The Conservatives are calling on the federal government to officially declare Beijing’s persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in China a genocide.
Conservative Foreign Affairs Critic Michael Chong submitted a motion to the House of Commons Thursday calling on Parliament to take a stand against the Chinese Communist Party’s “absolutely no mercy” campaign against the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities by formally recognizing it as a genocide.
“According to secret documents obtained by the New York Times in 2014, President Xi [Jinping] ordered the full force of China’s authoritarian state to be unleashed on the Uyghurs as well as Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs, and other Muslim minorities,” Chong said in the House.
Over two million Chinese Muslims have been sent to detention camps, he added, where they undergo “indoctrination, torture, forced labour.”
“Women are subject to sexual violence, mass sterilization, and forced abortions. Birth rates for Uyghurs have dropped by 60 percent in the three-year period beginning in 2015,” Chong said.
Muslims not held in the camps are tracked, classified, and rated by the state’s surveillance system that also analyzes their facial bone structure, expression, and behaviour, Chong explained. Those who don’t meet the algorithmic standards or follow the instructions of the authorities will be flagged for arrest and detention in camps.
“In essence, Uyghurs are not only being persecuted, they are being treated as human guinea pigs for the development of a surveillance technology for China’s new model of an authoritarian system of governance,” he said.
“A growing body of evidence based on satellite imagery, survivor testimony, leaked documents, smuggled videos, and many other sources document these atrocities.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole also called on the government to recognize the mistreatment of Uyghurs as a genocide, saying Canada “cannot remain silent.”
“Around the world, we have solemnly uttered the phrase ‘never again,’ but it falls flat without action,” he said in a statement released Thursday.
“Never again demands action before more atrocities are committed. We cannot say never again and turn a blind eye to government coordinated rape, torture, indoctrination, and forced sterilization.”
The CCP has denied accusations of atrocities against Uighurs in Xinjiang, saying it is running a voluntary employment and language-training program.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said that while the government is concerned about the human rights violations, the relationship with China is also important.
“I would like to emphasize that we must, and we will continue to coexist with China. We will compete with them using our innovative businesses, people, and abundant resources, we will co-operate on global challenges like climate change, and we will challenge them when human rights are being violated. As ground beneath us shifts, this government will continue to evolve its approach to China,” he said.
“We will also continue to work with our international partners and raise our concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang and call on China to live up to its international obligations.”
Garneau added that the federal government will “continue to call for an international investigation in response to serious and deeply concerning allegations of genocide.”
When asked by Conservative MP Garnett Genuis if he would support the motion, Garneau didn’t answer directly.
Bloc MP Stephane Bergeron disagreed with Garneau. The Chinese regime is “certainly an important partner,” he said, “but that in no way justifies tolerating such violations of the most inalienable rights of its citizens. … Those violations, unfortunately, seem to have been proven.”
Bergeron gave the examples of a declaration published by the European Parliament in 2016 about the CCP’s systematic, state-sponsored forced organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience in China, mainly adherents of Falun Gong but also Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Christians—a conclusion the U.S. Congress also came to—and that two U.S. administrations “both used the term genocide.” He also said a BBC investigation has shown there are “acts of genocide” in China.
“I think that the minister should not hide indefinitely and pretend that he doesn’t know what’s going on in the People’s Republic of China so that he doesn’t have to act on it,” he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that genocide is an “extremely loaded” term that should be applied cautiously and in strict accordance with internationally recognized criteria.
“There is no question there have been tremendous human rights abuses coming out of Xinjiang,” he said during a press conference, but use of the term must be “properly justified and demonstrated so as not to weaken the application of ‘genocide’ in situations in the past.”
Whether the term applies to China is “something we should be looking at in the case of the Uyghurs,” he said, adding that the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, and the International Olympic Committee “are looking very closely” at calls to relocate the games.
Liberal MP Wayne Easter said on the CBC’s Power and Politics program on Thursday that he’s considering supporting the motion. When asked if he would vote in favour of the motion he said, “That’s the way I’m leaning at the moment, yes.”
Parliament will vote on the motion on Feb. 22.
With files from the Canadian Press.