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Fujie (Wuhan) Electronics Accessory Co., Ltd. Chinese authorities have loaded large numbers of Uyghur workers onto trains bound for factories thousands of kilometres away from their homes.Nathan VanderKlippe/The Globe and Mail

A strong majority of Canadians both approve of Parliament’s declaration that China is carrying out genocide against its Uyghur Muslim minority and favour a harder line toward the country, including economic sanctions and moving the 2022 Winter Olympics out of Beijing.

A poll by Nanos Research for The Globe and Mail shows that 83 per cent of Canadians either support or somewhat support the unanimous vote by the House of Commons, declaring Chinese atrocities against Uyghurs and Turkic minorities in Xinjiang to be in contravention of the United Nations’ Genocide Convention.

The survey also found 59 per cent disapprove of the decision by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet to abstain in the Feb. 22 vote, while 30 per cent approved of the action.

“It’s pretty clear that Canadians see this as genocide and the polls suggest that they are ready for action and a hardline when it comes to responding to the government of China,” Mr. Nanos said.

The poll shows 70 per cent of Canadians support or somewhat support a push by human rights advocates to relocate next year’s Winter Olympic Games out of Beijing due to human rights violations against Uyghurs.

Canadians also favour economic sanctions. The poll shows 62 per cent would back Ottawa if it joined the United States in imposing economic sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for the brutal treatment of Uyghurs.

“The sanctions are long overdue. The United States has started sanctions almost a year ago and the Prime Minister is still silent,” said Mehmet Tohti, the executive director of the Ottawa-based Uyghur Human Rights Advocacy Project. “The government’s silence on crimes of genocide undermines our international credibility.”

The U.S. has imposed Magnitsky-style human-rights sanctions on top Chinese officials over what is taking place in the Xinjiang region. This includes freezing assets and prohibiting targeted officials from conducting financial transactions.

The survey also found 69 per cent of Canadians either support or somewhat support fast-tracking refugee applications from Uyghurs and other Muslims from China. The poll of 1,000 Canadians was conducted between Feb. 29-March 4 and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Mr. Nanos attributed the tougher stance against China to an accumulation of issues from cybersecurity concerns of telecommunications gear from Huawei Technology Co. Ltd. to the incarceration of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig as well as Beijing’s decision to block certain Canadian agricultural goods. China’s trade action and imprisonment of the two Michaels on charges of espionage happened shortly after Canada detained Huawei senior executive Meng Wanzhou in December, 2018, on a U.S. extradition request over alleged bank fraud relating to American sanctions against Iran.

“It looks like Canadians are hitting a boiling point on this where they just want to see action and there is less of an attitude to ameliorate China,” Mr. Nanos said.

A United Nations human-rights panel has estimated that as many as one million Uyghurs have been held in detention centres – what China has called vocational training centres – and reports have emerged about Beijing’s efforts to slash this ethnic minority’s birth rate through mass sterilization, forced abortions and mandatory birth control.

The Globe and Mail and BBC reported last week that Beijing is relocating large numbers of Uyghurs to other parts of the country to better assimilate them and thin their population in Xinjiang.

Conservative foreign affair critic Michael Chong says the polling numbers indicate that “Canadians are well ahead of the government” on China and want Ottawa to do more for the Uyghurs. “These are overwhelming numbers,” Mr. Chong said.

Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi said the survey results show Canadians are “highly attuned” to what is taking place in China and are looking to Ottawa to do something.

“Once you learn of these crimes against humanity – which Parliament has now called genocide – it shocks the conscience,” he said. Mr. Zuberi said the poll results “certainly say to the government that we must do more … Canadians want to see action.”

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