New Zealand has avoided labeling China’s treatment of its genocide of the Uyghur Muslim minority on Wednesday, again leaving Wellington out of step with its more outspoken Western allies.
Parliament unanimously passed a motion expressing “grave concern” over human rights abuses in Xinjiang province, but only after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s ruling Labor Party insisted that any reference to genocide has been deleted.
Lawmaker Brooke van Velden said that while allies such as the United States, Britain and Canada called what was happening genocide, it was “intolerable” that New Zealand refused to use it. this term to avoid upsetting its biggest trading partner.
“The world is watching us now to see what standard we are going to set – can the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) make us look like the weakest link in the Western Alliance,” she said.
“We can face the threat of loss if we express our opinion, but we face a much greater danger if we don’t. “
At least one million Uyghurs and people belonging to other predominantly Muslim minorities have been detained in camps in Xinjiang, according to rights groups, which accuse authorities of forcibly sterilizing women and imposing punishments. imposed labour.
Van Velden of the minor opposition ACT party received support from the Greens on the genocide issue, who said it was “incredibly callous” to water down condemnation of China’s actions to maintain trade relations.
“This is absolutely morally indefensible and a violation of New Zealand’s legal obligations,” said Greens MP Golriz Ghahraman.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta told parliament that New Zealand has raised concerns about the situation in Xinjiang with China at the highest levels of government.
But she said Wellington only recognizes genocide when it has been defined as such by international tribunals, citing the Holocaust, as well as the atrocities in Rwanda and Cambodia.
“We have not formally designated the situation as constituting genocide, it is not due to a lack of concern,” she said.
“Genocide is the most serious of international crimes and a formal legal decision should only be taken after careful assessment on the basis of international law. “
Ardern acknowledged this week that New Zealand-China human rights differences were becoming “more difficult to reconcile,” but said his government would continue to report areas of concern to Beijing.
The Ardern government has criticized its modest criticism of China’s rights record, which has led to accusations that New Zealand is a weak link in the US-led Five Eyes intelligence network.
The Chinese Embassy in Wellington did not respond to a request for comment.
© 2021 AFP