VANCOUVER – In a diplomatic move not seen since the Tiananmen Square massacre, Canada has imposed sanctions on four senior Chinese officials for what Ottawa describes as “gross and systematic human rights violations” against Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in the Uyghur Autonomous Country of Xinjiang. Region .
This is the first time that Canada has imposed sanctions on China since June 1989, following the military siege against student protesters in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. It is also the first time that Canada has targeted sanctions against specific individuals in China, a federal official confirmed.
The sanctions have been imposed in parallel with the UK, EU and US – a level of coordination that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says aims to pressure Beijing to end the documented and reported crackdown in the Western China region.
They are also responding to the trials of two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, accused of spying in China. The men have been detained in this country since December 2018.
But Trudeau denied that the sanctions were tied to what the federal government continues to condemn as the continued “arbitrary detention” of the men, who have faced secret espionage trials in China in recent days.
“We stand with our international allies in being very concerned about the situation facing Muslim minorities in western China,” Trudeau said in French from Trois-Rivières, Que. Monday.
He said the new sanctions reflected Canada’s “grave concern” over “human rights violations” in Xinjiang.
The people targeted are Zhu Hailun, deputy secretary of the community party for the Xinjiang region; Wang Junzheng, Communist Party Secretary of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps; Xinjiang Police Chief Wang Mingshan; and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.
In a statement released Monday, Global Affairs Canada said the sanctions mean “a ban on all transactions (in fact, an asset freeze) by prohibiting people in Canada and Canadians outside of Canada from engaging in any activity relating to the property of such persons or providing them with financial or related services. The four officials are also banned from entering Canada.
Ottawa also imposed sanctions on the Public Security Bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
In announcing the decision, the Canadian government cited “mounting evidence”. China has detained more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities for political re-education, and has engaged in torture and forced labor. In a statement, Global Affairs Canada also said there were “credible reports of systemic rape and forced sterilization” in Xinjiang, and called on China to give “meaningful and unhindered access” for experts to observe and report on the situation.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken went further in his sanctions statement, calling the Chinese crackdown “genocide” and calling for the release of “all those who are arbitrarily detained in internment camps and detention centers. detention”.
The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa did not comment on the sanctions at the Star’s request. Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported that China had already hit back with sanctions against EU officials on Monday.
China has previously denied it violates human rights and said the measures taken in Xinjiang are aimed at countering extremism in the region, referring to the internment camps as vocational training centers.
Mehmet Tohti of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project said the measures do not go far enough, calling them a step in the right direction. Tohti said Canada’s tendency to appease Beijing made him fear that no action would be taken.
“I was worried because if you look at Canada’s policy in China, it’s always precautionary measures, always calculated, always Canada acting exactly as the Chinese government wants Canada to act, without even raising its voice on crucial questions, ”he said. “I think this is the first time they’ve broken this vicious cycle.”
But there is a notable absence of the Chinese official seen as the mastermind of China’s repression of Uyghurs, he said.
Chen Quanguo has been called the “architect” of Beijing’s security strategy in Xinjiang by academics and journalists. Chen is the secretary of the Xinjiang Communist Party, making him the region’s top official.
Although Chen was put on a U.S. sanctions list last July, he was not named by Canada or the European Union in today’s announcements, according to Reuters. Tohti said the exclusion of Chen from the list sends a mixed message about Canada’s seriousness on this file.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole released a statement Monday night saying that if the Conservatives are “encouraged” by Ottawa’s decision to work with Canada’s allies to impose sanctions, the government must go further and recognize the genocide in the region.
“Now the Conservatives are once again calling on the Trudeau government to follow Parliament’s lead in recognizing the Uyghur genocide, working to encourage other allies to do the same, and putting in place new, more effective measures to ban imports produced by forced Uyghur labor. “, Reads O’Toole’s statement.
He added that Trudeau had to “abandon his naive approach” to the Chinese government, in light of the ongoing detentions of Kovrig and Spavor.
Foreign Minister Marc Garneau was unavailable for an interview with the Star on Monday, his office said.
Garneau’s office then passed questions about the sanctions to the Global Affairs Department, which did not respond by the deadline.