A non-binding motion has been passed by Canada’s parliament saying that China’s treatment of its Muslim Uighur minority constitutes genocide, heaping pressure on the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to do the same.
On Monday in the House of Commons, the resolution, supported by the opposition Conservative Party, passed by a 266-0 vote, while Trudeau and almost his entire cabinet abstained.
Just before the vote to call upon the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing if the care persists, the bill was also amended.
“More than one million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims are or have been in camps. The testimonies we’ve heard from witnesses and survivors [have] been horrifying,” Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole told reporters after the vote.
“There’s real suffering going on in China. There’s a genocide happening and Canadians, while we’re free traders and I’m very proud to be a free-market party, our values are not for sale,” he said, when asked about potential economic impacts of the motion.
At least one million Muslims are detained in camps in China’s rural western region of Xinjiang, human rights activists and United Nations experts have said.
China has denied violations and has said that its camps provide training and are appropriate to tackle extremism.
Wang Wenbin, spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said the motion “disregards facts and common sense” on Tuesday, adding that Beijing had “lodged stern representations” with Canada.
“Cong Peiwu, the Chinese ambassador to Canada, rejected the motion of the Conservative Party and said that “there is no “genocide” at all in Xinjiang.
“A few people in Canada and some other western countries are talking about upholding values, but one important part of the values should be: respect facts and stop spreading disinformation and even lies,” Cong said in a statement posted on the Chinese embassy’s website on Saturday.
The Ambassador also urged Canada “to stop interfering by any means in China’s internal affairs, so as not to cause further damage to the relations between China and Canada.”
But domestically, Trudeau is under pressure to pursue a tougher stance against China.
When Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, an executive with the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, on an extradition request from the United States, where she is wanted on fraud charges, relations between Ottawa and Beijing deteriorated in December 2018.
Two Canadians, former ambassador Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, were detained by China shortly afterwards and accused the pair of spying.
This month, Canada, the US and 56 other countries adopted a statement condemning the political imprisonment of foreign nationals worldwide.
On its last full day in office, the administration of former US President Donald Trump said China had committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” against the Uighurs in Xinjiang.
The United Kingdom accused China last month of abuses of human rights that amounted to “horrific barbarism” towards the Uighurs.