Canadian MPs voted on Monday to describe Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang as a genocide, a move angered by China as a “harmful provocation.”
Rights groups believe that at least one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been detained in camps in the northwestern region, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilizing women and imposing forced labor.
The proposal “Uighurs in China have been and are being subjected to genocide” was adopted unanimously in the Canadian House of Commons, and ministers called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to officially label it as such.
The proposal also demanded that the Winter Olympics in Beijing 2022 be moved if the “genocide” continues.
The United States has already used the mark, with former President Donald Trump’s government slamming China in January for a “systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs.”
Trudeau had said Friday that there were significant reports of abuse coming out of Xinjiang. And after a G7 meeting, he said that Canada consulted its international allies on the use of the term “genocide” to treat Uighurs.
Beijing struck back on Tuesday, calling the proposal a “disgraceful act” and “harmful provocation against the 1.4 billion people in China.”
“Canada’s efforts to curb China’s development by implementing the Xinjiang – related movement will not succeed,” the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa said in a statement.
The embassy accused “hypocritical and shameless” Canadian lawmakers of “using the excuse for human rights to engage in political manipulation of Xinjiang.”
The growing calls for action in Canada are reiterating complaints about China’s human rights record in other Western countries, including the United States, where President Joe Biden is trying to build alliances to maintain pressure on Beijing.
The new president has already criticized Beijing for its human rights situation, especially the abuses in Xinjiang, including in a two-hour marathon talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
After initially denying the existence of the camps in Xinjiang, China later defended them as vocational training centers aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.
Beijing had said Monday that its treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet has “emerged as a shining example of China’s progress on human rights.”
And Foreign Minister Wang Yi later told the UN Human Rights Council via video link that “there has never been so-called genocide, forced labor or religious oppression in Xinjiang.”
Relations between China and Canada have deteriorated in recent years.
Ties deteriorated in late 2018 over the arrest of Huawei CEO Meng Wanzhou on a US order, and China’s detention of two Canadians – former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor – in what Ottawa has called retaliation.
The two men have had virtually no contact with the outside world since they were imprisoned on espionage charges.