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MPs to debate 'possible severe human rights abuses' against Uyghurs

Politicians are set to debate "possible severe human rights abuses" against Uyghur Muslims in China, after a motion from ACT was changed last night during a meeting of MPs from across the House. 

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The ACT Party initially submitted the motion calling for Government to call the treatment “genocide”. Source: 1 NEWS

It originally attempted to debate "that Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are suffering crimes against humanity and genocide".

It called on the Government "to act to fulfill its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and all relevant instruments of international law to bring it to an end". 

It now reads: "That this House is gravely concerned about the possible severe human rights abuses taking place against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and that it call on the Government to work with the United Nations, international partners, and to work with all relevant instruments of international law to bring these abuses to an end."

New Zealand says there is 'clear evidence' of severe human rights abuses against Uyghurs in China

The Green Party called the change "disappointing... to the point where we are not acknowledging this is an atrocity crime".

Golriz Ghahraman said it was important "to see action taken to stop the atrocity".

"This is why we have been calling for a long time for the Government to ensure New Zealand is not trading or profiting from goods produced by Uyghur slave labour."

ACT's deputy Brooke van Velden said last night she was pleased to have prompted a debate in Parliament about human rights abuses of Uyghur people in China. 

"Labour wanted to soften the language and remove the word 'genocide'.

"It’s a sad state of affairs that we need to soften our language to debate the hard issues. We have been willing to make this compromise in order for a debate to take place at all."

"We cannot sit by as a democratic nation as a genocide is happening in one of our largest trading partners. It’s a matter of human rights."

Uyghur Solidarity Aotearoa NZ criticised the wording change, hitting out that "potential export earnings are plainly more important to the Labour Party than human life". 

Spokesperson Sam Vincent said there was "significant evidence, which is publicly available, strongly indicating that what is occurring is genocide according to international law".

Yesterday, Trade Minister Damien O'Connor said it was "hardly rocket science" that there would be an impact on trade, should New Zealand's Parliament make a declaration of genocide. 

According to Stats NZ, New Zealand's exports to China in the year to December 2020 were $18.6 billion (of the overall global exports of $78.2 billion), and imports from China were worth $12.9 billion. Of New Zealand's exports to China, $5.6 billion was dairy.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said yesterday that "in relation to our trade relationship with China, they are a significant market for many of our businesses, we have been consistent to our message to New Zealand businesses that they need to build deeper resilience and we have been consistent in our message to China".

On Monday, the Prime Minister was asked during the China Business Summit if New Zealand would risk trade punishment with China, as did Australia, to uphold values.

"It would be a concern to anyone in New Zealand if the consideration was, do we speak on this or are we too worried of economic impacts?" Ardern said. 

Yesterday, Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said her party would vote for the original motion "as it rightly draws attention to the suffering of the Uyghur people and the human rights abuses they are facing".

"The attempted genocide of these communities is undeniable," she said.