French Parliament calls Uyghur persecution a genocide

Lawmakers overwhelmingly pass resolution that also calls on the government to protect Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
By Nuriman Abdurashid
2022.01.20
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French Parliament calls Uyghur persecution a genocide A protester of the French Uyghur Community shout slogans and hold flags of East Turkestan during a demonstration over China's human rights record near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, during a state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, March 25, 2019.
AFP

The French Parliament on Thursday officially labeled China’s persecution of its Uyghur minority a genocide, joining other Western governments and legislatures that have issued similar declarations.

Lawmakers voted 169-1 in favor of a nonbinding resolution sharply critical of Chinese policies in the country’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It also urges the French government to take measures to try to help protect the 12 million Uyghurs who live there and to safeguard Uyghurs living in France from Chinese intimidation and harassment.

The resolution was introduced by the opposition Socialist Party in the lower house but supported by President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the Move Party. With its passage, France joins the U.S. and parliaments in Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Belgium and the Czech Republic in declaring that China has committed genocide toward Uyghurs.

The declaration is another stain on China’s international reputation just two weeks before the opening of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, for which the U.S. and other Western nations have announced diplomatic boycotts in a show of opposition to the host country’s dismal human rights record.

“French deputies had an appointment today with a moment in history, with an important moment, since they were asked to recognize the Uyghur genocide perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party regime, with mass internment, torture, labor forced, organ trafficking, forced sterilization — basically, everything that constitutes the regime to methodically eliminate a whole part of a people,” said Boris Vallaud, a National Assembly lawmaker and spokesman for the Socialist Party.

“This fight continues and then has to be done basically to seize every opportunity to tell the Beijing regime that freedoms and human rights must be defended everywhere and that the Uyghur people have the right to live free,” he said.

Dilnur Reyhan, president of the Paris-based Uyghur European Institute, which spearheaded the effort to urge the French Parliament to recognize the rights abuses targeting Uyghurs as a genocide, said the motion’s approval was a significant victory for persecuted community.

“This passage of the Uyghur Genocide resolution is not a small victory for us,” she said. “It’s a strong total victory.”

The organization also wants the French government to impose a diplomatic boycott the Winter Olympics, which begin on Feb. 4; to urge the European Union to enact measures preventing goods made by Uyghur slave labor from entering the European market; and to ask the U.N. to pressure China to close the detention camps, Dilnur said.

Dilnur Reyhan (2nd from L), president of the Uyghur European Institute, and Dolkun Isa (R), president of the World Uyghur Congress, stand with two French lawmakers outside parliament following the passage of a resolution labeling China’s persecution of its Uyghur minority a genocide, in Paris, Jan. 20, 2022. Credit: RFA
Dilnur Reyhan (2nd from L), president of the Uyghur European Institute, and Dolkun Isa (R), president of the World Uyghur Congress, stand with two French lawmakers outside parliament following the passage of a resolution labeling China’s persecution of its Uyghur minority a genocide, in Paris, Jan. 20, 2022. Credit: RFA

'The correct side of history'

China has held an estimated 1.8 million mostly Muslim Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in an extensive network of internment camps where they are subject to violence and other human rights abuses, such as torture, forced labor and forced sterilizations of women. The Chinese government has denied reports of violence and said the camps are vocational training centers meant to prevent religions extremism.

“Disregarding facts and common sense, the relevant resolution constitutes a deliberate defamation and stigmatization against China and a brutal interference in China's internal affairs. We strongly oppose it and strongly condemn it,” the Chinese Embassy in France said about the passage of the resolution.

“Sensationalized claims about Xinjiang such as ‘genocide’ are pure lies based on prejudice and hostility toward China. Their goal is not to defend human rights at all, but to contain China's development and undermine inter-ethnic solidarity and stability in Xinjiang,” the embassy said in statements on its website.

China also expressed concern that the resolution would seriously damage relations between the two countries.

Uyghur activist groups, however, praised the move by the National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament, which also passed a resolution calling on the European Union to hold corporations accountable for engaging in illegal labor practices that facilitate the Uyghur genocide.

“In France today the legislature rejected this regime’s actions, and instead has condemned this genocide as unacceptable, and called for regulation of the financial engine that powers it,” said Rushan Abbas, executive director of the U.S.-based Campaign for Uyghurs, in a statement. “France has taken their place on the correct side of history.”

Dolkun Isa, president of the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC), called the resolution’s passage “a crucial step towards wider international recognition of the Uyghur genocide.”

“We call upon the French government to follow the position of its parliament, and make concerted efforts with partners internationally to end these unspeakable crimes,” he said.

Also on Thursday, the U.K. Parliament unanimously passed a motion put forward by lawmaker Nusrat Ghani, calling on the U.K. government to make an urgent assessment on whether Uyghurs are at risk of genocide.

In April 2021, the House of Commons unanimously voted to label abuses against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims part of a policy of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Translated by Alim Seytoff for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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