Canadian MPs consider motion calling Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs ‘genocide’

Canadian MPs recognizing Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs as a genocide would be a welcome development, says a United States representative for the Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Nury Turkel said such a motion, debated in Ottawa Thursday, is long overdue and added the U.S. “reasonably expects” its allies and partners to also join the effort to stop the Chinese Communist Party’s (CPP) actions in the Xinjiang Uighur Atonomous Region.

“As president (Joe) Biden said, this is something that needs to be tackled multilaterally,” Turkel, himself a Uighur, told the Star. “It’s a welcome and positive direction.”

The motion, introduced by the Conservatives, is non-binding and doesn’t detail further steps to be taken should it pass a vote Monday.

During the final days of his presidency, Donald Trump’s administration declared China’s actions in the region were genocide, a designation upheld by Biden.

But on Tuesday during a media conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not use the word genocide to describe the treatment of Uighur people in China’s Xinjiang region.

Trudeau described genocide as an “extremely loaded” term and said it must be used with caution.

Now the Conservatives have given the house the chance to vote on it.

“This is one of those profound historic moments where members are called, not just the prime minister, but every single member of this house who has the power to vote on this motion will be called on to give an account of what side they were on,” Genuis said. “Were they on the side of justice, on the side of victims, or did they use ‘it’s complicated’ as an excuse?”

Liberal MPs, during Thursday’s debate, argued an investigation must be launched into the Chinese Communist Party’s activities in the Xinjiang region.

Canada’s subcommittee on International Human Rights, a multi-party body under the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, has already declared the CCP is committing genocide in Xinjiang last October.

The committee made the declaration after hearing from a number of witnesses who told first-hand stories of torture and other human rights violations in the region.

Credible accounts of forced sterilization, rape, forced labour and political indoctrination in internment camps thought to hold up to 2 million people have also increased in the last year.

The Chinese government has refuted the allegations, insisting the camps are simply vocational training centres.

Earlier this month, a Star investigation detailed how goods made by suppliers accused of using forced Uighur labour are finding their way into Canada.

“The fact that we know, obliges us to act,” Zuberi said.

The Uighurs are a mostly Muslim population living in the far western region. A burgeoning push to move the 2022 Winter Olympics or boycott them has picked up steam in recent days over their treatment by Beijing.

Turkel said the U.S. cannot be the only developed country expected to challenge the CCP in China and Canada must be “bold” and “determinative” in its dealing with Beijing.

“The notion that speaking soft, dancing around or tiptoeing around the issue will minimize the chance of irritating China is exactly the kind of mistake the international community is making,” he said. “The question is; when will you learn the lesson?”

With files from The Canadian Press