Genocide Convention.”
The Subcommittee said Canada has a responsibility to protect Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims under the Responsibility to Protect—the international norm that it helped to establish—whose objective is to ensure the international community works to prevent crimes such as genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.
“The severity of human rights violations experienced by the Uyghurs in Xinjiang and abroad is staggering. Canada must play its part to stand up for human rights and to galvanize the international community to action,” Subcommittee chair Anita Vandenbeld said upon the release of the Subcommittee’s study in 2018.
One of those who testified before the committee was former MP and justice minister Irwin Cotler, currently the chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.
“What we have here with respect to the Uighurs is a classic case study of such war crimes, crimes against humanity and, as I and others have mentioned, acts that are constitutive of genocide,” Cotler told the Subcommittee.
“That warrants our involvement, under the responsibility to protect doctrine, to initiate, undertake and implement the panoply of remedies that were heretofore recommended before your committee, some of which I recommended in my testimony, this being part of the responsibility to protect doctrine.”
Largest Mass Detention Since Holocaust
The Subcommittee found that nearly 2 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims are being detained in massive concentration camps, including children as young as 13 years old. Witnesses said they believe the camps amount to the largest mass detention of a minority community since the Holocaust, and that the CCP has been intensifying the mass detentions, according to the release.
“The Subcommittee heard that detainees are abused psychologically, physically and sexually. They are forbidden from speaking the Uyghur language or practising their religion,” the release said.
“In an effort to assimilate and indoctrinate them, they are forced to learn Mandarin Chinese, Chinese culture and traditions, as well as sing praises to the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese President, Xi Jinping. Witnesses stated that punishment for breaking rules can be swift and violent.”
The study found that tens of thousands of children of detained individuals have been forcibly separated from their families. They are raised in facilities described alternatively as “orphanages” or as “children’s camps” complete with barbed wire and heavy security.
The Subcommittee heard that the CCP is employing inhuman measures against women and girls to reduce the birth rate of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang. It was told that between 2015 and 2018, population growth in predominantly Uyghur areas of Xinjiang fell by 84 percent.
The regime is using mass surveillance systems to monitor Uyghurs, travel and communication are heavily restricted, and DNA samples, including blood samples, are routinely taken, the Subcommittee heard.
The Subcommittee recommends that Ottawa work with its international allies and multilateral organizations to condemn the Chinese regime’s use of concentration camps.
As for the issue of forced labour in the camps, the Subcommittee said witnesses warned that “this forced labour is integrated into the supply chains of many large international corporations and contributes to the production of many products sold in Canada and other western nations.”
It recommended Canada follow the lead of the United States, which recently issued a notice to companies warning that their supply chains potentially contain goods manufactured through the forced labour of Uyghurs, as well as investigate potentially problematic sources of consumer goods, and to take a strong stand against the use of forced labour, particularly when it involves Canadian companies.
The Subcommittee urges the government to take the following actions:
- Condemn the Government of China’s actions against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang;
- Work with allies and multilateral organizations to help international observers gain unfettered access to Xinjiang;
- Provide support through international overseas development assistance to civil society organizations especially in countries that are geopolitically important to China’s Belt and Road Initiative who are raising awareness about the persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang;
- Recognize that the acts being committed in Xinjiang against Uyghurs constitute genocide and work within legal frameworks of international bodies to recognize that acts being committed against Uyghurs constitute genocide; and
- Impose sanctions under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act on all Government of China officials responsible for the perpetration of grave human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims.