Feds under fire for deferring decision to declare China’s actions against Uyghurs as genocide

As MPs across the partisan spectrum question why the Canadian government has yet to declare that the Chinese government’s repression of Uyghurs constitutes genocide, Global Affairs says an international court or tribunal must be the one to make the declaration, but international law experts say that’s not the case.

As a state party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, more commonly known as the Genocide Convention, Canada has an obligation to declare a genocide is occurring when one is taking place, say international law experts, and deferring such judgement to an international court is nothing more than an excuse to not act.

MPs on the House Foreign Affairs Committee questioned Global Affairs officials on March 28 as to why the government hasn’t made a declaration of genocide more than a year after the House of Commons voted unanimously to declare that a genocide is being committed by China against its Uyghur population and other Turkic Muslims. The non-binding vote, which passed with 266 votes in favour and none against on Feb. 22, 2021, had the support of all parties, including 87 Liberal MPs. Cabinet members, however, abstained from the vote.

A March 2021 report from the Subcommittee on International Human Rights concluded that China is committing genocide as defined under the Genocide Convention. The report was adopted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In it, the subcommittee called on the government to declare the Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghurs an act of genocide.

Beijing has long denied that a genocide of Uyghurs is taking place in Xinjiang.

Bloc Québécois MP Stéphane Bergeron (Montarville, Que.), his party’s foreign affairs critic, said in French that Global Affairs has “strangely enough” refused to acknowledge that genocide is taking place.

“It’s as if everything that is obvious for many people, including for Parliamentarians in Canada, was not for Global Affairs,” he said at the committee on March 28, asking what is stopping Canada from recognizing that a genocide is taking place.

Global Affairs official Jennie Chen, executive director for Greater China Policy and Coordination, said a declaration of genocide is one for the government to make, and officials will provide advice to ministers “when that time comes.”

But later in the committee hearing, Global Affairs director general and deputy legal adviser Carolyn Knobel said a “determination of whether a situation constitutes a genocide must be done by a competent international court or a tribunal, bearing in mind the complex legal thresholds that are involved.”

Knobel suggested that finding “specific intent” to commit genocide is “key” to making such a determination. She said without a finding of “specific intent,” breaches of international law would instead amount to crimes against humanity, or war crimes.

The Hill Times asked Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly’s (Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Que.) office whether the government believes that only an international court or tribunal can determine whether a genocide has taken place. A spokesperson for Global Affairs responded on behalf of the minister’s office.

“We have the responsibility to work with others in the international community in ensuring that any allegations of genocide are investigated by an independent international body of legal experts,” spokesperson Christelle Chartrand said in an email, noting that Canada is “deeply disturbed” by reports of human rights violations in Xinjiang.

Chartrand said Canada has “repeatedly” called on Beijing to allow the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Procedures to have “immediate, unfettered, and meaningful access to Xinjiang.” 

In 2018, the Canadian government recognized Myanmar’s persecution against the Rohingya as an act of genocide through a motion in the House, which was supported by cabinet ministers. No international court or tribunal had made that determination at the time. A case under the Genocide Convention is currently before the International Court of Justice.

Speaking at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 24, Joly said Canada takes allegations of genocide “very seriously, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur region,” noting that was a reason Canada did not send elected officials to the Beijing Olympics in February.

The U.S. government under then-president Donald Trump declared in 2021 that a genocide was taking place in Xinjiang. That determination has been upheld by the Biden administration.

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Hill Times that the government’s delay in recognizing the situation as a genocide is “totally unacceptable.”

He said when the Subcommittee on International Human Rights conducted its study, it heard from many international law experts, including former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, who made the case that nation states that are parties to the Genocide Convention have an obligation to recognize genocide when it is happening and to discharge their obligations under the convention.

“Canada has been failing to live up to its obligations under the Genocide Convention. It is an obfuscation and a denial of our responsibilities for the government to suggest that we shouldn’t act unless or until there is some determination by some to-be-identified international body,” he said. “Fundamentally, Canada’s responsibilities as a state party under the Genocide Convention are clear: it is to recognize and respond to genocide when it has happened, not to wait for somebody else to tell us first.”

Genuis said the government’s lack of determination to date is a decision in itself.

“The effect of continually saying that they are thinking about it is to not act,” he said.

Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi (Pierrefonds-Dollard, Que.), who subbed in at the March 28 committee meeting, told The Hill Times that while he understands why the government wants to wait on an international court to determine whether genocide is taking place, he stands by the subcommittee’s designation and his support for the House motion to recognize genocide.

“I believe that where we should be going as a country is to recognize that genocide is occurring,” he said, noting it would be “good” if the Canadian government follows the U.S. government’s lead.

Zuberi said in their testimony, Global Affairs officials recognized that hundreds of thousands of children are being separated from families, which he said is “one of the key elements of genocide.”

“So, I’m hopeful that we will land there as a country,” he said, adding that each country should make its own legal determination of whether a genocide is taking place. “Our determination doesn’t necessarily rest on those international [bodies] to determine genocide is in fact occurring.”

In the meantime, he said more can be done to prevent goods made with forced labour from entering the Canadian market.

Experts dispute the government’s position that it’s up to international courts and tribunals to determine whether a situation is genocide.

“[The government doesn’t] want to act. Their position is ‘we don’t know—we can’t really say, we’re not really sure, and therefore business as unusual. We can trade [and] and we can do all sorts of things.’ They’re avoiding their obligation,” said John Packer, the University of Ottawa’s Human Rights Research and Education Centre director.

“The Genocide Convention actually prescribes that states are supposed to act to prevent,” he said, noting that includes cases where there is an active genocide, or a risk of genocide. “If the argument of the government is that we can’t do anything until there’s a determination by the court of law, that’s post facto. That means you never have prevention. … ‘Never again’ becomes ‘forever always,’ because you’ve missed the whole raison d’etre of the thing.”

Packer said there is no provision or law that dictates that an international court must be the body to declare whether a genocide is taking place, and said a state must make that determination itself before bringing an action before an international court.

“In order to bring a case, you must allege a case, and to allege a case in international law means that you must determine that there is a breach,” he said.

International human rights lawyer Sarah Teich, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, echoed Packer, saying the Canadian government has an obligation to act.

“If you look at the Genocide Convention, nowhere does it say that that an international court must declare genocide before it can do anything,” she said, noting that Canada, as a state party of the convention, has treaty obligations to punish genocide.

If Canada waits on international courts to declare a situation to be genocide, it would probably be in breach of its obligations, Teich said, adding that it’s “long overdue” for Canada to declare the Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghurs as genocide.

“If Canada is so concerned about wanting it to come from an international court, then Canada should refer the situation to an international court and start taking those steps. But we don’t actually see that happening,” she said. “This is another indicator that really this is kind of just an excuse.”

Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, said that by citing the need for an international court determination, the Canadian government is not upholding its “international legal responsibility to prevent genocide, and prosecute those responsible for genocide and protect the vulnerable victims of genocide.”

Tohti said it’s “troubling” that the government is still focused on pushing for an independent investigation, as Beijing hasn’t allowed unfettered access to Xinjiang. He said he has little optimism for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s visit to China in May.

“The Chinese government has made clear to the high commissioner that there is no unfettered access, meaning she cannot go wherever she wants to go. She cannot visit the places she wants to visit. And she cannot talk with the people she wants to talk,” he said.

Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi (Willowdale, Ont.), chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, asked Global Affairs officials at the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week why a declaration of genocide has taken so long after the House voted in favour of recognizing the situation as genocide.

In her testimony, Chen said the government is looking forward to Bachelet’s visit to China. “What’s been important for us is it has been an independent investigation by international experts. This has long been our position for many years now,” she said.

Bergeron called Canada’s stance “bipolar,” while Genuis said there is a “clear divergence between the legislative branch and the executive” in declaring whether a genocide is taking place.

“It is frustrating for me, it’s frustrating for Liberal MPs, and it’s frustrating for Canadians because Canadians elect Members of Parliament. They don’t elect the executive, but the legislative branch is supposed to hold the executive accountable for the steps they’re taking and the executive has been able to get away with inaction,” he said.

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Source: Feds under fire for deferring decision to declare China’s actions against Uyghurs as genocide

Stop poisonous prejudice against Canadians of Chinese descent

Sigh. The inability, deliberate or not, to recognize that legitimate criticism of Chinese regime policies and practices is not anti-Chinese Canadians, by people who should know better is disappointing. And rather striking that none of the authors have strongly condemned publicly Chinese government repression of Uighurs or Hong Kong (Google search):
The rising tide of hatred against Asians is a matter of urgent concern and deserves to be condemned by all Canadians. In this context, we are especially perturbed by blatant personal attacks against prominent Canadians of Chinese origin who have soberly expressed views on China and Canada-China relations, as with the case of Senator Yuen Pau Woo. As Canadian academics and China experts, we deeply value freedom of opinion. However some public commentators have gone well beyond debating the issues and descended to distorted and racially tainted xenophobic slurs that not only further poison the discourse on China and Canada-China relations, but give rise to unalloyed McCarthyism in a contemporary racialized form. News reports and commentary distorted what Senator Woo actually said. His Senate speech on the genocide resolution never whitewashed Beijing, nor did it draw equivalence between Canada’s current contrition over residential schools and the treatment of Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Instead, Senator Woo rued the day when Chinese, like Canadians, may come to realize the damage caused by their own policies in Xinjiang. In his response to news reports and biased attacks, Senator Woo rightly pointed out how the public had been misled about his views. More egregiously, critics, in particular Derek Burney, Canada’s former ambassador to Washington, singled out Senator Woo’s immigrant background and lashed out at him for “living in the wrong country” simply because Senator Woo dared to express views on China different from his own. Other critics of China have darkly insinuated about ‘captured elites’ with respect to Canadians who express views on China different from their own. To these Sinophobic forces, denouncing China and its government is now a litmus test of loyalty for every bona fide Canadian. There are no second class Canadians, and those who would insinuate that have a whiff of the dark days of “Oriental Exclusion” and the Head Tax. Further, Senator Woo is an acknowledged China expert and former president of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. His reasoned, balanced and moderate views on China, always with Canada’s best interests in sight, are well respected in the academic and policy community. During his many years of leadership, APF produced excellent analyses of China and the Asia Pacific region to assist decision-making by Canadian governments, corporations, and other institutions. But in those prejudiced mind, Senator Woo’s position is reduced to his Chinese ethnicity and none of these stellar professional qualifications therefore matter. The logic behind the vicious call for Senator Woo to resign from the Senate and register as a Chinese government lobbyist suggests that anyone having a different opinion on China than a particular group’s must not be allowed to hold a post in Canada, be it a Senator, or an academic, or whatever job they hold. This is more than dangerous. Our questions are: What is their agenda? What is the purpose of questioning the loyalty of Canadians? Is it to railroad Canadians of Chinese origin out of public life if they demur with the demonization of China? It is sad to see that our society is forging a toxic environment of discourse on China, with racist innuendo lurking just beneath the surface. This attack is part of a broader distortion effort. Thirty-three Senators voted against the Senate motion labelling current Chinese policy in Xinjiang as genocide. Most media reports used a particular phrase to report Senator Woo’s speech as “echoing the argument by Chinese officials,” which implies either Senator Woo was speaking for the Chinese government, or he is simply not able to form his own opinions. No such insinuation was made when Senator Peter Harder expressed similar views in his speech against the motion. No wonder anti-Asian hate crimes are rising in this country. When prominent Canadians express intolerant views, the result at the street level is to attack those who look Asian as communist China sympathizers or even agents. This is unworthy of our liberal and multicultural heritage and moreover is deeply misguided, as it both apes Stalinist tropes targeting dissent as disloyalty and seeks to discredit those who have expertise on China at a time when the challenges of dealing with a powerful China have made such expertise more important than ever. How to characterize the ongoing repressive policies in Xinjiang is beyond the point here. Senator Woo, and for that matter, any Canadian has the right to express their views about Xinjiang without being subjected to deliberate personal attack. We call on everyone, especially his Senate colleagues, who may or may not agree with his views, to support Senator Woo against such a character assassination. Jeremy Paltiel is professor of political science at Carleton University. Daniel A Bell is Dean of the School of Political Science and Public Administration at Shandong University in China. Xiaobei Chen is professor of sociology at Carleton University. Wenran Jiang is retired political science professor and founding director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta.
Source: Stop poisonous prejudice against Canadians of Chinese descent And in the China Daily:
A professor at one of Canada’s major universities has written a column for a state-run newspaper in China in which she defends Beijing’s record on ethnic minorities such as the Uyghurs and argues Canadians are being thoughtless and self-righteous in accusing the Chinese government of genocide in Xinjiang. Yuezhi Zhao holds the Canada Research Chair in Political Economy of Global Communication at Simon Fraser University. Her column, titled Canada Should Reflect On Its Struggle With Racism and dated July 29, ran in China Daily. The Beijing-based English-language media outlet describes itself as a government agency on LinkedIn, and it is a central fixture of the Chinese government’s efforts to disseminate its views abroad. The Chinese government has come under intense criticism for its repression of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. It has rejected calls for an independent investigation into documented reports of abuses, including torture, forced sterilization, forced abortions and involuntary separation of children from their parents. The Canadian, British, Dutch and Lithuanian parliaments, among others, have this year passed motions declaring China’s abuse of Muslim minorities to constitute genocide. Chinese officials have acknowledged that the birth rate across Xinjiang fell by nearly a third in 2018. Prof. Zhao says in her China Daily column that people should consider how the population of Uyghurs has flourished over the long term, particularly since the Chinese Communist Party took power more than 70 years ago. “Contrary to the genocidal decline of the aboriginal population in North America over the past 500 years, minority populations such as Tibetans and Uyghurs [in China] have grown significantly, and that has especially been the case since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949,” she writes. Prof. Zhao also takes aim at what she calls the “moral high ground that Canadian politicians have assumed in critiquing the Chinese state.” The Chinese government in June locked horns with the Canadian government after Canada led more than 40 countries at the United Nations Human Rights Council in expressing “grave concerns” over China’s conduct in Xinjiang. In response, Beijing confronted Canada about its own mistreatment of Indigenous peoples and the discovery of what appeared to be the remains of more than 200 children at a former residential school in Kamloops. China countered the Canadian criticism by calling for a “thorough and impartial investigation” into crimes against Indigenous peoples, which it said were instigated by racism and xenophobia in Canada. In a similar vein, Prof. Zhao accuses Canada of genocide, saying “the genocide of the aboriginal population has been at the very core of the founding of Canada.” She argues Canadians are mistakenly assuming that Beijing is trying to assimilate the Uyghurs. “When Canadian politicians, media outlets and scholars attack China for alleged human rights abuses, especially when they accuse China of genocidal treatment of the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region, we are witnessing the same unreflective application to China of a home-based paradigm based on the genocidal assimilation of aboriginal people,” she writes. She contrasts the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party on July 1 with “disbelief and shock” in Canada at historical mistreatment of Indigenous children at residential schools. The Communist Party, she writes, “despite all the trials and tribulations, even grave mistakes, is in a position to tell the proud history of national liberation, a history in which the Chinese nation overthrew the ‘three mountains’ of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism.” Prof. Zhao could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesperson for Simon Fraser University, Melissa Shaw, said “all faculty members have the right to academic freedom” when asked to comment on Prof. Zhao’s column. Mehmet Tohti, a Uyghur-Canadian and executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, said he’s shocked to hear the long-term increase in the Uyghur population since 1949 invoked as a counterargument to concern over Xinjiang. He said it’s rare to hear this kind of argument from Canada’s academic ranks, and that dismissing criticism of China’s record in Xinjiang ignores the “concentration camps and the massive internment of people and the forced labour” of recent years. Mr. Tohti said that, as a Uyghur-Canadian, he found it disappointing to hear “whataboutism” arguments that redirect debate over China’s current mistreatment of Uyghurs to past wrongs committed by Canada. He said it would make sense for China to establish an independent truth and reconciliation commission for Xinjiang. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which ran for more than six years until 2015, documented the history and effect of the residential school system on Indigenous students and their families. David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said while residential schools were part of a “cruel and deeply flawed policy,” any comparison with what China is doing in Xinjiang is “almost certainly designed to diminish awareness of Beijing’s vast, ambitious and technologically sophisticated destruction of a people and a culture.” Darren Byler, an assistant professor with the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser, and an expert in China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, said that for more than 70 years Beijing has sought to transform Xinjiang into an “internal settler colony” by transferring the Han Chinese ethnic majority into the region. “Over the past four years, this process has dramatically intensified with the implementation of a widespread residential boarding school system, where Uyghur and Kazakh children are instructed in Chinese and not permitted to practice their faith traditions,” he said. “A mass incarceration and internment system has resulted in 533,000 criminal prosecutions and the internment of hundreds of thousands more who have been deemed untrustworthy,” he added. “Because genocidal violence is just now emergent in China, it is particularly crucial that people of conscience demand that it be stopped.”
Source: https://trk.cp20.com/click/e7a4-2fd515-c1xqj1-7qf243g8/pmreg33oorqwg5boivugc43iei5cejjsijkhqolri52xqq2ghfjekvjwnnhgyzdki5fhi4cwkvdusvscgnmse7i%3D

Tohti and Burton: Canada must respond to China’s harrowing genocide

More on the oppression Uyghurs and the need for more forceful policy responses:
As the world somberly marked UN Genocide Commemoration Day this week, Canadians still await their own government’s action after a parliamentary panel found that China’s persecution of Uyghurs is now the largest mass detention of a people in concentration camps since the Holocaust.Last summer, the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rightsheld a series of emergency meetings on the plight of the Uyghur population in China, in response to growing reports of forced labour, forced sterilization and population control.

The subcommittee received briefs and testimony from 23 Canadian and international witnesses, who detailed atrocities in China’s flourishing campaign to eradicate Uyghur culture and identity by engaging two million people in forced labour and mental torture.

The subcommittee heard that in the prison camps, Uyghurs are required to speak only Mandarin Chinese and are denied their human right to practise their religion. Women and girls often face sexual abuse and rape by their captors. The situation for their children consigned to orphanages is one of complete assimilation into Han Chinese language and culture, combined with the desperation of having no information on the fate of their parents.

Family abroad, meantime, have no means to communicate with anyone in the Uyghur regions. The stress on Canadian Uyghurs of not knowing if family members are alive is enormous, and they are subject to menacing threats by Chinese agents in Canada who intimidate them from speaking out on what’s going on. These threats sometimes precede the sudden death of family members in the camps. There was also extensive evidence given of sterilization of Uyghur women and forced marriage to Han Chinese men.

The subcommittee’s report to Parliament this Fall found that China’s policies toward Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims are worse than imagined. It concurred with testimony by former human rights lawyer and Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler, who called the Uyghur situation “a classic case study of such war crimes, crimes against humanity and, as I and others have mentioned, acts that are constitutive of genocide.”

Cotler and others implored the Canadian government to take various measures including working with allies and multilateral organizations to condemn China’s use of concentration camps, extending sanctuary for Uyghur refugees trapped in third countries, and refusing to import products of Uyghur forced labour.

The subcommittee is urging the federal government to impose Sergei Magnitsky Actsanctions on all Chinese government officials culpable for perpetrating human rights abuses, and notes that if the international community does not condemn China’s campaign in Xinjiang province, a precedent will be set and such atrocities will be adopted by other regimes.

Besides Wednesday having been Genocide Commemoration Day, Dec. 9 was also the 72nd anniversary of the Genocide Convention, the first human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The Convention signifies the international community’s commitment to “never again” and establishes a duty for states to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.

But as the months go by, it becomes increasingly apparent the Canadian government will ignore the findings and recommendations of its own parliamentary subcommittee. The federal government will not expel any Chinese diplomats overseeing the harassment of people in Canada, instead advising Uyghur Canadians to contact local police if they are subject to threats. And evidently Beijing has sufficient influence in Canada to put a stop to any talk of Magnitsky sanctions against complicit Communist officials, some of whom have real estate here and children enrolled in Canadian schools.

In the end, it all seems to be about racism and the critical position of Uyghur territory for China’s global “Belt and Road” infrastructure campaign. As Uyghurs call for self-rule in an independent East Turkestan principality, China evidently believes it can solve that problem through its cultural extermination efforts.

The subcommittee’s report aptly quotes Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel: “Silence in the face of evil ends up being complicity with evil itself.” It is time Canada stopped standing idly by and showed some legitimacy for our purported commitment to the rules-based international order.

Mehmet Tohti is Executive Director at Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project. Charles Burton is a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute in Ottawa, and non-resident senior fellow of the European Values Center for Security Policy in Prague. He is a former professor of political science at Brock University, and served as a diplomat at Canada’s Embassy in Beijing.

Source: Tohti and Burton: Canada must respond to China’s harrowing genocide