Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has described as “unacceptable” China’s decision to impose sanctions on a lawmaker and on the members of a House of Commons subcommittee for raising the issue of “genocide” allegedly perpetrated against Uighurs in Xinjiang province.
In a tweet responding to the announcement from the Chinese foreign ministry on Saturday, Trudeau said, “China’s sanctions are an attack on transparency and freedom of expression – values at the heart of our democracy. We stand with parliamentarians against these unacceptable actions, and we will continue to defend human rights around the world with our international partners.”
Canadian MP Michael Chong was instrumental in moving a motion passed by the House of Commons on February 22 that defined Chinese actions in Xinjiang as meeting a threshold to be termed as “genocide”.
Four months earlier, the House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights of the standing committee on foreign affairs and international development had described the persecution of the minority Uighur community and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang as “genocide”.
It called upon the Canadian government to recognise it as such and impose sanctions against Chinese officials considered responsible for perpetration of human rights abuses in the region.
The subcommittee, chaired by Liberal Party MP Peter Fonseca, had submitted its report on October 23.
In reaction to the Chinese foreign ministry’s punitive action, Chong tweeted, “We’ve got a duty to call out China for its crackdown in #HongKong & its genocide of #Uyghurs. We who live freely in democracies under the rule of law must speak for the voiceless. If that means China sanctions me, I’ll wear it as a badge of honour.”
In the announcement, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said those sanctioned were “prohibited from entering the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of China, and Chinese citizens and institutions are prohibited from doing business with the relevant individuals and having exchanges with the relevant entity”.
Also on the list were Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Gayle Manchin, and its vice chair Tony Perkins.
Canada’s foreign minister Marc Garneau also criticised the sanctions imposed by China.
In a statement, he said, “The government of Canada stands with parliamentarians and all Canadians as we continue to work with partners in defence of democracy and freedom of speech, and will continue to take action when international human rights obligations are violated.”