Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday February 20, 2021
MPs vote to label China’s persecution of Uighurs a genocide
Parliament today accused the Chinese government of carrying out a campaign of genocide against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims.
A substantial majority of MPs — including most Liberals who participated — voted in favour of a Conservative motion that says China’s actions in its western Xinjiang region meet the definition of genocide set out in the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention.
The final tally was 266 in favour and zero opposed. Two MPs formally abstained.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and almost all of his cabinet colleagues were absent for the vote. Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau was the only cabinet minister present. When it was his turn, he said he abstained “on behalf of the Government of Canada.”
The motion also calls on the government to lobby the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympic Games out of Beijing.
It was passed over the strenuous objections of Chinese Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu, who denounced the vote as meddling in China’s internal affairs.
Media reports and academic and UN experts have accused China of imprisoning Uighurs in concentration and “deradicalization” camps and targeting them for forced labour, sexual violence, population control methods and sweeping surveillance. China’s foreign ministry has denied the accusations.
The motion calls on the government to officially adopt the position that China is engaged in genocide, and to coordinate a response with the U.S. and other allies.
While it’s not clear what impact — if any — the non-binding resolution will have on the Liberal government’s approach to China, it threatens to inflame relations between the two countries at a time when they’re already tense due to the arrest of Huawei CEO Meng Wanzhou by Canadian authorities over two years ago, and China’s subsequent imprisonment of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
In a statement posted to the Chinese embassy’s website prior to the vote, Cong insisted the reports of Uighur persecution are based on lies.
Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, called on the United Nations in November to investigate whether China’s persecution of ethnic Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang constitutes genocide.
Despite these calls, Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet ministers have been reluctant to use the word “genocide” to describe China’s actions against the Uighurs. Last week, Trudeau said the word is an “extremely loaded” one and he is not prepared to use it at this point.
In question period today, Garneau said the government takes allegations against China “very seriously” and has raised its concerns directly with the Chinese government.
Garneau said Canada wants independent investigators to go into China to document abuses and is working with international partners to gain access to the region. (CBC)