The Communist Party of China, through its embassy in Ottawa, accused Canada of genocide on Tuesday in response to the nation’s parliament voting to recognize China is committing genocide against its Muslim-majority ethnic groups.
Human rights activists and researchers have compiled extensive evidence that the Communist Party has built over 1,000 concentration camps for its Uyghur population in western Xinjiang, a region where Mandarin, the language of Beijing, is not commonly spoken and one to which the nation’s Han ethnic majority are not indigenous to.
Survivors of those camps have testified to being forced to endure a long list of human rights atrocities including torture, systematic rape, screening for live organ harvesting, and slavery. Women have accused Beijing of forcibly sterilizing them or killing their unborn children and newborns.
China insists that the camps are “vocational training” centers where poor locals receive a free education to help them find jobs. It has not yet explained why so many Uyghurs and other ethnic minority people with successful careers and advanced educations seem to find themselves enslaved in the camps.
The Canadian Parliament issued a non-binding resolution on Monday affirming that, in its opinion, the actions the Communist Party has taken in Xinjiang constitute genocide. Leftist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the vast majority of his cabinet abstained from the vote.
China’s embassy in the country responded to the vote by asserting that Canada, not China, is guilty of genocide.
“Talking about genocide, Canada should put its hand on its heart and reflect on the tragic history of its indigenous people,” a spokesman for the embassy reportedly said, according to China’s state-run propaganda outlet Global Times.
The comment appeared to be a reference to Trudeau’s multiple formal apologies to Canada’s indigenous communities for historical wrongs attributed to the Canadian government. In 2017, Trudeau apologized to indigenous children separated from their families to receive government schooling under a policy that lasted over a century. Two years later, Trudeau apologized to Inuit people for “colonial” policies against them.
“We are sorry for forcing you from your families, for not showing you the respect and care you deserved. We are sorry for your pain,” Trudeau said at the time.
Trudeau has been accused of participating in several instances of racism in which he donned “blackface,” face paint used to mock people of darker skin. In addressing the incident, Trudeau admitted that he had used blackface so many times that he did not remember them all.
Despite its extremely offensive nature, blackface has also repeatedly surfaced in Chinese government entertainment, most prominently in an annual Lunar New Year variety program broadcast by government-run CCTV.
Addressing Canada’s condemnation of China’s genocide of Uyghur people, the Chinese embassy spokesperson added that “Xinjiang-related issues are not about human rights, ethnicity or religion, but about anti-violence, anti-terrorism and anti-secessionism,” arguing that Uyghurs not sent to the camps are prone to engage in terrorism. China has made this claim for years without offering evidence to back the idea that Uyghur people are more susceptible to terrorist indoctrination than Han people.
The Chinese embassy spokesperson also accused lawmakers voting in favor of recognizing the genocide “hypocritical and shameless.”
“Canada’s move will not succeed and we urge those politicians to recognize reality and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, stop seeking personal interests through Xinjiang affairs and stop its anti-China farce,” the spokesperson concluded.
A decisive majority of Canadian lawmakers voted on Monday to recognize the genocide in Xinjiang, though Trudeau and most of his cabinet were noticeably absent from the vote. No lawmakers voted against the genocide declaration. In recognition of the genocide, the parliament also urged the Canadian government to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, a move that human rights advocates around the world have been promoting as a gesture of solidarity for not just Uyghurs, but multiple ethnic minorities persecuted systematically in the country.
The Canadian parliament declaration follows affirmations by both former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his successor, current Secretary of State Antony Blinken, that China’s actions in Xinjiang constitute genocide. Since Blinken made remarks calling the abuses against Uyghurs genocide in January, however, President Joe Biden has undermined his remarks, claiming dictator Xi Jinping deems the persecution of Uyghurs necessary for a “united, tightly controlled China.”
Pressure on the Communist Party to cease its persecution of people in Xinjiang has increased since the publication of a BBC report in which eyewitnesses went on the record with the abuses they endured in China’s concentration camps. While prior reports had accused China of systematic rape of women, some testimony in the article was new, particularly the accusation that Chinese guards use electric batons to rape and shock women simultaneously. The report also affirmed prior accusations of forced abortions and sterilizations practiced on non-Han women.
China has responded to the accusations by calling every concentration camp survivor sharing their experiences a hired actor. On Monday, the Xinjiang local Communist Party held a press conference calling all reports out of Xinjiang “blatant smears” and presenting its own witnesses praising the “vocational training centers.”