Beijing lashes out at Canada over Uighur genocide vote
Foreign ministry spokesperson accuses MPs of maligning China
The Chinese government lashed out at Canada today after the House of Commons voted to declare that China is committing genocide against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in its western Xinjiang region.
MPs passed a motion Monday saying that China's persecution of these groups amounts to genocide in accordance with the definition set out in the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, and called on the federal government to formally adopt that position.
In a media briefing in Beijing this morning, a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry said the Commons motion disregarded facts and was aimed at maligning and smearing China.
"Facts have proven that there's no genocide in Xinjiang. This is the lie of the century made up by extremely anti-China forces," said Wang Wenbin, according to a translation of his remarks provided by the foreign ministry.
Wang also slammed the part of the motion that called on the government to lobby the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympic Games out of Beijing if the country doesn't change course.
"Canadian politicians are politicizing sports against the Olympic charter spirit and it harms the interests of the international movement and efforts of all countries," Wang said.
Wang condemned the vote as interference in China's domestic affairs and said the Chinese government has "lodged stern representations" with the Canadian side.
WATCH | Beijing sharply rebukes Canada over Uighur genocide vote
The remarks represent the first salvo in what could be a further deterioration of relations between the two countries, which are already at odds over the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou by Canadian authorities more than two years ago, and China's subsequent imprisonment of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
Canada and several allied governments have called the arrests of Kovrig and Spavor "arbitrary" and have argued they amount to "hostage diplomacy."
A substantial majority of MPs — including most Liberals who participated — voted in favour of the non-binding motion, which was proposed by the Conservative Party.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and all but one member of his cabinet were absent for the vote. Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau was present but said he was abstaining from the vote "on behalf of the Government of Canada."
The motion came in response to media reports and other investigations citing evidence that China has engaged in the widespread detention of Uighurs and other members of largely Muslim minorities. The reports also have described a campaign of forced political indoctrination through "re-education," forced labour, sexual violence, population control methods and sweeping surveillance.
While a House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights said in an October report that China's campaign in Xinjiang amounted to genocide, the Trudeau government has been reluctant to use the word to describe China's actions.
After Monday's vote, Garneau issued a statement saying the federal government remains "deeply disturbed" by what he called "horrific reports of human rights violations" in Xinjiang, including the use of arbitrary detention, political re-education, forced labour, torture and forced sterilization.
Garneau called for an independent investigation of the allegations.
Maya Wang, a senior China researcher with Human Rights Watch, said the failure of foreign governments to respond to abuses has emboldened the Chinese government.
"We are really at a point where if governments find reasons not to act on China's very serious human rights abuses, we might be seeing worse abuses in the near future," said Wang.
In January, the federal government announced a new regulation meant to ensure that Canadian companies are not complicit in human rights abuses or the use of forced labour in Xinjiang. But the measures stopped short of imposing "Magnitsky-style sanctions" on Chinese officials — something called for by the committee and the opposition Conservatives.
With files from Patrick Fok