Conservative MP Michael Chong speaks to reporters as he arrives for a Conservative caucus retreat on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Chong, the Conservative foreign affairs critic and Garnett Genuis, the party’s human rights critic, were joined by Uighur community members at a teleconference today to discuss the Conservative genocide motion against China that was expected to reach Parliament for a vote later today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Conservative MP Michael Chong speaks to reporters as he arrives for a Conservative caucus retreat on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Chong, the Conservative foreign affairs critic and Garnett Genuis, the party’s human rights critic, were joined by Uighur community members at a teleconference today to discuss the Conservative genocide motion against China that was expected to reach Parliament for a vote later today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Conservatives urge Liberals to support Uighur genocide motion amid China’s denials

OTTAWA — The Conservatives are calling on Liberal MPs to support the party’s motion to have Parliament declare a genocide against ethnic Muslim Uighurs in its Xinjiang province.

Conservative MPs Michael Chong and Garnett Genuis were joined by Uighur community members at a teleconference Monday in calling for the government’s support of the motion, suggesting that unanimity would send a strong signal to China.

“We can no longer ignore this,” said Chong, the party’s foreign affairs critic.

“We must call it for what it is: a genocide.”

The Conservatives tabled a motion in the House of Commons last week that is expected to come to a non-binding vote later Monday, calling for a formal declaration that crimes against Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province constitute a genocide.

Genuis, the critic for international development and human rights, said the Conservatives expect to have the support of opposition parties to pass the motion.

“But we believe the message will be that much stronger and clearer if as many members of the government as possible join with us and show that we are able to stand together on issues of fundamental human rights,” he said.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said his party has proposed an amendment to the motion, so that it would also call upon the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Olympic Games out of China if the genocide continues — that would likely lead his party to support it.

A Green party spokesman said it would support Conservative motion.

Chong dismissed the Chinese government’s claims there is no genocide taking place in Xinjiang.

Ambassador Cong Peiwu recently told The Canadian Press that reports of millions of people in detention camps being subjected to forced labour, sterilization and other abuse is simply unsubstantiated China-bashing.

Chong rejected that denial, saying there are reams of satellite images, smuggled video and documents, accounts from escaped Uighurs and undercover reporting by major American newspapers to document the atrocities.

“The evidence has come in the form of high-definition, high-resolution satellite imagery that has been tracked over time that documents clearly the building of hundreds of detention centers,” said Chong.

A Canadian parliamentary subcommittee concluded in an October report that China’s treatment of Uighurs is a genocide, a finding China rejected as baseless. The committee heard from Uighur witnesses who gave first-hand accounts of atrocities.

“What we see before our eyes is not complicated. We see the existence of modern concentration camps,” said Genuis.

“When you think of slaves being forced to pick cotton, you might initially think of images of the Antebellum South. But that description equally describes what is happening in Xinjiang.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stopped short of agreeing with American officials, human rights advocates and legal scholars who argue the violations amount to a genocide, saying it is a loaded word that has to be used carefully.

Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, called on the UN in November to investigate whether China’s persecution of the Uighurs constitutes genocide.

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