Canada’s parliament on Wednesday labelled the Chinese government’s actions targeting Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) as “genocide”, in the strongest move to date by lawmakers from a foreign nation.
The lawmakers are seeking to hold China accountable for the abuses and called on Ottawa to adopt the designation and sanction Chinese government officials responsible for rights violations in the western region.
It is believed that the Chinese government have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since early 2017.
A subcommittee in the parliament said in a statement on Wednesday that after meetings with experts to build upon the testimony of witnesses about developments in the region, its members were “profoundly disturbed” and “convinced of the need for a strong response.”
“The Subcommittee heard that the Government of China has been employing various strategies to persecute Muslim groups living in Xinjiang, including mass detentions, forced labour, pervasive state surveillance and population control,” the statement said.
“Witnesses were clear that the Government of China’s actions are a clear attempt to eradicate Uyghur culture and religion.”
The subcommittee said that some witnesses stated that China’s actions meet the definition of genocide as set out in Article II of the United Nations’ 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The subcommittee urged the Canadian government to officially condemn China’s actions in the XUAR, work with allies and organizations to help international observers gain unfettered access to the region, and provide support to civil society groups raising awareness about the Uyghurs.
The subcommittee also called on Canada’s government to recognize that the acts being committed in the XUAR against Uyghurs constitutes genocide and impose sanctions under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act on all Chinese officials responsible for the perpetration of rights abuses in the region.
The designation by Canadian lawmakers comes less than a week after China’s Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu warned of a “strong reaction” if the country’s parliament were to condemn Beijing’s policies in the XUAR as part of a campaign of genocide.
It also follows a June report about a dramatic increase in recent years in the number of forced sterilizations and abortions targeting Uyghurs.
Author Adrian Zenz believes the campaign may amount to government-led genocide under United Nations definitions.
Last week, China narrowly won a seat on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, prompting a rights group to call the vote “embarrassing” for a country that has worked overtime to whitewash its image and used its growing power to stifle criticism of its persecution of ethnic Uyghurs and Tibetans.
Earlier this month, the U.K. and Germany led a group of 39 member states at the U.N. General Assembly in condemning China’s policies in the XUAR, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, and several members of the European Union.
The condemnation marked a significant increase in the number of countries willing to stand up to China’s threats of cutting off trade with nations that support such statements. A similar resolution last year received only 23 backers. (Source: RFA)