Two Liberal MPs Say They Will Vote to Recognize Uyghur Oppression as Genocide

February 21, 2021 Updated: February 22, 2021

Two Liberal MPs say they will be voting in favour of a motion put forward by the Conservatives to declare Beijing’s persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in China a genocide

In the House of Commons on Feb. 18, Liberal MP John McKay expressed his support for the motion. He said the Chinese regime’s corruption, disregard for human rights, “hostage kidnapping of the Michaels,” and disrespect toward other countries is akin to “terrorists or Mafia thugs.”

“Wealth built on theft, intimidation, duplicity, and slavery is the hallmark of this Chinese government. It should therefore be no surprise that human rights, let alone moral integrity, are foreign concepts to this deeply corrupt government,” McKay said.

“We saw the human rights of the people of Hong Kong rolled up last summer, despite the protests of millions and the treaty protection of the Sino-U.K. treaty. Taiwan endures an ever-increasing series of aggressive military provocations, regardless of the democratic aspirations of the Taiwanese people. China regards these as ‘internal matters’, even though they are manifestly not internal matters.”

There are other international concerns, he said, such as the “border skirmishes with India, the occupation of Tibet, the abuse of its own citizens, the substantiated allegations of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners, and the wanton destruction of Christian churches.”

“Therefore, it should be no surprise that when credible human rights organizations make credible allegations of extensive abuses of the human rights of Uyghurs and Turkic Muslims—including but not limited to torture, enslavement, restrictions of freedom of movement, denial of freedom of religion and belief, denial of the right to a fair trail and so on—all the evidence points one way and all the state disinformation points the other way. The observations of any objective report point one way and one way only,” he said.

“Unfortunately, these are all the requisite elements of a genocide taking place against the Uyghurs and Turkic Muslims.”

In an interview on CBC’s Power and Politics program on Feb. 18, Liberal MP Wayne Easter said when asked if he would vote in favour of the motion: “That’s the way I’m leaning at the moment, yes.”

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Committee Chair and Liberal MP Wayne Easter speaks via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee meeting in Ottawa on July 30, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

On CTV’s Evan Solomon Show the same day, Easter said he “certainly believes” Beijing is committing a genocide against the Uyghurs.

“The stories that we hear on the Uyghurs are terrible,” he said.

“What is going on there is unbelievable. The imprisonment, the taking away of birthright, you name it, it’s happening to the Uyghurs. And that is just so, so wrong. And the world has to basically stand up to China.”

He urged Ottawa to impose “sanctions against the Chinese leadership.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not answer directly when asked during a press conference on Feb. 17 if he would vote for the motion, which was submitted by Conservative Foreign Affairs Critic Michael Chong the previous day.

“We are of course extremely concerned with the situation around human rights in Xinjiang. We have expressed many times our apprehension and our disagreement with what is going on. We’ve taken careful note of conclusions drawn by experts around the world including findings of crimes against humanity and genocide and we need to move forward not just as a country but as a world on recognizing the human rights violations that are going on in China,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau added that he had spoken to the G7 leadership about the need to be “coordinated in our way forward” regarding this issue.

Former Liberal MP and justice minister Irwin Cotler, now the chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, said on CTV’s Evan Solomon Show on Feb. 19 that the “evidence is clear and compelling” that a genocide of Uyghurs is taking place.

“China has been and is continuing to commit a genocide as we speak,” Cotler said.

“I’ve outlined in testimony before the parliamentary committee just yesterday in a forum sponsored by the International Bar Association six acts—each of which and all of which are acts constitute of genocide—including things such as massive, inhumane, and increasing coercive population controls including forced sterilizations, abortions, IUD insertion. Between 2015 and 2018, for example, population growth in Uyghur areas fell by 84 percent.”

“This violates Article II D of the Genocide Convention, which prohibits imposing measures intended to prevent births within a group,” he explained, adding that there are five other acts by the Chinese regime that constitute a genocide.

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Liberal MP Irwin Cotler holds a press conference in the foyer of the House of Commons in Ottawa on March 26, 2015. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Cotler said what made past genocides as well as the Holocaust so “horrific or unspeakable” are more than just the horrors of the genocide itself.

“What makes them so horrific is that these genocides were preventable. Nobody can say we did not know. We knew. And we did not act. Just as now we know, and we must act.”