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by Eden Debebe

The Chinese government is firing back at Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, after Bob Rae called for an official investigation into China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in its Xinjiang province.

It’s an ongoing battle that began in late 2018, when reports of mass detention centers, forced sterilization and other inhumane practices against the ethnic minority group were brought before the Canadian parliamentary subcommittee on international rights. Last month, the subcommittee concluded that China’s state policy on Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims met the definition of genocide. Beijing has denied all allegations.


Rae outlined the need for a full investigation into the situation during an interview with the CBC on Sunday, where he explained the importance of proving such serious allegations.

“There’s no question that there’s aspects of what the Chinese are doing that fits into the definition of genocide in the genocide convention,” Rae said.

“But that then requires you to go through a process of gathering information and of making sure that we’ve got the evidence that would support that kind of an allegation.”

During a news conference in Beijing on Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called Rae’s comments “ridiculous,” claiming past actions by Canada better fit the definition of genocide than the country’s current practices. Lijian also quoted a number of statistics that suggest China’s Uyghur population is growing at a faster rate than Canada’s population.


Lijian’s statistics do not match a June report by The Associated Press that shows birthrates have dropped by roughly 60% in Uyghur-dominated areas of Xinjiang between 2015 and 2018.

A graph from the Associated Press June report on birth rates in Uyghur areas of China showing birth rates in regions like Hotan and Kashgar plunged by more than 60% from 2015 to 2018, the latest year available in government statistics.

Chinese Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu also denied any genocide in the country, echoing a similar message to Beijing’s in an interview with OMNI Television. Peiwu said officials were willing to arrange for European Union diplomats to visit Xinjian themselves and witness the treatment of Uyghurs in the country firsthand.

“We encourage people to go to China and see for themselves what’s happening in China,” Peiwu said.

“I would also like to draw your attention to the term genocide, because there’s nothing like that happening in Xinjiang.”

Under the current United Nations Convention, the term genocide is defined as killing, causing serious mental harm, preventing births within a group or forcibly removing children or any other act committed with intent to destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.

While the parliamentary subcommittee concluded Canada had a responsibility to protect Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in any way they can, including through the use of sanctions, foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne has not said whether Ottawa will impose sanctions on China for the alleged mistreatment.