Canada mulls labelling China’s Uyghur treatment as genocide


Canada and other nations consider labelling China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority a genocide as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau affirmed there is “no question” that rights abuses has been committed.

“It’s a word that is extremely loaded and is certainly something that we should be looking at in the case of the Uyghurs,” Trudeau told a news conference on Tuesday.

“I know the international community is looking very carefully at that and we are certainly among them, and we will not hesitate from being part of the determinations around these sorts of things.”

The UN and international rights groups have said that at least one million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims have been incarcerated in camps in Xinjiang.

The previous US administration last month said Beijing’s incarceration of mostly Muslim minorities in its Xinjiang region amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity while the new administration of President Joe Biden has defended the label.

In January, then US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said: “We are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state.”

On his confirmation as the new secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has said he agreed with the label, and vowed that the Biden administration will stay tough on China.

Trudeau said that “when it comes to the application of the very specific word ‘genocide,’ we simply need to ensure that all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed in the processes before a determination like that is made”.

Beijing has made access to the area highly restricted and independent investigation by media and right groups is simply not allowed, making reporting and verification of the allegations near impossible.

But witnesses and activists say China is seeking to forcibly integrate the Uyghurs into the majority Han culture by eradicating Islamic customs, including by forcing Muslims to eat pork and drink alcohol – both forbidden by their faith – while imposing a regime of effective forced labour.

China has denied wrongdoing and contends that its camps are vocational training centres meant to reduce the allure of Islamic extremism in the wake of attacks.

Canada-China relations soured in late 2018 over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, and China’s detention of two Canadians – former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor – in what Ottawa has called retaliation. (Source: CNA)