SIHR Committee News Release concerning human rights situations

(Ottawa, Ontario Province—Oct. 21, 2020) The October 21 news release “Statement by the Subcommittee on International Human Rights [SIHR] concerning the human rights situation of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang, China” includes the following:

…the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (the Subcommittee) warned that:

  • if the international community does not condemn the human rights abuses in Xinjiang Province by the Government of China, a precedent will be set, and these methods will be adopted by other regimes. Complacency is entrenched by a lack of access to Xinjiang; by the lack of free press; and through the silencing and harassment of Uyghurs living abroad.

Building on the important testimony of seven witnesses over five sessions before the Subcommittee in 2018, on 20–21 July 2020 the Subcommittee convened urgent meetings to understand the latest developments in the plight of the Uyghurs. Over two days and 12 hours of testimony, the Subcommittee heard from academics, civil society as well as many survivors of the Government of China’s atrocities in the region. The subcommittee wishes to make clear that the condemnations in this statement are directed towards the Government of China, as represented by the Chinese Communist Party, and not the Chinese people, who the Subcommittee support wholeheartedly and hope that one day will benefit from the peace, freedom and security enjoyed by many others in this world.

The Subcommittee was profoundly disturbed by what it heard and is convinced of the need for a strong response. The Subcommittee heard that the Government of China has been employing various strategies to persecute Muslim groups living in Xinjiang, including mass detentions, forced labour, pervasive state surveillance and population control. Witnesses were clear that the Government of China’s actions are a clear attempt to eradicate Uyghur culture and religion. Some witnesses stated that the Government of China’s actions meet the definition of genocide as set out in Article II of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention).

The Subcommittee unequivocally condemns the persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang by the Government of China. Based on the evidence put forward during the Subcommittee hearings, both in 2018 and 2020, the Subcommittee is persuaded that the actions of the Chinese Communist Party constitute genocide as laid out in the Genocide Convention.



…The Government of Canada should issue to Canadian companies, whose supply chains are potentially exposed to the forced labour of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, a notice similar to the one issued by the Government of the United States of America for that reason. It is also important for the Government of Canada to investigate potentially problematic sources of consumer goods and to take a strong stand against the use of forced labour, particularly when it involves Canadian companies….


Witnesses told the Subcommittee that the region has essentially become a police state. Surveillance permeates every aspect of the Government of China’s efforts to persecute Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang. The Subcommittee heard that every corner of Xinjiang is under surveillance. Witnesses explained that mobile phone activity is intensely monitored and security technologies, such as closed-circuit televisions, artificial intelligence, facial recognition and biometric data, are deployed to track every movement and communication.


The Subcommittee heard that the Government of China is employing inhuman measures against women and girls to reduce the birth rate of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang. These measures include:
imposed use of intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs) that can only be removed through surgery. According to government documents, approximately 80% of all new IUD placements in China took place in Xinjiang, despite Xinjiang representing less than 2% of the population of China;
forced and coerced sterilizations and abortions; and
imposed injections of an unknown substance that caused female detainees to lose their menstrual period….


…To this end, many of the expert witnesses that appeared before the Subcommittee were adamant that the atrocities committed by the Government of China amount to genocide as well as crimes against humanity. Considering this evidence, the Subcommittee notes that the Government of Canada is not only responsible for punishing the crime of genocide, but for preventing one from occurring as well. The Subcommittee agrees, in particular, with the testimony of the Honourable Irwin Cotler:

“What we have here with respect to the Uighurs is a classic case study of such war crimes, crimes against humanity and, as I and others have mentioned, acts that are constitutive of genocide. That warrants our involvement, under the responsibility to protect doctrine, to initiate, undertake and implement the panoply of remedies that were heretofore recommended before your committee, some of which I recommended in my testimony, this being part of the responsibility to protect doctrine.”


Canada has a responsibility to protect Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims under the international norm that it helped to establish, the Responsibility to Protect, of which the objective is to ensure the international community prevents mass atrocity crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The Subcommittee was reminded that protection can come in many forms. This includes the use of sanctions.

The Subcommittee shares concerns raised by witnesses and agrees that the Government of Canada needs to take immediate action and live up to the values it espouses at home and abroad. Canada must act now to address China’s aggression against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims. As stated by Nobel Peace laureate, Elie Wiesel: “Silence in the face of evil ends up being complicity with evil itself….”

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