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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet may be unwilling to call China’s treatment of the Uyghurs genocide, but that’s not stopping a Canadian Crown corporation from doing so.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg is holding an virtual event Thursday billed as Exposing the Uyghur Genocide. The event includes the German anthropologist Adrian Zenz, who’s being sued by Chinese interests for his work on Beijing’s mistreatment of Muslim minorities.
The museum received $29.2-million in funding from the federal government for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
Spokesperson Maureen Fitzhenry said the Crown corporation operates at arm’s-length from Ottawa and does not seek approval for its events, exhibits or the subjects it covers.
Earlier this year, the House of Commons overwhelmingly endorsed a motion to recognize that China is committing genocide against its Muslim minority, but Mr. Trudeau and his cabinet of more than 30 ministers abstained from the vote. The motion was supported by all opposition parties and a majority of the governing Liberal caucus.
Canada later joined with the United States, Britain and the European Union in imposing human-rights-related sanctions against senior officials in Xinjiang, where Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other largely-Muslims groups have been the target of Chinese government campaigns that have included forcible political incarceration, mass incarceration and “labour transfer” policies to move large numbers of people from rural areas into factories in other parts of China.
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.
Beijing says its policies have sought to eliminate religious extremism. China denies any violations of human rights, saying it has protected stability with its actions.
Mr. Zenz, a U.S.-based scholar and senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, has uncovered extensive documentation of the country’s efforts to incarcerate, indoctrinate, sterilize, relocate and transfer to distant factories large numbers of Uyghur people.
A recently-filed lawsuit in China, mounted by a number of companies, accuses Mr. Zenz of spreading “rumours” about forced labour in Xinjiang that “damaged their reputation and caused them to suffer economic losses,” state media reported. The civil suit demands that Mr. Zenz “apologize, restore their reputation and compensate them for their losses.”
Mr. Zenz, in an interview, said he believes the Chinese government is behind the Xinjiang lawsuit and it’s an attempt to silence him. He said he believes the companies behind the lawsuit “would lack the experience” to mount such legal action themselves.
He said the Thursday panel will give him another opportunity to share his research. “Museums have here a particularly important role to play, because they educate people, and they have considerable expertise with past atrocities.”