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In this Dec. 22, 2019, file photo, a man holds a sign during a rally to show support for Uyghurs and their fight for human rights in Hong Kong.

Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press

The Conservatives are calling on the federal government to declare that China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity through its use of internment camps and forced sterilization for Muslim Uyghurs.

Conservative Party MPs note that not only did the U.S. State Department under former secretary of state Michael Pompeo declare on Jan. 19 that China is perpetrating genocide but new U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said later that he concurs.

Canada under the minority Liberal government has so far declined to take an official position on the matter. A House of Commons subcommittee in which the majority of members are from the governing Liberal Party released a statement last October declaring the persecution of the Uyghurs to be genocide, but this does not carry the official stamp of the Canadian government.

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The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as acts that include “imposing measures intended to prevent births within [a] group,” as well as “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of [a] group.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong and Garnett Genuis, the party’s international development and human-rights critic, released a statement Sunday urging Canada to officially condemn the treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. “These acts of genocide include systematic population control, sexual violence and mass detention,” the MPs said.

Mr. Chong, in an interview, said the Conservatives will seek to put a motion describing China’s treatment of Uyghurs as genocide to the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity.

“A number of bodies, including Canada’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights, as well as two U.S. administrations, have now concluded that the government of China is committing acts of genocide and other crimes against humanity. These acts of genocide include systematic population control, sexual violence and mass detention,”

“These reports demonstrate in exhaustive detail the magnitude of abuses perpetrated by the government of China against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, and are indicative of the government of China’s escalating disregard for human rights and international law, including in Hong Kong, as well as with Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, and other ethnic and religious minorities.”

The two MPs said their party calls on the Canadian government “to join the Biden administration in officially recognizing the Uyghur genocide” and to encourage recognition of this genocide by other allies so that countries can take “co-ordinated action in response to this genocide.”

Relations between Canada and China have been strained since December, 2018, when Beijing locked up two Canadians – former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor – in apparent retaliation for Ottawa’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition request.

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Last week, Mr. Blinken, the Democratic nominee for Secretary of State, told his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing there was “no doubt” China posed the most significant challenge to the United States of any country, and added he believed there was a very strong foundation to build a bipartisan policy to stand up to Beijing.

Asked whether he agreed with Mr. Pompeo’s assessment that China was committing genocide against minority Muslims, Mr. Blinken replied: “That would be my judgment as well.”

“On the Uyghurs I think we’re very much in agreement,” the Biden nominee said last week. “The forcing of men, women and children into concentration camps, trying to, in effect, re-educate them to be adherents to the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party, all of that speaks to an effort to commit genocide.”

Last August, a spokesman for the Biden campaign in a statement to Politico also described China’s actions in Xinjiang as genocide.

Birth rates in Hotan and Kashgar, Uyghur-majority areas of Xinjiang fell more than 60 per cent between 2015 and 2018, the Associated Press has reported. The Xinjiang Health Commission has publicly called for population growth rates in some areas with large Uyghur communities to be brought considerably below 2016 levels, according to research by Adrian Zenz, a U.S.-based scholar and senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

“In Guma [Pishan] County, the 2019 family planning budget plan specifically called for 8,064 female sterilizations,” Mr. Zenz wrote in a report last summer.

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More than one million Uyghurs are in detention camps in Xinjiang province, facilities the Chinese government calls vocational and education training centres. Beijing defends its conduct by saying it’s trying to stamp out extremism.

Tens of thousands of Uyghurs are also working under coercive conditions at Chinese factories, a mass use of forced labour that has been condemned by foreign governments around the word including Canada. The U.S. has already banned imports of cotton and tomato products from the Xinjiang region.

Canada’s previous foreign affairs minster, François-Philippe Champagne, was reluctant to call China’s actions genocide before he was moved out of the post on Jan. 12. Canada’s new Foreign Affairs Minister, Marc Garneau, declined to say when asked by CBC News whether he believes what is happening to the Uyghurs constitutes genocide. “I will have the opportunity in the coming days to dig deeply in the portfolio and I probably will have more to say.”

Earlier this month, the Canadian government announced what it called a “comprehensive approach” to “defending the rights of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities” in China’s Xinjiang province. But trade lawyers and human-rights advocates say the actions were more style than substance. Measures include the threat of denying companies trade support or financing if they are found to be complicit.

With a report from Reuters

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