Parliamentary sub-committee on human rights recognizes Chinese atrocities against Uyghurs as genocide

On October 21, the Parliamentary Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development released a statement condemning the atrocities committed by the Chinese government against Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslims in Xinjiang/East Turkestan as genocide and recommending that the Canadian government formally recognize these crimes as genocide. 

This release follows seven meetings (five in 2018 and two in 2020) in which the subcommittee heard evidence from academics, civil society organizations, and survivors of the Chinese government’s abuses in Xinjiang. In those meetings, speakers described a highly organized campaign to strip Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslim groups of their identity and their freedom through a program of mass detentions, forced labour, population control, and omnipresent surveillance. 

The decision to recognize these abuses as genocide carries major significance, as the crime of genocide imposes a legal obligation on the Canadian government and international community to take preventative action.

In his testimony before the subcommittee, former MP Irwin Cotler declared, “What we have here with respect to the Uighurs is a classic case study of such war crimes, crimes against humanity and, as I and others have mentioned, acts that are constitutive of genocide. That warrants our involvement, under the responsibility to protect doctrine, to initiate, undertake and implement the panoply of remedies that were heretofore recommended before your committee, some of which I recommended in my testimony, this being part of the responsibility to protect doctrine.”

Speakers detail abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang

On the issue of mass detentions, the committee was made aware that nearly 2 million people are being held in concentration camps, where conditions are described as “deplorable” and inmates are regularly subject to psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. 

Since 2018, the former inmates of these camps are frequently used as slave labour under the guise of a “poverty-reduction program” which places prisoners in factories across China. According to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the products of this forced labour have found their way into the supply chain of many prominent global companies, including Canada’s own Bombardier.

Furthermore, Uyghurs are regularly subjected to forced or coerced birth control, sterilization, and abortion – a practice so widespread that between 2015 and 2018, it effectively reduced the population growth in majority Uyghur regions by 84%. 

The enforcement of these atrocities is made possible through a wide-reaching program of surveillance that draws on information collected from telecommunications monitoring, a vast array of CCTV cameras equipped with facial recognition software, and the placement of over 1.1 million Chinese government officials in Uyghur households.

Subcommittee recommends taking a hard line with China

In response the subcommittee made several recommendations to the government of Canada, including to:

  • condemn the Government of China’s actions against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang;
  • work with allies and multilateral organizations to help international observers gain unfettered access to Xinjiang;
  • provide support through international overseas development assistance to civil society organizations, especially in countries that are geopolitically important to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, who are raising awareness about the persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang;
  • recognize that the acts being committed in Xinjiang against Uyghurs constitute genocide and work within legal frameworks of international bodies to recognize that acts being committed against Uyghurs constitute genocide; and
  • impose sanctions under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act on all Government of China officials responsible for the perpetration of grave human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims.

STAND Canada applauds the subcommittee’s decision to recognize these abuses as genocide and urges the government to adopt their recommendations as soon as possible. In addition to the recommendations made by the subcommittee, STAND is advocating for the Canadian government to:

  • pass a Uyghur forced labour prevention act similar to the one recently passed by the United States;
  • create special provisions within Canada’s immigration policy for Uyghur refugees, including softening the criteria for immigration and refugee status for Uyghurs;
  • reduce or withdraw from involvement with the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and Belt and Road Initiative. 

About STAND Canada

STAND Canada (formerly STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur)) advocates to make preventing and ending genocide a cornerstone of Canadian domestic and foreign policy. We are dedicated to providing Canadians with the educational and advocacy tools that they need to take action toward a world without genocide.

Since it was founded in 2005, STAND has become the leading organization in Canada for youth-led anti-genocide activism. With eight university chapters across Canada, STAND relies on the strength of its national membership to provide Canadians with the educational and advocacy tools that they need to take action against genocide and crimes against humanity. STAND action includes Member of Parliament engagement, action alerts, on-campus events, campaigns, and youth empowerment. 

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