Trudeau warns China of ‘possible consequences’ over treatment of Uyghurs

“The ambassador should read his own internal report before spreading his own lies,” said Mehet Tohti, executive director of Ottawa-based Uyghur Human Rights Advocacy Project.

Mr. Tohti said the report makes clear that large numbers of Uyghurs are being put on trains and shipped to factories thousands of kilometers away where they are doing slave labour under police guard and subjected to Chinese propaganda.

“They don’t have any right to go shopping or have a coffee break after the work. They work more than 12 hours [a day] and then are put back into another form of a camp,” he said. “They are forced to watch the Communist Party’s history and sing a Red song. It is another form of concentration camp with mandated forced labour.”

Mr. Tohti expressed disappointment the Trudeau cabinet abstained in the House of Commons vote. He urged Ottawa to join the United States in labelling China’s treatment of Uyghur as genocide and to work with allies to impose sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the brutal measures.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is warning Beijing of “possible consequences” from the international community after its envoy to Canada dismissed reports of genocide, forced labour and relocations of Uyghur Muslims as the “lie of the century.”

Ambassador Cong Peiwu held a virtual news conference Wednesday with select Canadians news outlets, including The Globe and Mail, where he faced questions about Parliament’s recent vote that declared a genocide was taking place against Uyghurs in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region.

Thousands of Uyghur workers in China are being relocated in an effort to assimilate Muslims, documents show

“Allegations of genocide and forced labour in Xinjiang are the lie of the century,” Mr. Cong said.

Mr. Cong also brushed aside an internal Chinese report obtained by The Globe and Mail and BBC that said Beijing is relocating large numbers of Uyghurs to other parts of the country to assimilate them and thin their population in Xinjiang, where they have lived for centuries.

Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Canada Cong Peiwu participates in a roundtable interview with journalists at the Embassy of China in Ottawa, on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019.

JUSTIN TANG/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Mr. Cong insisted Uyghurs are not begin forcefully relocated and are moving elsewhere to make better wages, calling the Globe reporting “lies being spread by people with anti-China intentions.”

At later news conference, Mr. Trudeau said there are “very credible” reports of human rights abuses in Xinjiang that has alarmed countries around the world. The United Nations estimates one million Uyghurs are being held in concentration camps and Uyghur women are being forcefully sterilized.

“There are significant concerns being expressed all around the world, and the Parliament of Canada was very clear about its concerns just a few weeks ago.” He said. “We have committed to work with our allies internationally on both getting clear answers and holding to account those responsible, with possible consequences that the world can bring forward.”

Mr. Trudeau and his cabinet abstained in the House of Commons vote, and he told reporters Wednesday that any sanctions against Beijing for its treatment of Uyghurs “is much better done on a multilateral basis.”

The internal 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.”

Wuhan Hengfa Technology Co., Ltd. Chinese authorities have loaded large numbers of Uyghur workers onto trains bound for factories thousands of kilometres away from their homes as part of a plan to assimilate Muslim minorities into mainstream Chinese culture and thin their populations in Xinjiang, the northwestern region

NATHAN VANDERKLIPPE/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The report, written by researchers with the China Institute of Wealth and Economics at Nankai University, was submitted to senior levels of the Chinese government.

Still, Mr. Cong denied forced relocations are happening, saying these Uyghurs are leaving Xinjiang on their own accord to make a better living.

“The ambassador should read his own internal report before spreading his own lies,” said Mehet Tohti, executive director of Ottawa-based Uyghur Human Rights Advocacy Project.

Mr. Tohti said the report makes clear that large numbers of Uyghurs are being put on trains and shipped to factories thousands of kilometers away where they are doing slave labour under police guard and subjected to Chinese propaganda.

“They don’t have any right to go shopping or have a coffee break after the work. They work more than 12 hours [a day] and then are put back into another form of a camp,” he said. “They are forced to watch the Communist Party’s history and sing a Red song. It is another form of concentration camp with mandated forced labour.”

Mr. Tohti expressed disappointment the Trudeau cabinet abstained in the House of Commons vote. He urged Ottawa to join the United States in labelling China’s treatment of Uyghur as genocide and to work with allies to impose sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the brutal measures.

Members of the Uyghur community living in Turkey, hold banners as the join a protest against China, in Istanbul, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021.

OMER KUSCU/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Canada must also get act to stop imports on Chinese goods from slave labour, he said.

Mr. Cong did not respond when asked what the thought of the Trudeau cabinet’s abstention on the genocide vote which carried by a vote of 266 to 0.

“Those MPs voting in the House of Commons, most of them, I’m afraid, have never been to Xinjiang or even to China in the last years, so how can they judge the situation on the ground?” he said.

Mr. Cong also claimed “there’s no connection” between the imprisonment of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavo and the arrest of Huawei senior executive Meng Wanzhou. The two men were arrested shortly after Canada detained Ms. Wanzhou in December 2018 on a U.S. extradition request over allegations of bank fraud connected to violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“No. It is obvious the Michaels were arrested on trumped up national security charges days after we fulfilled our extradition obligations,” Trudeau said. “Nothing the ambassador can say now will dissuade me from understanding that is the case.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said the forced relocation of Uyghurs away from their Xinxiang homeland – to assimilate them into Han Chinese majority – fits the United Nations definition of genocide. “It’s clear there is deliberate coercive effort on the part of Chinese authorities to forcibly breakup part of the Uyghur minority.

He was referring to Article II (c) of the 1948 UN genocide convention where the definition includes “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

A majority of MPs in the House of Commons earlier this month voted to recognize China’s treatment of the Uyghurs as genocide.

Mr. Chong said the Trudeau government, whose cabinet ministers abstained from voting, should finally recognize genocide in China that not only includes forced birth control but also mass relocation.

“When I read that one fifth of the working age population in in Hotan prefecture has been transferred to other parts of the country as part of this scheme … in my mind it is more evidence of a genocide taking place.”

Members of Parliament including MPs from the governing Liberals are urging the Canadian government to create a refugee program to provide safe haven for Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, to toughen rules preventing the import of goods made with forced labour and to impose sanctions on top Chinese officials responsible for the repression.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-trudeau-warns-china-of-possible-consequences-over-treatment-of-uyghurs/