URAP’s Statement on the rejection of the Uyghur Genocide Motion in Canadian Senate.

June 30, 2021

URAP (the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project) is deeply disappointed by the Senate’s vote to reject the Uyghur Genocide Motion tabled by the Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos on June 29, 2021.

The  motion called on the Canadian Senate to recognize that the atrocities committed by the Chinese government against Uyghurs consists of genocide. It also urged the International Olympic Committee to relocate the 2022 Beijing Olympics as a result of this ongoing genocide in East Turkistan (referred to as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by China). The motion was rejected by a narrow margin of 29 (in favor) to 33 (against), with 13 senators choosing to abstain from voting.

The Senate’s opposition to the Uyghur Genocide Motion was spearheaded by independent Senator Yuen Pau Woo, who compared China’s actions to Canada’s past, while characterizing the Uyghur Genocide Motion as an “exercise in labelling” against China.

“Senator Yuen Pau Woo provided the Senate’s most disturbing argument when he used the tragic history of Canada’s residential school system to whitewash China’s ongoing crimes,” said Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project. “Canada has been confronting its past by establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, determining the nature of committed atrocities and offering compensation to affected victims. Canada has also kept its door wide open, allowing outside observers unfettered access to investigate the past. Furthermore, dozens of independent legal scholars and experts have examined China’s breach of the 1948 Geneva convention and made independent determinations regarding the crimes China is committing against the Uyghurs.”

The Uyghur population’s dramatic birthrate decline in East Turkistan since 2018 is confirmed by China’s own annual statistical yearbook. Further, enforced sterilization of Uyghur women, wide-scale internment, family separation that includes the separation of children from parents, disappearances, organized torture, rape, physical and psychological abuse have all been well documented via victim testimonies, satellite images and in-depth studies, as well as by leaks from official Chinese sources, and found to be widespread.

And yet, China has yet to allow independent observers to visit the region on fact-finding missions.

The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights has hosted dozens of hearings and fact-finding studies since July 2018, in the process collecting firsthand accounts and evidence. Subsequently, on the basis of direct testimony from more than 25 witnesses, the Subcommittee in October 22, 2020, declared that the atrocities committed by China against Uyghurs constitute genocide per the 1948 Geneva Convention. On February 22, 2021, the Uyghur Genocide was recognized by a  unanimous vote in the House of Commons.

The Senate’s vote to reject the Uyghur Genocide Motion is clearly inconsistent with the House’s vote, and most importantly, goes against the will of a majority of Canadians. Recent polling has shown that the narratives parroted by Beijing have been rejected, with 83% of the Canadian public supporting Canada’s acknowledgment of the Uyghur genocide. The Senate’s rejection of the Motion also occurs just as Canada has begun to assume a leading role in international forums, standing up for its values while defending justice against authoritarian countries such as China.

The Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project has offered constant reminders of China’s growing influence operation at all levels of Canadian government, as well as in universities, the public sector and other areas. URAP is extremely troubled by the campaign being carried out by high-level officials such as Senator Yuen Pau Woo and Bill Yee, the former adviser to British Columbia’s provincial government, both of whom consistently act as spokespeople for Uyghur Genocide denialism while amplifying Beijing’s official talking points in Canada.

The Senate vote rejecting the Uyghur Genocide Motion is a victory only for China, and not for Canada. Senator Yuen Pau Woo and other supportive senators loudly and clearly delivered Beijing’s message to our Senate.

Section 31(2) of Canada’s Constitution Act, 1867, states that a senator is to be disqualified:

“If he takes an Oath or makes a Declaration or Acknowledgment of Allegiance, Obedience, or Adherence to a Foreign Power, or does an Act whereby he becomes a Subject or Citizen, or entitled to the Rights or Privileges of a Subject or Citizen, of a Foreign Power.”

Mr. Yuen Pau Woo has been acting as a spokesperson for China rather than for Canada.

Yuen Pau Woo should have no place in the Canadian Senate.

URAP will work with members of various faith groups and nationwide organizations to remove Senator Yuen Pau Woo from public office.


For more information:

Mehmet Tohti

Executive Director

Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project


secure@urap.ca     613 261 8512