Canada has become the second country in the world to describe China’s treatment of its Uighur minority as genocide, following a controversial parliamentary vote that is likely to further increase diplomatic tensions between the two nations.
Lawmakers passed the non-binding motion, tabled by opposition conservatives, to recognize China’s actions in the northwestern province of Xinjiang as genocide against Uighur Muslims.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and senior members of the Cabinet did not attend the vote on Monday. All the other Liberal members present voted in favor of the motion, except for Foreign Minister Marc Garneau, who abstained on behalf of the government.
In calling the actions in China genocide, Canada joins the United States, which made the decision shortly before Donald Trump left office. A similar vote attempt in the UK failed earlier this month.
But the Canadian parliament’s move is likely to bring a host of new political challenges for the prime minister, who has tried in recent years to strike a balance between rejecting Chinese hostilities and maintaining cordial relations with Beijing.
Trudeau, whose Liberal Party rules without a parliamentary majority, had previously spoken out against putting the motion to a vote, telling reporters that genocide was an “extremely charged” term and that further study of the issue was needed before a vote could be taken. determination.
Over the weekend, China’s ambassador to Canada criticized the vote, telling the Canadian press that officials in Ottawa should stay out of China’s domestic politics.
“We strongly oppose that because it goes against the facts. And it’s like, you know, interfering in our domestic affairs, ”Cong Peiwu said. “There is nothing like genocide in Xinjiang.”
More than 1 million Uyghurs have been detained in camps in Xinjiang province and reports of systematic rape and sexual violence have emerged. China denies such allegations and describes the facilities as centers for vocational and educational training, saying it is trying to crack down on extremism.
But last October, a Canadian parliamentary subcommittee ruled that China’s treatment of the Uighurs constituted genocide.
The motion is likely to increase tensions between the two countries, whose relationship has already suffered significant strain since the arrest by US warrant of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou in December 2018. Within days, two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, were arrested in Porcelana.
Canada has described the detention of the men as “hostage diplomacy.”
Before the vote, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole had said the motion was necessary to send a “clear and unequivocal signal that we will defend human rights and the dignity of human rights, even if it means sacrificing some opportunity. “.
Conservatives, New Democrats, the Québec bloc and the Greens have called for sanctions against Chinese officials and for the next Winter Olympics to be moved from Beijing.