Canada’s parliament known as the House of Commons has voted overwhelmingly to declare China’s treatment of its Uighur minority population ‘a genocide’.
The motion – which passed 266 to 0 – was supported by all opposition parties and a handful of lawmakers from the governing Liberal Party.
The motion, a stunning rebuke of China, makes Canada just the second country after the United States to recognise China’s actions as genocide.
Lawmakers also voted to pass an amendment asking Canada to call on the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing “if the Chinese government continues this genocide”.
China have now responded.
On Tuesday February 23, China said it condemned and rejected Canada’s motion.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that China had lodged “stern representations” with Canada.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, who joined a hesitant Prime minister Justin Trudeau in not voting against China said he had abstained “on behalf of the government of Canada”.
Speaking ahead of the vote, opposition leader Erin O’Toole said the move was necessary to send a “clear and unequivocal signal that we will stand up for human rights and the dignity of human rights, even if it means sacrificing some economic opportunity”.
In an open letter to Mr Trudeau earlier this month asking him to “stand up to China”, Mr O’Toole noted the recent banning of BBC World News from China – a decision that followed a BBC report alleging systematic rape, sexual abuse and torture in China’s “re-education” camps in Xinjiang.
It is believed that China has detained up to a million Uighurs over the past few years in what the state defines as “re-education camps”.
And reports suggest that Uighurs are being used for forced labour.
Both the current and former US Secretaries of State, Anthony Blinken and Mike Pompeo, have declared that China’s policies against Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in its western Xinjiang region constitute genocide.