The Canadian foreign minister on Monday reaffirmed the country’s concerns about China’s persecution of ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang province, but stopped calling it genocide, as Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations did.
François-Philippe Champagne told reporters after a meeting with the Ottawa federal cabinet that Canada is “very concerned” about Beijing’s treatment of ethnic minorities, and has made public statements in the past.
“I have raised this issue privately and publicly with the Chinese Foreign Minister, and I will continue to do so,” he said.
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Last month, a Canadian parliamentary subcommittee concluded in a report that China’s treatment of Uighurs is genocide. China rejected this report without basis. Champagne did not mention that report in his notes.
China has been accused of using compulsory birth control to control Uighur births and detention camps to indoctrinate a Muslim-majority minority in mainstream Chinese society. Beijing has denied any wrongdoing, saying it is pursuing a voluntary employment and language training program.
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On Sunday, Canadian Ambassador Bob Rae told the CBC that he had asked the UN Human Rights Council to investigate China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
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He said an investigation was needed to gather evidence and confirm his belief that “the aspects that the Chinese are doing are aspects that are included in the definition of genocide in the definition of genocide.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian described Rae’s comments as “ridiculous” and added that Canada itself is better suited to the description of the genocide.
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Zhaok has selected a number of statistics that suggest that China’s Uyghur population is growing at a faster rate than Canada’s in order to make suggestions that Uighurs are persecuting Uighurs.
“I would like to ask this ambassador, if his logic is credible to find out who fits the label of genocide, it seems that they are not the persecutors of the Uighurs, but the people of Canada, right?” Zhao said.
However, Zhao’s statistics appear to be complementary or inaccurate, and it was not reported in June by The Associated Press that births have been drastically reduced by Uighurs in Xinjiang areas.
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Asked about Zhao’s comments, Champagne will only say that advocating for human rights is a key part of Canada’s foreign policy.
“We’ll stand up, we’ll talk whenever we think it’s appropriate,” he said. “We’ve done that in terms of Xinjiang, recently in terms of Hong Kong, and we’ll continue to do that.
“I believe that Canadians hope that Canada will speak out and stand up for the people, for freedom, for freedom, for democracy and for respect for human rights.”
Canada was one of 39 members of the UN, which was criticized last month for treating Uighurs along with China. The countries have also asked independent researchers from China to visit Xinjiang and see the situation for themselves.
—With the archives of the Canadian press
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