New Zealand parliament declares China commits ‘severe human rights abuses’ in Xinjiang


New Zealand’s parliament has unanimously voted to formally declare China is committing “severe human rights abuses” against Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) but stopped short of calling it genocide.

The legislators instead called on the Chinese government to “work with all relevant instruments of international law to being these abuses to an end.”

The motion, put through the House of Representatives following a debate, follows the US State Department’s designation in January of the situation in the XUAR as genocide.

The term has since been applied by parliaments in Canada, the Netherlands, and the UK to adopt a similar resolution failed in Australia’s parliament.

While the vote represents the strongest move to date condemning rights abuses in the XUAR by New Zealand, whose economy and regional influence is dwarfed by nearby China, it fell short of labelling them part of a policy of genocide by Beijing.

Members of the ruling Labour Party sought to have the term removed from the motion, which was initially proposed by the right-wing minority ACT party.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the passage of the motion, calling it “a statement that is strong and that is clear.”

Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, ACT Deputy Leader and Foreign Affairs spokesperson Brooke van Velden told members of the House that evidence of a genocide in the XUAR is “voluminous, from multiple sources, and credible.”

“It is also true that the Uyghur people have been engaged in terrorism across China,” she said.

“This should not be without consequence, but genocide is not a justifiable consequence for anything. It is certainly not justifiable to show ‘absolutely no mercy’ as [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] called for in the ‘People’s War on Terror’ centred on Xinjiang.”

Van Velden warned lawmakers that genocide “does not require a war.”

She noted that China must be recognized as a perpetrator of genocide under the 1949 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, citing a state-sponsored “intent to destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

Dolkun Isa, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) welcomed the unanimous vote, but said he was troubled by the decision to omit the label of genocide from the motion.

“This is still a positive step in the right direction because all members of the New Zealand Parliament from across all parties have voted unanimously to recognize China’s severe human rights abuses of Uyghurs,” he told RFA’s Uyghur Service.

“We’re deeply grateful for the strong support of New Zealand. At the same time, we call on other democratic governments to break their silence and recognize China’s Uyghur genocide.”

The United Nations and human rights group said that Chinese authorities have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since 2017. (Source: RFA)