Lawmakers in Canada voted to declare China’s treatment of its Muslim minority Uighur population a genocide, a move that is expected to further fray relations between Ottawa and Beijing.
The House of Commons on Monday voted 266-0 to declare that the People’s Republic of China is perpetrating genocide against its Uighur citizens in northwestern Xinjiang province with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other members of his cabinet declining to attend.
The vote makes Canada the second country to declare that China is committing genocide after Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State during the Trump administration, did so on his final day in office.
“I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state,” he said on Jan. 19.
Trudeau’s absence from the vote was heavily criticized by the Conservative Party, which forwarded the motion, with leader Erin O’Toole calling the prime minister and his cabinet’s absence “shameful” during a press conference following the vote.
China has repeatedly balked at the accusation it is committing genocide and has claimed concentration camps where more than 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are believed to be kept are for the purpose of re-education and stamping out terrorism.
However, the State Department has accused the Chinese Communist Party of unlawful killings, forced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention and other human rights abuses.
The Chinese Embassy in Canada rejected the motion in a statement and reiterated that what the communist party is doing in Xinjiang has nothing to do with human rights but to combat violent terrorism and secession.
It also accused Canada of interfering in its internal affairs with the motion, a common response China gives to accusations of human rights abuses.