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MPs vote to label China's persecution of Uighurs a genocide – CBC.ca

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MPs vote to label China's persecution of Uighurs a genocide – CBC.ca


The House of Commons today accused the Chinese government of carrying out a campaign of genocide against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims.

A substantial majority of MPs — including most Liberals who participated — voted in favour of a Conservative motion that says China’s actions in its western Xinjiang region meet the definition of genocide set out in the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention.

The final tally was 266 in favour and zero opposed. Two MPs formally abstained.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and almost all of his cabinet colleagues were absent for the vote. Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau was the only cabinet minister present. When it was his turn, he said he abstained “on behalf of the Government of Canada.” 

The motion also calls on the government to lobby the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympic Games out of Beijing.

It was passed over the strenuous objections of Chinese Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu, who denounced the vote as meddling in China’s internal affairs.

After the vote, Garneau issued a statement saying the federal government remains “deeply disturbed by horrific reports of human rights violations in Xinjiang, including the use of arbitrary detention, political re-education, forced labour, torture and forced sterilization.

“The government of Canada will continue to work with international partners to defend vulnerable minorities and we once again repeat our call for transparency and a credible international investigation in response to allegations of genocide.

“This investigation must be conducted by an international and independent body so that impartial experts can observe and report on the situation first-hand.”

‘Stop spreading disinformation,’ says China

Media reports and academic and UN experts have accused China of imprisoning Uighurs in concentration and “deradicalization” camps and targeting them for forced labour, sexual violence, population control methods and sweeping surveillance. China’s foreign ministry has denied the accusations.

The motion calls on the government to officially adopt the position that China is engaged in genocide, and to coordinate a response with the U.S. and other allies.

While it’s not clear what impact — if any — the non-binding resolution will have on the Liberal government’s approach to China, it threatens to inflame relations between the two countries at a time when they’re already tense due to the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou by Canadian authorities more than two years ago, and China’s subsequent imprisonment of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

In a statement posted to the Chinese embassy’s website prior to the vote, Cong insisted the reports of Uighur persecution are based on lies.

“A few people in Canada and some other western countries are talking about upholding values, but one important part of the values should be: respect facts and stop spreading disinformation and even lies,” Cong said in the statement.

“We urge the Canadian side to take seriously China’s solemn position … so as not to cause further damages to China-Canada relations.”

‘A time for moral clarity’

At a press conference this morning, Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong said the evidence of China’s crimes is overwhelming. He cited survivor testimony, satellite images, video, documents and media reports from major U.S. and international news outlets.

“Today is a time for moral clarity,” said Chong. “We can no longer ignore this. We must call it for what it is — a genocide.”

Chong and Conservative human rights critic Garnett Genuis were joined at the event by a Uighur woman who fled China and has become an outspoken critic of the Chinese regime.

WATCH | Conservatives call on all MPs to support Uighur genocide motion:

The House of Commons will vote on whether to formally declare China’s treatment of the Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims as a genocide. 1:21

Speaking through a translator, Kalbinur Tursun said she was assigned to teach Chinese at a mass detention facility and a women’s prison in the city of Ürümqi from March to November 2017.

She said that during her time in the job, she saw or heard of multiple acts of intimidation, violence and rape directed against Uighur people.

“No one should be subjected to such cruelty,” she said.

Tursun said she was forcibly sterilized in 2019 through a surgical procedure, along with hundreds of other Uighur women.

Tursun said some of her relatives are still in Chinese prisons and that Chinese authorities have targeted her for harassment and intimidation to punish her for speaking out.

Canada wants independent investigation

MPs on the House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights agreed in an October report with the experts who say China’s campaign against the Uighurs meets the definition of genocide set out by the UN. The committee heard testimony from several Uighur witnesses who gave first-hand accounts of atrocities

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

Despite these calls, Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet ministers have been reluctant to use the word “genocide” to describe China’s actions against the Uighurs. Last week, Trudeau said the word is an “extremely loaded” one and he is not prepared to use it at this point.

Watch: MPs discuss what’s next now that the House has declared China is committing a genocide:

MPs- Rob Oliphant, Michael Chong and Jack Harris joined Power & Politics Monday to discuss the House vote to declare that China is committing a genocide and what must happen next. 8:44

In question period today, Garneau said the government takes allegations against China “very seriously” and has raised its concerns directly with the Chinese government.

Garneau said Canada wants independent investigators to go into China to document abuses and is working with international partners to gain access to the region.

A formal genocide declaration would bring Canada in line with the U.S. ahead of a virtual bilateral meeting between Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden scheduled for Tuesday.

A man wearing a face mask to protect against the coronavirus walks past the Olympic rings on the exterior of the National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, which will be a venue for the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics, in Beijing, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. A motion passed by the House of Commons today calls on the government to lobby for relocation of the games out of China due to the country’s human rights record. (Mark Schiefelbein/The Associated Press)

In January, former U.S. secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration had determined that China had committed “genocide and crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang region.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has continued the former administration’s policy of describing China’s treatment of the Uighurs as genocide.

“My judgment remains that genocide was committed … against the Uighurs and that hasn’t changed,” Blinken said late last month.

Canada-China tensions continue

The push by MPs to condemn China and relocate the Olympic Games comes at a time of heightened tensions. Beijing has been demanding for the past two years that Canada release a top executive of communications giant Huawei who is wanted on fraud charges in the United States.

Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the company’s founder, denies the charges, which China says are politically motivated and part of a U.S. effort to stifle the nation’s economic expansion.

Watch: Government has ‘moral obligation’ to examine ties with China, says Liberal MP:

Quebec Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi tells Vassy Kapelos on Power & Politics that the government has a ‘moral obligation’ to examine Canada’s relationship with China through the lens of genocide. 1:43

Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor were detained by Chinese authorities nine days after the RCMP arrested the Chinese tech scion at the Vancouver airport in December 2018 on a U.S. extradition warrant.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole told reporters after the vote that Trudeau and his cabinet missed an opportunity to stand up for human rights — as former prime minister Brian Mulroney did with the campaign against racial apartheid in South Africa.

“There’s real suffering going on in China. There’s a genocide happening and Canadians, while we’re free traders and I’m very proud to be a free market party, our values are not for sale and Mr. Trudeau needed to send that message today,” O’Toole said. 

The Conservative leader also said that fear of a trade backlash is not a good enough reason to ignore human rights violations in China.

“We will work with any sectors impacted by us standing up for human rights and dignity, as we have done before,” he said.

Watch: O’Toole reacts after House of Commons declares China is committing genocide:

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole comments after a vote in the House of Commons that declared China is committing genocide against Uighurs. 1:24

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul issued a statement criticizing the Liberal cabinet and the prime minister for abstaining from the vote and urged the federal government to strongly condemn China, lead a discussion with allies to bring China back into compliance with international law and consider legal actions.

“Canada is not powerless, and it has a variety of multilateral and unilateral options available to respond to the genocide against the Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in China,” she said in the statement.

Ken Neumann, the National Director of the United Steel Workers issued a statement encouraging Trudeau to use the meeting to strengthen Canada/U.S. relations on a number of files.  

“The new president’s stated commitments offer the perfect opportunity for the prime minister to seek Canadian exemptions to Buy American policies, permanently resolve the softwood lumber dispute and start incorporating our countries’ climate plans,” he said. 

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Green Party in turmoil, leader resists calls to step down

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Green Party in turmoil, leader resists calls to step down

Canada‘s Green Party was increasingly mired in an internal dispute over its position on Israel on Tuesday, and a news report said the bloc would hold a vote next month on whether to oust its leader, Annamie Paul, who was elected just eight months ago.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) reported that the Greens had triggered a process that could remove Paul, the first black person to head a mainstream Canadian party, beginning with a vote next month.

A Green Party spokesperson declined to comment on the report, but said the party’s “federal council” would meet later on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, Paul, 48, rejected calls from the Quebec wing of the party for her to resign after a member of parliament left the Greens due to the Israel controversy.

“I believe that I have been given a strong mandate. I believe that I have been given the instructions to work on behalf of Canadians for a green recovery,” Paul said at a news conference in Ottawa.

Paul herself is not a member of parliament. The Greens – who champion the environment and the fight against climate change – had only three legislators in the 338-seat House of Commons and one, Jenica Atwin, abandoned the party last week to join the governing Liberals.

Atwin has said that her exit was in large part due to a dispute over the party’s stance on Israel. Atwin on Twitter has criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, while a senior adviser to Paul, Noah Zatzman, has posted on Facebook that some unspecified Green members of parliament are anti-Semitic.

The party’s executive committee voted last week not to renew Zatzman’s contract, local media reported. Paul converted to Judaism some two decades ago after she married a Jewish man.

While the Greens are the smallest faction in parliament, they perform well in British Colombia and hold two seats there. The current turmoil may favor their rivals ahead of a national election that senior Liberals say could be just a few months away.

The Greens would win about 6.7% of the vote nationally if a vote were held now, according to an average of recent polls aggregated by the CBC.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer and Julie Gordon; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Hope, anger and defiance greet birth of Israel’s new government

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Hope, anger and defiance greet birth of Israel’s new government

Following are reactions to the new government in Israel, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER

“We’ll be back, soon.”

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

“On behalf of the American people, I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations.”

NABIL ABU RUDEINEH, SPOKESMAN FOR PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS

“This is an internal Israeli affair. Our position has always been clear, what we want is a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.”

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER VIA TWITTER

“On behalf of the UK, I offer my congratulations to

@naftalibennett and @yairlapid on forming a new government in Israel. As we emerge from COVID-19, this is an exciting time for the UK and Israel to continue working together to advance peace and prosperity for all.”

TOR WENNESLAND, U.N. MIDDLE EAST PEACE ENVOY VIA TWITTER

“I look forward to working with the Government to advance the ultimate goal of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

CHARLES MICHEL, EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT VIA TWITTER

“Congratulations to Prime Minister @naftalibennett and to Alternate PM & MFA @yairlapid for the swearing in of the new Israeli government. Looking forward to strengthen the partnership for common prosperity and towards lasting regional peace & stability.”

FAWZI BARHOUM, HAMAS SPOKESMAN

“Regardless of the shape of the government in Israel, it will not alter the way we look at the Zionist entity. It is an occupation and a colonial entity, which we should resist by force to get our rights back.”

BENNY GANTZ, ISRAELI DEFENCE MINISTER

“With all due respect, Israel is not a widower. Israel’s security was never dependent on one man. And it will never be dependent on one man.”

CHUCK SCHUMER, U.S. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER

“So, there’s a new Administration in Israel. And we are hopeful that we can now begin serious negotiations for a two-state solution. I am urging the Biden Administration to do all it can to bring the parties together and help achieve a two-state solution where each side can live side by side in peace.”

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA

“Congratulations on the formation of a new Israeli government, Prime Minister @NaftaliBennett and Alternate Prime Minister @YairLapid. Together, let’s explore ways to further strengthen the relationship between Canada and Israel.”

MANSOUR ABBAS, ARAB MEMBER OF NEW ISRAELI GOVERNMENT

“We are aware that this step has a lot of risks and hardships that we cannot deny, but the opportunity for us is also big: to change the equation and the balance of power in the Knesset and in the upcoming government.”

DAPHNA KILION, ISRAELI IN JERUSALEM

“I think it’s very exciting for Israel to have a new beginning and I’m hopeful that the new government will take them in the right direction.”

EREZ GOLDMAN, ISRAELI IN JERUSALEM

“It’s a sad day today, it’s not a legitimate government. It’s pretty sad that almost 86 (out of 120 seats) in the parliament, the Knesset, belong to the right-wing and they sold their soul and ideology and their beliefs to the extreme left-wing just for one purpose – hatred of Netanyahu and to become a prime minister.”

SEBASTIAN KURZ, CHANCELLOR OF AUSTRIA, VIA TWITTER

“Congratulations to PM @naftalibennett and alternate PM @yairlapid for forming a government. I look forward to working with you. Austria is committed to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and will continue to stand by Israel’s side.”

(Reporting by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Daniel Wallis and Lisa Shumaker)

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Boris Johnson hails Biden as ‘a big breath of fresh air’

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Boris Johnson hails Biden as ‘a big breath of fresh air’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday as “a big breath of fresh air”, and praised his determination to work with allies on important global issues ranging from climate change and COVID-19 to security.

Johnson did not draw an explicit parallel between Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump after talks with the Democratic president in the English seaside resort of Carbis Bay on the eve of a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies.

But his comments made clear Biden had taken a much more multilateral approach to talks than Trump, whose vision of the world at times shocked, angered and bewildered many of Washington’s European allies.

“It’s a big breath of fresh air,” Johnson said of a meeting that lasted about an hour and 20 minutes.

“It was a long, long, good session. We covered a huge range of subjects,” he said. “It’s new, it’s interesting and we’re working very hard together.”

The two leaders appeared relaxed as they admired the view across the Atlantic alongside their wives, with Jill Biden wearing a jacket embroidered with the word “LOVE”.

“It’s a beautiful beginning,” she said.

Though Johnson said the talks were “great”, Biden brought grave concerns about a row between Britain and the European Union which he said could threaten peace in the British region of Northern Ireland, which following Britain’s departure from the EU is on the United Kingdom’s frontier with the bloc as it borders EU member state Ireland.

The two leaders did not have a joint briefing after the meeting: Johnson spoke to British media while Biden made a speech about a U.S. plan to donate half a billion vaccines to poorer countries.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, was keen to prevent difficult negotiations between Brussels and London undermining a 1998 U.S.-brokered peace deal known as the Good Friday Agreement that ended three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Britain that Biden had a “rock-solid belief” in the peace deal and that any steps that imperilled the accord would not be welcomed.

Yael Lempert, the top U.S. diplomat in Britain, issued London with a demarche – a formal diplomatic reprimand – for “inflaming” tensions, the Times newspaper reported.

Johnson sought to play down the differences with Washington.

“There’s complete harmony on the need to keep going, find solutions, and make sure we uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” said Johnson, one of the leaders of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU.

Asked if Biden had made his alarm about the situation in Northern Ireland very clear, he said: “No he didn’t.

“America, the United States, Washington, the UK, plus the European Union have one thing we absolutely all want to do,” Johnson said. “And that is to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, and make sure we keep the balance of the peace process going. That is absolutely common ground.”

The 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to the “Troubles” – three decades of conflict between Irish Catholic nationalist militants and pro-British Protestant “loyalist” paramilitaries in which 3,600 people were killed.

Britain’s exit from the EU has strained the peace in Northern Ireland. The 27-nation bloc wants to protect its markets but a border in the Irish Sea cuts off the British province from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Although Britain formally left the EU in 2020, the two sides are still trading threats over the Brexit deal after London unilaterally delayed the implementation of the Northern Irish clauses of the deal.

Johnson’s Downing Street office said he and Biden agreed that both Britain and the EU “had a responsibility to work together and to find pragmatic solutions to allow unencumbered trade” between Northern Ireland, Britain and Ireland.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Andrea Shalal, Padraic Halpin, John Chalmers; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Mark Potter and Timothy Heritage)

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