ACT party will file motion asking Parliament to debate Xinjiang ‘genocide’

ACT party will file motion asking Parliament to debate Xinjiang 'genocide'

 
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Stuff Circuit’s documentary Deleted exposes New Zealand business and political links to a Chinese company involved in human rights violations against Uyghurs and investigates the extrajudicial imprisonment of the brother of a Uyghur New Zealander.

The ACT party will ask Parliament to debate a motion declaring China’s oppression of the Uyghur minority an act of “genocide”, a move that could compel the Labour Government to consider symbolically admonishing Beijing for the abuses.

The motion, similar to that passed in both the United Kingdom and Canadian parliaments, will ask MPs to vote on whether the human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region of China amount to genocide, and whether they should call upon the Government to “act to fulfil its obligation” under United Nations conventions.

The success of the motion hinges on the support of Labour, which holds an overwhelming majority in the House. Nonetheless, the prospect is likely to inflame the Chinese Embassy in Wellington, which has already spoken to the National Party about its concern over the Parliament making a declaration of genocide.

“We cannot sit by as a democratic nation if crimes against humanity are occurring in one of our largest trading partners. It’s a matter of human rights,” ACT party foreign affairs spokeswoman Brooke van Velden told Stuff.

 
ACT party deputy leader Brooke van Velden will submit a motion to Parliament that will ask MPs to debate and vote on human rights abuse of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, China.
ROSA WOODS/STUFF
ACT party deputy leader Brooke van Velden will submit a motion to Parliament that will ask MPs to debate and vote on human rights abuse of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, China.

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“There have been increasing reports of atrocities in the Xinjiang region, and the inability for the UN to independently go into China and see first hand what is happening is a reason for us to debate what is happening under the Chinese Communist Party’s watch,” she said.

“If the Labour Government will not put forward their own motion, the ACT party will.”

Van Velden said ACT would file the motion with the Parliament’s Office of the Clerk and the Speaker on Wednesday.

The proposed motion would be similar to that used in the UK Parliament last week, reading: “This House believes that Uighurs and other ethnic religious minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region are suffering crimes against humanity and genocide, and calls on the Government to act to fulfil its obligation under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and all relevant instruments of international law to bring it to an end.”

Under the 1948 United Nations genocide convention, ratified by New Zealand, “genocide” is defined as committing any of a number of acts with intent to destroy whole or part of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

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New Zealand has only recognised genocide three times in the past: The Holocaust, the Rwandan massacre of the Tutsi, and genocide conducted by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta told Newshub Nation at the weekend that she would take advice on the possibility of the Government – not the Parliament – labelling the human rights abuse in Xinjiang as genocide.

Mahuta’s office did not respond to a request for further comment on Tuesday.

Mahuta has in the past described the “severe” abuse of the Uighur as including “restrictions on freedom of religion, mass surveillance, large-scale extra-judicial detentions, as well as forced labour and forced birth control, including sterilisation”.

National Party foreign affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee​, speaking generally about the prospect of a parliamentary motion, said he did not think such a would make a difference.

“If there are people who are subject to a genocide, various parliaments declaring it to be so doesn’t make any difference to the plight that they’re living under,” he said.

“The real question is, what do we know about the circumstances there.

“It sounds like I’m trying to minimise the whole deal. I’m just saying that we need to be absolutely certain about what we would be signing up to … The test for genocide is quite high.”

Brownlee said he spoke with China’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Wu Xi, earlier in the year, and she expressed concern that Parliament might pass such a motion.

National Party Foreign Affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee. (file photo)
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF
National Party Foreign Affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee. (file photo)

He said the ambassador was “not seeking not putting on any pressure for an action one way or the other”, but obviously did not want a motion put forward.

“She just wished to reiterate a whole lot of stuff that you’ve seen already coming out of Chinese news sources: That it is all lies, that it’s no internment camps, it’s all peace and love, all they’re doing is weeding out some terrorists.”

Green Party foreign affairs spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman​ said her party would have to vote as a caucus on whether to support any such motion, but her preference was for tangible action such as a moratorium on goods made with forced labour in Xinjiang.

“Whether it’s Parliament, or Government, if we label it a genocide, the idea would be that we may influence our allies and like-minded nations to do the same. But what would be much more helpful to the victims is if we set an example of taking meaningful action.”

The Chinese Embassy in Wellington did not respond to a request for comment.