Canadians must stand up for Uighurs, including boycotts of China’s products, says human rights activist
|Toronto Star 30 Jun 2020 at 20:19|
VANCOUVER—Canada and Canadians must start paying attention and act over what some are now labelling a genocide of China’s Uighur population after explosive new reports of forced birth control and sterilization against the ethnic minority, says a prominent human rights activist.
Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uighur Rights Advocacy Project, says forced birth control measures constitute genocide and urged Ottawa to condemn the practice. Canadians can’t accept the federal government doing little or nothing, Tohti said.
“Canadians have to push the government to do something. We have to join the voice of the international community to push the government to take action on our behalf.”
Canadians themselves need to act as well, he said, including boycotting products made in China and protesting China’s government.
The report found that China subjects minority women there to pregnancy checks and “forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands.”
It said the region’s birth rates plummeted by 24 per cent last year.
Much of the report relies on information from a paper by academic Adrian Zenz, whose in-depth look at forced birth control, titled Sterilizations, IUDs and Mandatory Birth Control: the CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang, was released Monday.
Zenz is a senior fellow in China studies with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C.
His paper is the latest in a series of reports that Xinjiang human rights observers find alarming.
As many as two million Uighurs and other ethnic peoples are thought to be in internment camps in the region. Earlier this year, an Australian research group found evidence that many were being used for forced labour .
That research, conducted by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, found that in some cases the labour is making products sold in western nations, including parts for cellphones and other electronics sold in Canada.
But where past reports on human rights in Xinjiang have gained some attention, these newest reports on forced birth control have drawn condemnation from around the globe.
Zenz said what he found in China’s government documents is shocking.
“The evidence I found is that there’s a systematic campaign not just to enforce existing family planning regulations, but to systematically depress Uighur birth rates in order to drive population growth to levels that are barely above zero,” Zenz told the Star.
Papers written in government and academic circles in Xinjiang made up of China’s majority Han people have “consistently” described the minority population growth in the region as “excessive,” Zenz’s report reads.
His research found that Uighurs were being fined for having more than the legal allotment of children, even if those children were born prior to restrictions or not subject to them, and were being taken to internment camps if they couldn’t pay the fines.
Among other revelations, he found that 80 per cent of new intrauterine birth control devices in China were placed in women in Xinjiang.
China has refuted the allegations with its foreign ministry calling them “fake.” The country’s ambassador to China, Cong Peiwu, has in the past said the same of reports of internment camps. China has also referred to the camps as vocational training centres.
Tohti said throughout all the revelations the Canadian government’s response has been weak and “basically muted.”
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Ottawa has made some public statements about the situation, including a letter with 21 other countries to the United Nations Human Rights Council Tuesday, but Tohti said Canada needs to begin tougher measures like enacting its Magnitsky legislation against Chinese officials.
Such legislation would allow for sanctions against Chinese officials who are complicit in human rights abuses. Similar legislation is working its way through government in the United States.
In a statement to the Star, Global Affairs Canada said the human rights situation in Xinjiang is “deeply concerning and growing worse.”