China’s Uighur minority needs Canada’s help

This is not a time to speak in whispers to tyrants or pull punches when battling crimes against humanity.

The Chinese government is committing genocide against its Muslim Uighur minority and a Canadian Parliamentary committee was absolutely correct last week to declare this is so. While Beijing responded with predictable fury and threats against this country, exactly what do Chinese President Xi Jinping and his compliant followers expect?

An estimated 10 per cent of the 11 million Uighurs living in the western province of Xinjiang — more than one million people — are incarcerated in detention camps where they are bullied and brainwashed so they will renounce their Muslim faith. With one or both parents locked up in what the parliamentary committee labelled concentration camps, hundreds of thousands of their children have been sent to live with, and be assimilated by, ethnic Han Chinese families. Uighur girls are pressured to marry out of their ethnic group. Uighur women who have too many children — in the Chinese government’s opinion — face forced sterilization.

Mosques are being torn down, the Uighur language suppressed. Meanwhile, an estimated 80,000 Uighurs have been forced out of Xinjiang to toil in forced labour camps — often producing textiles that go into some of the Western world’s biggest fashion brands. It is 21st century slavery, plain and simple.

The Chinese government rejects all these statements as lies, arguing unconvincingly that it is improving the lives of most Uighurs while doing what it must to contain Uighur Islamist extremists. Its foreign affairs ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, last week warned Canadians to keep silent on the Uighurs “to avoid doing any further damage to China-Canada relations.”

But the job of the House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights is to speak truth to power. Even a superpower.

China’s persecution of the Uighurs has been reported by foreign journalists and revealed in leaked Chinese government documents. Satellites have photographed the growing number of detention centres. And the Uighurs who survive this authoritarian nightmare and find sanctuary in Canada and other countries are bravely bearing witness.

What the Chinese government is doing to the Uighurs meets at least one criteria of the United Nations definition of “genocide,” which is deemed a crime against humanity. Beijing is literally trying to destroy the Uighurs as a people, at least in part. The only real question for Canada is: What will it do now?