On the Situation in Xinjiang
Dear fellow constituent,
On February 22, 2021, Members of the House of Commons unanimously voted to declare the People’s Republic of China’s treatment of the Uyghur and Turkic Muslim minority population an act of genocide, as defined by the United Nations. This decision followed years of study by the Subcommittee on International Human Rights (SDIR), of which I have been the vice-chair since September 2020. Since making this declaration in Parliament, the Chinese government has retaliated against Canada by sanctioning our subcommittee and thus preventing me from returning to Hong Kong, the place where I was born. Groups connected to the Communist Party of China have also attacked the motion, denouncing it as “spreading lies” and as “American propaganda.” Yet, Canada’s parliamentarians remain steadfast in our convictions and are undeterred in our pursuit of justice for the Uyghur and Turkic Muslim people.
I created this web page to share with you how we came to this decision, impart on you the importance of what is taking place in Xinjiang, and explain why I believe Canada and the world must take action against the ongoing destruction of an ethnic minority population and culture.
In parliamentary hearings, MPs heard shocking testimony from Uyghurs who fled the region, former detainees, the families of detained individuals, non-governmental organizations, academics, and human rights experts. Here, we learned of the horrific steps the Communist Party of China was taking to destroy the Uyghur people. Among these was the forced sterilization of women, the unlawful detention of over a million people in concentration camps, forced labour, enforced disappearances, pervasive state surveillance, the prohibition of religious practices, and the destruction of religious symbols and mosques. These findings were consistent with independent international reports as well as satellite imagery and drone footage taken in Xinjiang.
In the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention, genocide is defined as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, through such means as:
Killing members of the group;
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
After hearing from a wide a variety of groups, the multi-party committee agreed unanimously that what was taking place in Xinjiang was consistent with the definition of genocide and urged the government to sanction those responsible. At this point in time, SDIR was the first parliamentary committee in the world to label these human rights atrocities as a genocide.
Canada is not alone in taking this position. Other parliaments such as the Netherlands, UK, and most recently, Lithuania have also labelled the atrocities as genocide; both the Biden and Trump administrations likewise agreed. Non-partisan international human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also declared the acts as a genocide and a crime against humanity. To bolster these claims, there have been dozens of investigative media reports which highlight the horrifying conditions faced by the Uighurs in Xinjiang. Here, we are able to hear directly from the victims and see firsthand footage demonstrating the scale and the ferocity of the Chinese state actions against the Muslim population. We owe a debt of gratitude to the journalists who risk their freedom to bring news out of Xinjiang. These videos are worth watching and have been attached below.
You may be wondering, “Kenny, these events that are happening are 10,000 miles away, and I have my own concerns here in Canada and Richmond to worry about. I worry about my job, COVID-19, my family, gang shootings, climate change, my church, my sanity, and what happens in China doesn’t affect me. Why does this matter?”
I am focused on the priorities and concerns we share in Richmond, but I also must look to protect those who cannot protect themselves internationally as part of my role in parliament and as a member of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights. If we cannot take a moral and principled stand against something that we have been memorializing since the holocaust, then what good have we done, what lesson have we learned? In particular, there is plenty of evidence that the Chinese Communist Party has been interfering in our domestic affairs, harassing, threatening, and arbitrarily imprisoning Canadians. As a result, this gives us full right to comment on what is going on in their jurisdiction, especially when it involves genocide. These are not low-level trade disputes or petty political disagreements; this is about preventing the extermination of an entire people. After the holocaust, we said “never again.” Now is the time to demonstrate some moral courage and speak out and prove these words were not an empty promise.
Member of Parliament for Steveston Richmond-East