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NZ declaration of Uyghur 'genocide' would help oppressed community — Human Rights Watch

The head of Human Rights Watch says it is important countries like New Zealand continue to push for an independent United Nations investigation into China's treatment of Uyghurs. 

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The organisation says if New Zealand declared the deaths as genocide, it would help the persecuted community. Source: Breakfast

Director Sophie Richardson said taking such steps was a way of recognising "Uyghurs' nightmare". 

Since 2017, Uyghurs - China’s Muslim minority - have been subjected to a mass surveillance and detention programme in Xinjiang, China's northwest territory.

Amnesty International estimates more than a million Uyghur people are detained in so-called ‘re-education’ camps. Many are subjected to torture.

"Uyghurs are being detained essentially because they're Uyghurs," Richardson told Breakfast. 

"There's no legal basis for their detention whatsoever and some of these cases of family separation are excruciating because we're talking about children as young as three or four who are not just institutionalised, but they're institutionalised in facilities where they're only really spoken to in Chinese to eradicate their Uyghur language skills.

UK lawmakers pass motion saying China committing genocide

"They're clearly not being raised in consistence with their parents' Muslim beliefs."

Richardson said she feels this is clearly designed to break Uyghurs' roots and lineage and "to really eradicate this distinct identity". 

ACT recently asked Parliament to debate a motion declaring China's treatment of Uyghurs as genocide. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta told 1 NEWS the Labour Party would consider its position at caucus next week. 

She said the Government has continually and publicly raised grave concerns about human rights in Xinjiang. 

"As a Government, we continue to raise concerns with China about human rights violations."

Mahuta also pointed out the Government had engaged with the UN, which included joining a statement with 38 other countries in 2020 condemning the treatment of Uyghur Muslims.

But Richardson said a New Zealand declaration of genocide would also be helpful. 

"I think showing that kind of concern for the community and diaspora helps."

If New Zealand declares China's treatment of Uyghurs amounts to genocide, it would follow the United Kingdom and Canada.