NZ slams China for ‘severe human rights abuses’ against Uighurs

Wellington: The New Zealand Parliament has unanimously declared that “severe human rights abuses” are occurring against the Uighur people in Xinjiang, China.

A parliamentary motion about China’s actions in Xinjiang was agreed to by all MPs after a debate in the House on Wednesday. The statement called on the government “to work with all relevant instruments of international law to bring these abuses to an end”.

“The New Zealand government, in concert with others, will continue to call upon China in the strongest terms […] We call on China to uphold its human rights obligations,” Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta told the House.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta says NZ will continue to call on China to uphold its human rights obligationsCredit:Getty Images

The Labour Party succeeded in having the word “genocide” removed from the initial motion put forward by the ACT Party, a move disappointed Uighur people in New Zealand.

Similar motions in the parliaments of the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands have condemned the abuse as “genocide”, but the statements were not supported by each parliament’s government. A comparable effort in Australia’s federal Parliament failed.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, was not presented for the debate, but told reporters she was pleased a motion gained Parliament support.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this week said the differences between China and New Zealand are becoming harder to reconcile. Credit:Bloomberg

“I’m pleased that unlike many other countries, where they’ve been abstentions from motions, where government parties in particular have not voted in favour, we have a statement that is strong and that is clear.”

ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden said passing the motion was “not a criticism of the country of China”.

“It is not a criticism of the Chinese people. It is certainly not a criticism of our Chinese-Kiwi neighbours. In my experience, it is that last group who are often the most strident in warning us about the regime that this debate is about, the Chinese Communist Party,” she said.

“We know that a genocide is taking place, the evidence is voluminous […] To take one example, there has been mass imposition of contraceptive devices upon Uighur women, and forced sterilisation, matched by an enormous reduction in fertility rates in Xinjiang.”

Van Velden first put the “genocide” motion to Parliament last week.

“Unfortunately we are only having half this debate, this is not the debate that I proposed to the Parliament last week … I had to dilute it, and soften it, to gain the approval of our governing party.”

She said it was “intolerable” the Parliament would soften its stance out of fear.

National Party trade spokesman Todd Muller said New Zealand had strong commercial and cultural connections with China, and underneath these connections were strong personal relationships.

“It is the depth of those personal relationships that will guide us through this difficult conversation, because the conversation will be difficult,” he said.

“We understand that China views any matter relating to its 1.4 billion people as entirely a matter for its own consideration. But we share one planet.

“This Parliament and the five million people we represent believe that it is a basic human rights for people to feel safe in their homes, to pray to whom they wish to pray to, to hug who they love, and to identify with a cultural tradition that best reflects their whakapapa [ancestry]”

Green Party foreign affairs spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman said it was disappointing to hear the leadership from both major parties speak of trade with China when discussing the prospect of a “genocide” motion.

“That was stunningly callous, it was absolutely morally indefensible, and it is a breach of New Zealand’s legal obligations, our absolute responsibility to support an international rules based order.

“We want action, not just words.”

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the motion rightly drew attention to the suffering of Uighur people, and the party was pleased to see the attempt not to “water down” the motion.

Ngarewa-Packer said she was a descendent of people of Parihaka, a peaceful Māori settlement in Taranaki that was invaded by 1600 troops in 1881.

“The depth of pain of genocide can never be explained,” she said.

The motion reads in full: “That this House is gravely concerned about the severe human rights abuses taking place against Uighurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, and that it call on the Government to work with the United Nations, international partners, and to work with all relevant instruments of international law to bring these abuses to an end.”

During the debate, Ghahraman attempted to amend the wording of the statement, returning “genocide” to the motion, but the attempt failed as it wasn’t put in writing.

The government has previously stated there was “clear evidence” of severe human rights abuse in Xinjiang province, including “restrictions on freedom of religion, mass surveillance, large-scale extra-judicial detentions, as well as forced labour and forced birth control, including sterilisation”.

Some members of New Zealand’s Uighur community, who spoke to Stuff Circuit for its documentary Deleted, were dismayed that Parliament shied away from calling the abuse genocide. None were willing to be named due to security concerns.

“It is the darkest day for New Zealand’s democracy. Trade has taken over freedom and human rights in New Zealand,” one Uighur man said.

“If they aren’t calling it genocide now, when are they going to call it genocide?”

Another said there was already reputable evidence of genocide: “We are talking about people’s lives here. People are dying. Millions of people are being abused. We do not have the luxury of time to call for ‘independent assessment’.”

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

What in the World

A note direct from our foreign correspondents about what’s making headlines around the world. Sign up for our weekly newsletter here. 

Most Viewed in World

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article