MPs on a parliamentary committee dominated by the governing Liberal Party say China has committed “genocide” against its Muslim Uyghur minority and has called for Magnitsky-style sanctions against Chinese officials.
The statement from the House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights comes less than a week after China’s envoy to Canada warned parliamentarians against recognizing the mass detention and abuse of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province as genocide. The United Nations calls genocide a crime under international law.
The all-party committee’s three-page statement refers to the detention facilities as concentration camps, and urges the government to not only condemn China’s actions in Xinjiang, but recognize that they constitute genocide, and work with allies to help international observers gain access. It follows a study the committee has undertaken on Xinjiang, a region in northwest China.
The Interparliamentary Alliance on China, a coalition of 150 legislators from 17 countries, tweeted on Wednesday that the Canadian committee is the first parliamentary body to label Beijing’s conduct in Xinjiang “as genocide” against Uyghurs.
The MPs on the subcommittee are also asking Ottawa to impose Magnitsky-style sanctions “on all government of China officials responsible for the perpetration of grave human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims” in the region.
“The subcommittee wishes to make clear that the condemnations in this statement are directed towards the government of China, as represented by the Chinese Communist Party, and not the Chinese people, whom the subcommittee support wholeheartedly and hope that one day will benefit from the peace, freedom and security enjoyed by many others in this world.”
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne issued a statement on Wednesday thanking the committee for its work, but did not say whether Ottawa would impose sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the brutal repression in Xinjiang.
“We remain deeply disturbed by the troubling reports of human rights violations in Xinjiang and have publicly and consistently called on the Chinese government to end the repression of Uyghurs,” Mr. Champagne said. “Canada takes allegations of genocide very seriously. We will continue to work in close collaboration with our allies to push for these to be investigated through an international independent body and for impartial experts to access the region so that they can see the situation firsthand and report back.”
Anita Vandenbeld, a Liberal MP who is a member of the subcommittee and previously chaired it, said the “gripping testimony” from “survivors, scholars and renowned human-rights advocates like Irwin Cotler, was alarming and compelling” for MPs.
“This is not a partisan issue but a human issue. The testimony, especially of the women who survived the camps, would move anyone to action,” Ms. Vandenbeld said.
Last week, Chinese Ambassador Cong Peiwu said Beijing would have a “strong reaction” if Parliament was to condemn Beijing’s treatment of its Uyghurs as genocide.
The Chinese embassy in Ottawa did not have an immediate response to the subcommittee’s statement.
More than one million Uyghurs are in detention camps in Xinjiang province, facilities the Chinese government calls vocational and education training centres. Wednesday’s committee statement detailed actions that MPs heard are being used to “persecute Muslim groups living in Xinjiang, including mass detentions, forced labour, pervasive state surveillance and population control.”
William Browder, the British-American entrepreneur who led the global campaign for Magnitsky sanctions, including in Canada, said it’s time for Ottawa to act against Beijing. The sanctions laws adopted by Canada, the United States and European countries are named after Mr. Browder’s friend, Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, who was murdered in a Moscow prison.
Mr. Browder said Canada should join the United States and impose visa and financial sanctions against Chinese officials.
“Now is the time for the Canadian government to sanction Chinese officials responsible for the Uyghur genocide,” he said in a telephone interview from London. “Canada can’t get away with doing nothing and at the same time try and maintain its reputation as a country that cares about human rights.”
David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said Mr. Champagne is wrong to suggest that human-rights abuses suffered by Uyghurs are allegations that need to be investigated.
“These are facts and we have documentary evidence. We have photographs and we have personal testimony, so it is more than allegations. These are the most serious human-rights violations of this century,” he said.
Mr. Mulroney said Canada should not only impose Magnitsky sanctions, but also boycott the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.
“I don’t see how we can go and send athletes to Beijing at a time when millions of people are incarcerated and an entire religion and culture is being eliminated and a people are being mistreated,” he said.
Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, said the Canadian government has stayed silent for too long on China’s mistreatment of Uyghurs.
“Unless the government implements the recommendations of the subcommittee, then it is just empty words,” Mr. Tohti said.
He pointed out that Canada has used Magnitsky sanctions against officials in Russia, Venezuela and other countries, but has so far been leery of doing so against Beijing.
“When it comes to China, they stay silent . . . so it is important for the government to take immediate action to crack the perception that we don’t want to sanction China,” he added.
Mr. Tohti’s organization urged Ottawa to address the humanitarian crisis by granting refugee status to Uyghurs in Canada and set up an emergency relief program for Uyghur refugees trapped in unsafe countries where they face deportation to China.
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