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Political parties mull motion to debate genocide declaration of Uyghur treatment

The political parties today are mulling whether they support ACT's motion to hold a debate in Parliament around declaring the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang as genocide. 

The Beehive, New Zealand's Parliament. Source: istock.com

The Green Party announced it would support it through to the declaration of genocide, the Māori Party said it would vote for in favour and Labour and National have not yet disclosed their intentions. 

ACT's David Seymour said today that it "seems many political parties are prepared to sell out even the right to debate such a matter at the altar of trade".

"I'm the biggest free trader of this Parliament but I also know that our democratic principles aren't for sale." 

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta would not disclose how Labour's caucus intended to vote. 

"We've had a conversation within caucus but the determination and final outcome of that conversation will be released once we're ready."

It came after 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.

Mahuta said 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".

Yesterday, 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. 

Currently in the business committee, the motion may make its way to Parliament tomorrow if it is not voted down. 

Green Party's foreign affairs spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said action needed to be taken, in addition to declaring genocide. 

"We're not just correcting the terms of history by calling this a genocide, so actually it's our actions that will go down in history, our actions that will be seen and will assist the victims."

Ghahraman said the Green Party was calling for a moratorium on goods from the Xinjiang province "because we know that there will be goods that have likely to have been produced via slave labour". 

Yesterday it was reported there were concerns 98 new electric buses on order for Wellington may be linked to forced labour in China.

"We know an atrocity is being committed and it's causing grave harm. It is systematic, it is widespread and a minority community is being targeted by a Government. We need to act. We need to act to make this atrocity something that will stop.

"We will support the declaration of genocide." 

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said her party would vote for the 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. 

"Te Pati Māori has a strong track record on standing up for human rights and indigenous rights in Aotearoa and internationally. We will continue to advocate for indigenous peoples and fight racism and bigotry in all its forms," she said. 

This morning when asked, National leader Judith Collins said they wanted more information and the caucus would be discussing their position.

National's foreign affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee told 1 NEWS last week that he hoped the Government would provide the advice received on declaring genocide prior to the vote. 

"We would want that proper information," he said. 

He said the Government "has to decide what the New Zealand position has to be... nothing happens without them.

"The question for the Prime Minister is what steps are they going to take before they come to a conclusion on the ACT motion."

ACT's Brooke van Velden, who is putting forward the motion, said last week that New Zealand "cannot sit by as a democratic nation if crimes against humanity are occurring in one of our largest trading partners". 

"It’s a matter of human rights. There have been increasing reports of atrocities in the Xinjiang region, and the inability for the UN to independently go into China and see first-hand what is happening is a reason for us to debate what is happening under the Chinese Communist Party’s watch. If the Labour Government will not put forward their own motion, the ACT party will."