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EU lawmakers push to designate human rights conditions in Xinjiang as ‘genocide’

  • The motion enjoys the support of four of the biggest parties in the European Parliament, meaning it appears likely to succeed in Thursday’s vote

  • Such a resolution is not binding and does not change the official position of the European Union, but it serves to gauge the mood in Parliament

By Finbarr Bermingham

June 7, 2022

An undated image released by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation on May 24 shows detainees guarded by police as they recite or sing at the Tekes County Detention Centre in Xinjiang. Photo: AFP/Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Powerful European lawmakers are pushing to designate alleged human rights abuses against Uygurs and other ethnic Muslims in Xinjiang as “genocide” in a resolution set to reach the Parliament this week.

The motion enjoys the support of four of the biggest parties in the European Parliament, the Post understands, meaning it appears likely to succeed.

These are: the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the centrist Renew Group, the left of centre Socialist and Democrats (S&Ds) and the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists.

The parties will enter negotiations on Tuesday to finalise the text of the urgency resolution, which will be debated on Wednesday and put to a vote on Thursday.

UK parliament declares Uygurs suffering ‘genocide’ in China’s Xinjiang

While the Greens, the Left and the far-right Identity and Democracy Group do not support this language, the text for such documents is adopted by majority, so it looks likely that lawmakers will vote to characterise the actions in Xinjiang as “genocide”.

Such resolutions are not binding and do not mean a shift in the official position of the European Union. Rather, they are gauge of the mood in Parliament, which is made up of directly elected members from each of the EU’s 27 member states.

The Parliament has adopted numerous resolutions on Xinjiang, but stopped short of pushing for the label of “genocide”. A vote for this would reflect a sharp change in mood towards China in Brussels and beyond.

The EPP, the party of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and former German chancellor Angela Merkel, was among the parties most supportive of engagement with China until last year. The S&Ds, the European party of current German leader Olaf Scholz, have also been broadly supportive of close ties with Beijing.

But the mounting evidence of atrocities in Xinjiang – where China is suspected of detaining more than 1 million Uygurs and other Muslim minorities in political indoctrination camps – has helped drive a sharp escalation.

So too has a backlash against China’s apparent support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has rolled past the 100-day mark without any sign of a ceasefire.

Draft text from the EPP negotiating positions, seen by the Post, says that “the credible evidence about birth prevention measures and the separation of Uygur children from their families amounts to crimes against humanity and genocide”.

It points to “the Uygur Tribunal and other credible, independent investigative bodies and research organisations”, which have concluded that Chinese government policies in Xinjiang “amount to torture crimes against humanity and genocide”.

It also highlights determinations of genocides made by other parliaments, including the “US, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Lithuania, Czech Republic”.

The Uygur Tribunal is an unofficial panel of lawyers and campaigners that found last year that Chinese President Xi Jinping bore primary responsibility for what it said was genocide in Xinjiang.

Beijing dismissed it as “political farce performed by a few clowns”.

“The #XinjiangPoliceFiles are another confirmation of the horrible atrocities made by the #CCP. I will negotiate the text for the urgency resolution tomorrow. Vote: Thursday,” David Lega, the EPP’s chief negotiator, said in a tweet.

His comments related to the recent release of a trove of police documents and photographs appearing to shed new light on China’s internment of Uygurs and members of other ethnic minority groups – some reportedly as young as 15.

The information in the documents – leaked to and compiled by the German academic Adrian Zenz – drew condemnation from top German and British diplomats, and thrust Xinjiang back into the centre of the China conversation in Europe.

Zenz will be at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, the Post has learned, for the relaunch of the chamber’s Uygur Friendship Group – another move that is sure to anger Beijing.

Among the chairs of the group will be the EPP’s Lega, Raphael Glucksmann of the S&Ds, the ECR’s Charlie Weimers and Markéta Gregorová of the Greens.

China said the Xinjiang Police files amounted to “political manipulation under the guise of human rights, in an attempt to undermine the prosperity and stability of Xinjiang and curb China’s development”.


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