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Trudeau, Cabinet abstain from China genocide vote

PTI Toronto | Updated on February 23, 2021 Published on February 23, 2021

The non-binding motion was passed 266-0; the measure also called on IOC to move 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing

Canada’s House of Commons has voted to declare that China is committing genocide against more than one million Uighurs in the western Xinjiang region but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Cabinet abstained from the vote.

The non-binding motion passed 266-0 on Monday as virtually all but Trudeau and his Cabinet voted for the measure that also called on the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing.

A senior government official told media that Canada’s foreign minister will make the government’s position clear but said declaring something in Parliament is not going to adequately get results in China and that work with international allies and partners is needed. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak publicly about the matter.

The main opposition parties supported the motion and control the majority of seats in the House of Commons. Trudeau’s Cabinet is made up of 37 Liberal lawmakers, including the prime minister. There are 154 lawmakers from Trudeau’s Liberal party in the House of Commons and the rest of the Liberal lawmakers voted freely on the motion.

Opposition Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole has said a signal must be sent to the Chinese regime.

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared before he left office that China’s policies against Xinjiang’s Muslims and ethnic minorities constituted crimes against humanity and genocide. His successor, Antony Blinken, reiterated the statement on his first day in office.

Researchers and rights groups estimate that since 2016, China has rounded up a million or more Uighurs and other minorities into prisons and vast indoctrination camps that the state calls training centres.

Pompeo cited widespread forced birth control and forced labour among Uighurs. The Associated Press reported last year that the Chinese government was systematically forcing sterilisation and abortion on Uighur and other Muslim women and sent many to camps simply for having too many children.

The vote is the latest attempt to hold China accountable for its treatment of the Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim and ethnic Turkic minorities, who have been subjected to an unprecedented crackdown that is increasingly drawing international concern.

China denies any abuses and insists the steps it has taken are necessary to combat terrorism and a separatist movement.

China’s envoy to Canada told Canadian parliamentarians over the weekend to butt out of China’s internal affairs.

After the leader of the Conservative party urged the government last week to press the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympics out of Beijing, Trudeau hesitated at using the word “genocide,” which he called an “extremely loaded” term.

“When it comes to the application of the very specific word genocide, we simply need to ensure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed before a determination like that is made,” Trudeau said last week.

O’Toole has also said China is imposing a police state on Hong Kong and arbitrarily detaining two Canadians in Chinese prisons. He said if the Olympics are not moved, a boycott could be considered.

Canada continues to press Beijing to release Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, both detained since December 2018 following Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a top executive at the Chinese technology company Huawei and the daughter of the company’s founder. Canadian police detained Meng in Vancouver on a US extradition request nine days before Kovrig and Spavor were arrested.

The US is seeking Meng’s extradition on fraud charges, and her extradition case is before the Canadian courts. Her arrest severely damaged relations between China and Canada. China has also sentenced two other Canadians to death and suspended canola imports.

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Published on February 23, 2021
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