Canada’s House of Commons voted overwhelmingly to declare China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority population as genocide.
The motion – which went from 266 to 0 – was supported by all opposition parties and by a handful of lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Party.
Prime Minister Justice Trudeau and most of his cabinet abstained.
The motion makes Canada the second country after the United States to recognize China’s actions as genocide.
Lawmakers also voted to pass an amendment calling on Canada to ask the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing “if the Chinese government continues this genocide.”
China responded on Tuesday evening, saying it condemned and rejected Canada’s motion, according to a Reuters report. He quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin as allegedly saying that China had filed “harsh representations” to Canada.
Trudeau has so far hesitated to characterize China’s actions against Xinjiang’s Uyghur minority as genocide, calling the term “extremely charged” and saying that further consideration was needed before a decision could be made. .
Only one member of his cabinet, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau, appeared in Parliament for the vote. Speaking in the House of Commons, Garneau said he abstained “on behalf of the Government of Canada”.
Speaking ahead of the vote, Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole said the move was necessary to send a “clear and unequivocal signal that we will stand up for human rights and the dignity of human rights. man, even if it means sacrificing an economic opportunity ”.
In an open letter to Mr. Trudeau earlier this month, asking him to “stand up to China,” Mr. O’Toole noted the recent ban of BBC World News from China – a move that followed to a BBC report alleging systematic rape, sexual abuse and torture. in China’s “re-education” camps in Xinjiang.
Monday’s non-binding motion marks the latest escalation in Canada-China relations, which have deteriorated in recent years.
Chinese Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu previously told The Canadian Press that the motion “interferes with [China’s] domestic affairs “.
“We strongly oppose it because it goes against the facts,” he said. “There is nothing at all like genocide in Xinjiang.”
Rights groups estimate that China has detained up to a million Uyghurs in recent years in what the state defines as “re-education camps.”
BBC surveys suggest that Uyghurs are used as forced labor.
Canada’s symbolic motion does not outline the next steps, but says the Canadian government must follow the lead of its American neighbors.
Current and former U.S. Secretaries of State Anthony Blinken and Mike Pompeo have said China’s policy against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in the western Xinjiang region constitutes genocide.