By Janet E Silver. Published on Nov 15, 2021
More than 200 officials and politicians attending the World Uyghur Conference in Prague voted on Sunday to urge politicians from western countries to introduce legislation in their home countries to delay the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi and Bloc Québécois MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe attended in person, while other Canadian politicians, including Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos, participated virtually.
The weekend gathering was to support the Uyghurs and denounce China’s genocide against the Muslim minority. About 12 million Uyghurs live in Northwest China, speak their own language, and have been persecuted by the Chinese government for years.
On Monday, Brunelle-Duceppe said in a statement that when the House of Commons returns next week, he’ll table a motion calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Winter Games, which are due to begin on Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing.
Speaking virtually on Monday to the Canadian International Council, an independent think tank on foreign relations, David Mulroney, Canada’s ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, said Canada would be sending athletes to Games hosted by a state that is “committing genocide.”
“This is a tremendous victory for the Chinese state,” Mulroney said. “It’s showing that it can get away with anything; that, even in the midst of a genocide, the world will come.
“I think some people are convinced by the argument that our athletes have trained so hard, they deserve this opportunity,” he continued. “I’m sympathetic to our athletes, but I think that’s a very weak argument. … On a moral basis, we can’t attend these Games.
“And I guarantee that, in 20 to 30 years, people will look back and say, ‘How did we ever do that? Did we not know?’ We knew about it. … It was just too damn hard to do anything about it. And I’m ashamed that we’re doing it.”
In February, a majority of MPs voted in favour of a Conservative motion to call China’s mistreatment of the Uyghurs a genocide. The motion also urged the government to lobby the IOC to change the location of the Winter Games.
During a virtual summit on Monday evening, U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to discuss Taiwan, climate change, and human-rights abuses against the Uyghurs.
Mulroney says it’s time for Canada to follow its allies by adopting its own serious China policy, a matter that came up in September during the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings for David Cohen, the incoming ambassador to Canada. Cohen told senators at the hearing: “We are all waiting for Canada to release its framework for its overall China policy.”
Mulroney said not having a clear China policy is a “disconnect in our diplomacy,” which he called “dangerous.”
“(The) public concerns about China are the only thing … keeping our policy on track, to the extent that it is on track,” Mulroney said.