The Dominion Post

Abuse of Uyghur condemned

- Thomas Manch thomas.manch@stuff.co.nz

Parliament has unanimousl­y declared that ‘‘severe human rights abuses’’ are occurring against the Uyghur 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 yesterday. 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 said in a speech in Parliament.

The Labour Party sought to have the word ‘‘genocide’’ removed from the initial motion put forward by the ACT Party, a move that has disappoint­ed Uyghur 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, who was not in the House for yesterday’s debate, said she was pleased that a motion gained the support of Parliament.

‘‘I’m pleased that unlike many other countries, where there have 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.’’

In the House, 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 Uyghur women, and forced sterilisat­ion,

matched by an enormous reduction in fertility rates in Xinjiang.’’

Van Velden said it was ‘‘intolerabl­e’’ that 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.’’

Green Party foreign affairs spokeswoma­n Golriz Ghahraman said it was disappoint­ing to hear the leadership of 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.’’

Ma¯ ori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the party was pleased to see the attempt not to ‘‘water down’’ the motion.

The wording of the motion was the subject of deliberati­on on Tuesday, with MPs that make up Parliament’s business committee settling on a statement reading: ‘‘This House is gravely concerned about the possible severe human rights abuses taking place against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region’’.

At the opening of yesterday’s session in the House, van Velden sought for the word ‘‘possible’’ to be removed from the motion. No MPs objected to the change.

Amid the debate, Ghahraman attempted to amend the wording of the statement, returning ‘‘genocide’’ to the motion, but the attempt failed because it wasn’t put in writing.

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

 ??  ?? ACT Party deputy Brooke van Velden ushered the motion through Parliament.
ACT Party deputy Brooke van Velden ushered the motion through Parliament.
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