Honourable senators, along with my colleague Senator Housakos, I, too, rise today to call your attention to pressing issues and immensely grave concerns to all humanity.
Two days ago marked the celebration of the seventy-first anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately, 71 years later, we are still reminded of the monumental work that is left for all of us to undertake as we all are witness to the immeasurable atrocities and gross human rights violations still being perpetrated worldwide.
As we are putting forward this motion, I’m deeply concerned about the ongoing situation in Hong Kong, with protesters, day in and day out, tirelessly fighting to keep democracy alive and trying to uphold universal freedoms and human rights in that region, jeopardizing their security and lives for the good of humanity.
The Hong Kong protests have been going on for several months now. As we know, the protests started in response to the government of Hong Kong proposing an extradition bill that would have made it possible for people to be extradited to mainland China to be tried, which would have undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy and its people’s civil liberties. Although the bill has been withdrawn, the protests have now become a fight by the hundreds of thousands of courageous and fearless protesters for political freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights, demanding that China ceases to infringe on Hong Kong’s autonomy and its citizens’ civil liberties.
Unfortunately, this has been met with an excessive use of force and escalating brutality by Hong Kong police and officials. Hong Kong police forces have unscrupulously resorted to using aggressive methods against protesters, such as shooting at point-blank range, firing rubber bullets, tear-gassing, pepper-spraying, persecuting peaceful protesters, arresting on vague charges, not intervening to defend protesters when attacked by pro-Beijing counterparts, and the list goes on.
Nonetheless, protesters have not backed down in the face of such oppression and human rights violations. They have fought and are still fighting to uphold fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong. As such, we must stand in solidarity with the protesters of Hong Kong, and condemn the egregious and barbarous actions of Hong Kong and Chinese officials in dealing with and trying to suppress Hong Kong’s autonomy and its citizens’ liberties.
Furthermore, I am extremely and utterly distraught by the ongoing systematic persecution and gross violation of the human rights of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. We have known for some time now that the People’s Republic of China is persecuting ethnic and ethno-religious minorities as well as peaceful political protesters and human rights defenders. The first group that immediately come to mind is the Uighur Muslims. There are also the Buddhist Tibetans, Falun Gong, Falun Dafa, Kazakhs and many others.
In August 2018, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reported receiving credible information that approximately one million Uighurs and members of other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang were being detained in camps. Esteemed colleagues, several sources now claim it’s between two and three million persecuted individuals. That is absolutely horrible.
Moreover, in the Xinjiang region, the exponential intensification of persecutions started with the arrival of Chen Quanguo, who has been the Communist Party Secretary of that region since August 2016. He is also the former Communist Party secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. It has been reported by Sophie Richardson, China Director of Human Rights Watch, in January 2017 that the system that was first developed and put in place in the TAR by Chen Quanguo is the same one that is being and has been used in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region since his arrival.
Although he is the mastermind behind this staggering, repressive system, it is important to specify that the person who put it in place in Xinjiang is Zhu Hailun, since he knew what had to be done on-site, as he knew who to arrest and how to proceed.
This system has been developed to persecute and force the assimilation of ethnic and ethno-religious minorities that have been targeted as enemies of the Chinese state based solely on their ethno-religious identity.
The Uighurs and other ethnic and ethno-religious minorities are targeted by the mass surveillance that is happening by voice recognition, face scanning, iris scanning, et cetera. They are being unlawfully detained in those reeducation camps, tortured, subjected to ill-treatment, abused and persecuted, forced to abandon their culture, religion, language, identity. Some of them are even scattered through prisons and detention centres in mainland China.
To add to these monstrous atrocities, Muslim children are separated from their parents and arbitrarily held in so-called “child welfare” institutions and high security boarding schools in Xinjiang for thought education as was reported in September by New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Colleagues, after the UN report came out the People’s Republic of China vehemently denied the existence of camps saying there is no arbitrary detention and that the allegations are simply fake news.
They denied the existence of such camps right until they changed the law to legalize them. How convenient.
Last Monday, it was reported that suddenly all of the Uighurs and ethno-religious minorities that were detained in those camps “have graduated and they are very happy.” Beijing defended its “re-education” camps in the XUAR, adding that China will continue operating those “re-education” camps.
Colleagues, we all know what these camps are all about. They are simply and purely detention, indoctrination camps. The sole purpose of their existence is the rapidly effective assimilation of the ethnic and ethno-religious minorities within that region in order to suppress their identity, culture, religion and language. As it was reported by Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in her article, “Exposed: China’s Operating Manuals For Mass Internment And Arrest By Algorithm”: “The China Cables mark a significant advance in the world’s knowledge about the largest mass internment of an ethnic-religious minority since World War II.”. With the recent leak of those China Cables, we now have evidence that the international community needs to bring the People’s Republic of China to justice for what China is doing. Will the crimes stop if we only resort to dialogue and international diplomacy? I highly doubt it.
The detention, persecution and forced assimilation of the minority Muslim and other ethno-religious minorities has been going on for years, and doesn’t look like it will stop any time soon.
The harvesting of organs and the persecution of the Falun Gong has been going on for years now and it doesn’t seem it will stop.
The Tibetan people have suffered constant oppression and persecution for several years now and, again, there is still no sign that this will stop.
On top of that, there is Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians who have been illegally detained for a year now, without any access to legal counsel or family members.
Then there is “the forgotten Canadians” detained in China. For example, a Canadian citizen and former Uighur activist who fled China and came here as a refugee. While on a trip to Uzbekistan, he was arrested and handed over to Chinese authorities. Huseyin Celil has been unjustly imprisoned for 13 years now. Thirteen years of dialogue and international diplomacy. I could go on like this for hours and hours.
Colleagues, these are the things that we know of, can you only imagine what else we know nothing about? How many more years should we wait before dialogue and international diplomacy bring real results? Time is of the essence and at some point dialogue and international diplomacy do not advance the cause. Why should the world tolerate such oppression, injustice, inhumanity and cruelty?
Time is running out, and at some point, dialogue and international diplomacy will run into a dead end. Why should the entire world tolerate such oppression, injustice, inhumanity and cruelty?
As a nation, Canada has always been and always will be a champion in the fight for democracy, freedom, basic human rights and the rule of law. As Canadians, we deeply cherish these values and hold them dear. They are deeply entrenched in us, flow through our veins and are part of our DNA.
Why should we depart from them? Why should we bury our heads in the sand and pretend that these terrible atrocities will suddenly disappear like magic one day through dialogue and international diplomacy? Incidentally, those things have not achieved anything so far.
We, as parliamentarians, cannot stand idle on these issues of grave concern. I repeat the statement from Senator Housakos. He said, “We are either defenders of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, or we are not.” It’s time for the Government of Canada to take immediate action and stand up to China. Senator Housakos also says Canada imposes sanctions on Russia, Myanmar and so on. Why shouldn’t this sanction be imposed upon Chinese and Hong Kong officials? Why should they get a different treatment? There is too much at stake for Canada to continue to be a bystander.
At some point the Government of Canada needs to do the right thing. It’s now or never. We need to call on the Government of Canada to impose sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials pursuant to the Magnitsky law in light of the violations of human rights, the principles of fundamental justice and the rule of law in relation to the ongoing situation in Hong Kong and systemic persecution of minority Muslims in China.
That is exactly what our motion is calling for. We are calling for sanctions against those who repeatedly perpetrate human rights violations and who forcibly and illegally detain human beings in detention camps.
I hope you will support this extremely important motion. Thank you.