The Dutch parliament on Feb. 25 passed a non-binding motion saying the treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China’s Xinjiang region amounts to genocide, the first such move by a European country.
Canada also passed a resolution labelling the treatment of the Uyghurs in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as genocide earlier this week.
“A genocide on the Uyghur minority is occurring in China,” the Dutch motion said, stopping short of directly saying that the Chinese communist government was responsible.
The motion said that actions by the Chinese government such as “measures intended to prevent births” and “having punishment camps” fell under United Nations Resolution 260, generally known as the genocide convention.
The Chinese Embassy in The Hague said on Feb. 25 any suggestion of a genocide in Xinjiang was an “outright lie” and the Dutch parliament had “deliberately smeared China and grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs.”
Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD party voted against the resolution.
The author of the motion, lawmaker Sjoerd Sjoerdsma of the center-left D-66 Party, has separately proposed lobbying the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympics away from Beijing.
“Recognising the atrocities that are taking place against the Uyghurs in China for what they are, namely genocide, prevents the world from looking the other way and forces us into action,” he told Reuters in an emailed response to questions.
Trudeau and his Cabinet abstain
Canada’s parliament passed a non-binding motion on Feb. 22 saying the PRC’s treatment of the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region constitutes genocide, putting pressure on Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to follow suit.
Canada’s House of Commons voted 266-0 for the motion brought by the opposition Conservative Party. Trudeau and his Cabinet abstained from the vote, although Liberal backbenchers widely backed it.
The motion was also amended just before the vote to call on the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing if the treatment continues.
China’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva accused Western powers on Feb. 23 of using the Uighur issue to meddle in his country’s internal affairs.
China’s communist government has denied accusations of abuses in Xinjiang, and has said the complexes it set up in the region provided vocational training to help stamp out Islamist extremism and separatism. Those in the facilities have since “graduated”, it says.
Earlier in the year the administration of then then US President, Donald Trump determined that the PRC has committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” against the Uyghur Muslims.
The then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Jan. 19 that he made the move “after careful examination of the available facts,” accusing the Chinese Communist Party of crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a confirmation hearing on Jan. 19 he agreed with the genocide declaration.
An independent UN human rights panel said in 2018 that it had received credible reports that at least 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslims had been detained in Xinjiang.
Last year, a report by German researcher Adrian Zenz published by a Washington think tank accused the Chinese authorities of using forced sterilization, forced abortion and coercive family planning against Muslims in Xinjiang.
A BBC report on Feb. 3 said women in the camps were subject to rape, sexual abuse and torture.
Faith leaders, activist groups and others have said crimes against humanity, including genocide, are taking place in Xinjiang. In August last year, religious leaders, including Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Bo and Indonesia’s Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo, said in an open letter that the “repression” in the region has become “one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust.”