MPs passed legislation Wednesday that would block foreigners from entering Canada if they were involved in organ trafficking – an accusation levelled at China by United Nations experts in 2021 – and adopted a motion urging Beijing to grant Tibet more autonomy.
The measures, taken as the House of Commons wrapped up its last sitting day of the year, echo the tougher line the Canadian government has recently assumed on China. Last month, the government called China an “increasingly disruptive” power in its Indo-Pacific strategy.
Former Liberal justice minster Irwin Cotler lauded the passage of Bill S-223, saying the “abhorrent practice of organ harvesting has targeted the most vulnerable, including the Uyghur minority and Falun Gong practitioners in China.” It was Mr. Cotler who 10 years ago first introduced a private member’s bill to combat organ trafficking.
S-223, also called the Trafficking in Human Organs Act, has already passed the Senate, where it was sponsored by Sen. Salma Ataullahjan. It bans Canadians from travelling abroad to receive an organ transplant without the informed consent of a donor or someone authorized to give consent. It would make it illegal for Canadians to play any role in unauthorized organ transplants – with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
The passage of S-223 and the motion on Tibet were applauded by a group of more than 100 visitors in the Commons gallery that included Uyghur Canadians and Tibetan Canadians and adherents of Falun Gong, a spiritual group persecuted by Beijing. Conservative MP Garnett Genuis led the Commons effort to pass it with the support of Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi.
The group later marched to protest outside China’s embassy in Ottawa.
In 2021, UN human-rights experts raised what they called “extreme alarm” about how forced organ harvesting in China “appears to be targeting specific ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities held in detention.” Twelve UN-appointed experts, including Siobhan Mullally, special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, said “according to the allegations received, the most common organs removed from the prisoners are reportedly hearts, kidneys, livers, corneas and, less commonly, parts of livers.”
The Chinese government later denied any involuntary organ harvesting takes place in its country, calling the UN experts’ accusations “anti-Chinese lies” by “actors” who engage in “slander and rumour mongering.”
Mehmet Tohti, executive director for the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, was among those in the Commons gallery Wednesday. “China has been commercializing human organs to make money out of it,” he said. “Uyghurs and other groups have been targeted by China as a main source of human organ supply.”
Separately, MPs voted to endorse a report calling on China to allow Tibet to control of its own affairs.
The adopted motion was to concur with a report by the House of Commons standing committee on foreign affairs that urged a dialogue between the Tibetan government in exile and the People’s Republic of China “with a view to enabling Tibet to exercise genuine autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution.”
China invaded and annexed Tibet more than 70 years ago. The 60th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule was in 2019.
The Tibet motion is in keeping with a non-violent “Middle Way” approach of the Dalai Lama, a Tibetan spiritual leader who has taken refuge in India.
The Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The Conservative Party’s Mr. Genuis said Canadian MPs are sending a message to China’s rulers.
“Many parliamentarians have shown a willingness to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party,” he said. “On Wednesday, by supporting the Middle Way and criminalizing organ harvesting and trafficking and previously, by recognizing the Uyghur genocide and calling for a stronger response to foreign interference.”
“These votes today give hope to all of the victims of Chinese Communist Party violence.”
The Canadian Parliament last year voted to declare China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities as genocide.
The Liberal Party’s Mr. Zuberi is shepherding a motion through the Commons that would urge Ottawa to make room in its refugee intake numbers for 10,000 Uyghurs and members of other Turkic groups who have fled China and are living in third countries such as Turkey.
Rights groups and media reports say the Chinese government has committed grave human-rights violations against the region’s largely Muslim Uyghur population, as well as other minorities. Forced labour and forced relocation to work in other provinces, China’s critics say, is the latest stage in a government-directed effort to exert control in Xinjiang. Beijing has described the region as being infected with extremism.
Michelle Bachelet, until recently the UN high commissioner for human rights, visited Xinjiang this year, and her office’s report from late August says China has committed “serious human-rights violations” against Uyghur Muslims in the region, which may amount to crimes against humanity.
Mr. Cotler noted the anti-organ trafficking bill was also championed by former secretary of state and MP David Kilgour who “regrettably did not live to see it adopted.” Mr. Kilgour died earlier this year.