The New Zealand Parliament has condemned China for human rights violations in Xinjiang

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A demonstrator wearing a mask painted with the colors of the flag of East Turkestan—how some separatist Uyghurs refer to the region of Xinjiang—and a hand bearing the colors of the Chinese flag, attends a protest denouncing China’s treatment of ethnic Uyghur Muslims, in front of the Chinese consulate in Istanbul, on July 5, 2018. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, the New Zealand parliament unanimously passed a motion declaring that China was committing grave human rights violations against Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Politicians in parliament expressed “grave concern” about “serious human rights violations occurring against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” They urged Ardern’s government to “work with all relevant instruments of international law to put an end to these abuses.”

“The New Zealand Government, in collaboration with others, will continue to make the strongest possible demands of China… In a speech to parliament, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said, “We call on China to uphold its human rights obligations.”

The conservative opposition ACT Party, which introduced the motion in Parliament, accused the Labour Party of attempting to weaken the original motion, which stated that China was committing genocide against the Uyghurs.

According to Act Deputy Leader Brooke van Velden, the Labour Ardern government has stated that they will not support the motion unless the term “genocide” is removed.

“It’s a sad state of affairs that we have had to soften our language in order to debate difficult issues,” van Veldon said. “However, I have ensured that our Parliament is able to speak, debate, and discuss the human rights violations committed by the Uyghur people in China.”

Van Veldon also criticized the Labour Party for its shortcomings.

“We are aware of a genocide taking place.” The evidence is extensive, comes from multiple sources, and is credible, “she said. “Here in New Zealand, other parties with veto power would not allow this debate to continue if the motion mentioned genocide.”

Prof. Anne Marie Brady, a New Zealand China expert, also commented on the quote’s watering down. Brady stated on Twitter that it would be unthinkable for New Zealand to consider allowing the US to dictate to the government what it could and could not debate.

It was “sickening to see how our political representatives allowed pressure from the [Chinese Communist Party] CCP to prevent them from speaking out about the Uyghur genocide,” she said.

Both the opposition and the government have expressed satisfaction with the parliamentary statement.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden stated that the fact that the motion was approved by all elected parliamentarians made it an effective message.

“We have a strong, clear statement that has the support of the parliament,” Ardern said.

“I’m pleased that, unlike many other countries, where there have been abstentions from motions, where government parties, in particular, have not voted in favor, we have a strong and clear statement,” she said on Wednesday.

The use of the term “genocide” was criticized in parliament for politicizing the crime.

Foreign Minister Mahuta stated that the government was well aware of the potential issue raised by the motion, but that just because the NZ government had not formally designated the situation as genocide did not mean they were unconcerned.

“It is not for a lack of concern,” Mahuta stated. “Genocide is the most heinous of international crimes, and a formal legal determination should be made only after a rigorous assessment based on international law.”

The Labour government has been chastised after political leaders from Labour and the Opposition National Party warned that a declaration of genocide could jeopardize New Zealand’s trade relations.

“Obviously, the Chinese government would not approve of something like that. I have no doubt it will have an effect [on trade]. According to the Australian Associated Press, Trade Minister Damien O’Connor stated, “That’s hardly rocket science.”

According to Stuff.co.nz, opposition National Party Trade Spokesman Todd Muller stated that New Zealand has strong commercial and cultural ties with China.

“The depth of those personal relationships will guide us through this difficult conversation because it will be difficult,” he said.

He stated that he understood Beijing would consider the issue on its own. However, he stated, “We share one planet.”

“This Parliament and the five million people we represent believe that it is a basic human right for people to feel safe in their homes, to pray to whom they wish to pray, to hug those they love, and to identify with a cultural tradition that best reflects their whakapapa [genealogy,” Muller said.

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