On Monday, Canadian lawmakers approved a non-binding memorandum in which they deemed that the violations against the Muslim Uyghur minority in the Chinese province of Xinjiang amount to a crime of “genocide”, calling on the government to do the same. And the memorandum put to the vote by the conservatives (opposition), was approved in the House of Commons by a majority of 266 votes out of 338.
No member voted against the motion, but MPs who did not vote in favor of it abstained, particularly members of the liberal government led by Justin Trudeau.
The memo acknowledges that “the Uighurs in China have been and continue to be subject to genocide.”
The memorandum cited in particular what this Muslim minority is exposed to at the hands of the Chinese authorities, especially the operations of “political and anti-religious indoctrination”, “forced labor” and “destruction of cultural sites.”
The deputies also introduced an amendment to the memorandum calling for the transfer of the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing if “genocide” continues.
Human rights organizations say at least 1 million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims are being held in camps in Xinjiang. China imposes severe restrictions on access to this sensitive area, which makes reporting and verifying cases nearly impossible.
But eyewitnesses and activists say that China is seeking to forcibly integrate Uighurs into the Han culture, who make up the majority of the country’s population, by trying to eliminate Islamic customs, including forcing Muslims to eat pork and drink alcohol, while imposing a system of forced labor.
China denies these accusations and maintains that the detention camps are in fact vocational training centers aimed at curbing the spread of Islamic extremism.
Following the approval of the memorandum, Conservative leader Irene O’Toole, who is calling from the most famous Trudeau government to toughen its rhetoric against Beijing, said, “The Conservatives are now calling on the liberal government to respect Parliament and officially recognize that genocide is taking place in China.”
Foreign Minister Marc Garneau responded in a statement by saying that “the Canadian government takes seriously any allegation of genocide,” noting that Ottawa prefers to take a coordinated approach with its allies on this issue.
And Trudeau announced last week that Canada and other countries are studying the possibility of considering China’s treatment of the Uyghur minority as genocide.
“It’s a word loaded with meanings and it’s something we definitely should look at in the case of the Uighurs,” Trudeau said. “I know that the international community is looking at this matter with great interest, and we are with it and we will not hesitate to be part of the decisions on this type of issue,” he added.
The administration of former US President Donald Trump considered that Beijing’s imprisonment of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity.
Trudeau said there was “no doubt” that massive human rights violations had occurred in Xinjiang. “We are very concerned about this and have expressed our concerns several times. But when it comes to applying a very specific word which is genocide, we simply need to confirm” the facts “before making such a decision.”
Relations between Ottawa and Beijing deteriorated sharply, due to the arrest of Canada’s official in the Chinese company Huawei and the arrest of two Canadian citizens by China.
Chinese authorities arrested Michael Covrig, a former diplomat who works as a senior advisor to the International Crisis Group, and businessman Michael Spavor on December 10, 2018, and later charged them with espionage.
Their arrest was seen as revenge by China for Canada’s arrest of Ming Wanzhou, the financial director of the Chinese technology company Huawei, although China denies this.
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