The Lithuanian parliament passed a motion on Thursday condemning China for what it called China’s “genocide” policy against Uyghur Muslims in the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, becoming the latest government or legislature to do so.
The resolution, which was passed by a vote of 86 to one with seven abstentions, strongly condemned “China’s massive, systematic, and grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity” in the XUAR, where over a million ethnic Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims have been confined in a vast network of internment camps since 2017.
The resolution also asked the UN to launch “a legal investigation into the Uyghur genocide in [the] Xinjiang detention camps,” according to the Lithuanian LRT English-language news service on Thursday.
The Chinese embassy in Vilnius quickly slammed the resolution, calling it “another shoddy political show based on lies and disinformation,” according to the news agency.
Beginning in 2017, authorities in the XUAR began a mass incarceration campaign that has resulted in the confinement of an estimated 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps.
According to Beijing, the facilities are residential training centres that provide vocational education for Uyghurs, discourage radicalization, and aid in the country’s defence against terrorism.
According to RFA and other media outlets, those detained in China’s camps in the XUAR are held against their will, subjected to political indoctrination, subjected to harsh treatment at the hands of their overseers, and subjected to poor diets and unsanitary conditions in the often-overcrowded facilities.
Former detainees have also reported being tortured, raped, forced, sterilised, and subjected to other abuses while in custody.
Amid growing international scrutiny of China’s policies in the XUAR, the US government designated abuses in the region as part of a genocide campaign in January, a label shared by the parliaments of Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress in exile in Germany, called the Lithuanian parliament’s resolution on Thursday a “historical event” because the Baltic nation of 2.8 million people was once an unwilling part of the Soviet Union.
“For a country and people that endured a half-century of communist persecution to make this designation is a historic first step for other Eastern European countries that have also endured communist persecution to follow,” Isa said.
“At a time when China is attempting to cover up its atrocities by spreading lies and staging Potemkin scenes at the UN and around the world, the Lithuanian parliament’s determination has proven that China can not escape its crimes, and that democratic countries will not remain silent but will take real action.”
“The international community must stand on the right side of history,” said Nury Turkel, a commissioner on the bipartisan United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, adding that “the Uyghur genocide will not go away or be resolved on its own.”
“The international community must recognise that only coordinated international action can halt this genocide, and nations that have not yet joined the condemnation of China’s atrocities should understand that the sky will not fall on their heads if they do,” he added.
On Thursday, the European Parliament declared a market-access treaty with China “frozen,” with 599 votes in favour, 30 votes against, and 58 abstentions, indicating widespread opposition in the EU lawmaking body to formally approve the deal after China sanctioned European parliamentarians and scholars who had criticised Beijing’s policies in the XUAR.
“Today’s European Union vote to suspend the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment with China demonstrates that Europe has lost patience with China over its atrocities against Uyghurs,” Isa told RFA.
“It is clear that the European Union, made up of 27 countries, has decided not to sacrifice human rights for financial gain. I see this as a victory for human rights and democracy over tyranny, as well as proof that a genocidal regime like China will be held accountable for its crimes, “Isa said.
In a statement issued on May 18, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the United States to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing if China fails to address reports of genocide in the XUAR, as well as other human rights violations in Tibet and Hong Kong.
“It’s about our values and who we are as a country,” Pelosi said at a joint hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).
“If we do not speak out against human rights abuses in China for commercial reasons, we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights anywhere,” Pelosi said.
On May 12, Lithuania joined Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Norway, and Sweden in issuing a joint statement expressing grave concern about the human rights situation of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities in the XUAR.
“We are gravely concerned about the reported existence of a large network of so-called ‘political reeducation’ camps, where a very large number of people are held in long-term arbitrary detention,” a statement issued at a United Nations “high-level virtual event” in Xinjiang said.
“We are equally concerned by efforts to severely restrict the right to freedom of religion or belief, expression, peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of movement for Uyghurs and other members of minority groups,” said Martin Bille Hermann, Denmark’s permanent representative to the UN.