Canada joins in sanctions against China over treatment of Uyghurs

Canada joined the United States, Britain and the European Union Monday to impose sanctions against China for its brutal treatment of Uyghur Muslims.

The coordinated campaign is a show of unity against what the United States and Canada’s Parliament have labelled genocide against the Uyghurs in China’s northwest Xinjiang region.

Canada and its allies are imposing sanctions on four Chinese officials and one Chinese state entity for what they called “their participation in gross and systemic human rights violations” against Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

“These sanctions underscore Canada’s grave concern with the ongoing human rights violations,” Global Affairs said in a statement. “Mounting evidence points to systemic, state-led human rights violations by Chinese authorities. This includes mass arbitrary detention of more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities based on their religion and ethnicity, as well as political reeducation, forced labour, torture and forced sterilization.”

Canada urged Beijing to allow “unfettered access” to Xinjiang region so that impartial experts can observe and report on the situation first hand.

“We are joining our partners in calling on the government of China to put an end to this systematic campaign of repression against Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities and hold those responsible to account,” Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said.

A United Nations human rights panel has estimated that as many as one million Uyghurs have been held in detention centres – what China has called vocational training centres – and reports have emerged about Beijing’s efforts to slash this ethnic minority’s birth rate through mass sterilization, forced abortions and mandatory birth control.

In China’s Xinjiang region, satellite images show the destruction of numerous mosques. Former detainees have described being tortured and forced to recite loyalty to the Communist Party. Government statistics show a sharp rise in the use of intrauterine devices and sterilization; an Associated Press investigation in 2020 found the state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands. “Even while the use of IUDs and sterilization has fallen nationwide, it is rising sharply in Xinjiang,” AP reported last summer.

A Nanos Research poll for The Globe and Mail last month indicated a strong majority of Canadians both approve of Parliament’s declaration that China is carrying out genocide against its Uyghur Muslim minority and favour a harder line toward the country, including economic sanctions.

The poll showed that 83 per cent of Canadians either support or somewhat support the unanimous vote by the House of Commons, declaring Chinese atrocities against Uyghurs and Turkic minorities in Xinjiang to be in contravention of the United Nations’ Genocide Convention.

Canadians also favour economic sanctions. The poll shows 62 per cent would back Ottawa if it joined the United States in imposing economic sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for the brutal treatment of Uyghurs.

The Globe and Mail and BBC reported earlier this month that Beijing is relocating large numbers of Uyghurs to other parts of the country to better assimilate them and thin their population in Xinjiang.

An internal Chinese document obtained by The Globe says relocating Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minority groups to industrial workplaces “not only reduces Uyghur population density in Xinjiang, but also is an important method to influence, fuse and assimilate Uyghur minorities.”