Australian Uighurs are urging all federal MPs to support a bipartisan motion in Parliament on Monday which criticises China for “serious and systematic breaches of human rights” in Xinjiang.
The government has allowed debate on the motion put forward by veteran Liberal MP Kevin Andrews and Labor MP Chris Hayes, which will mark the strongest ever condemnation by the Australian Parliament of the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighurs.
One of the centres housing Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region. Credit:AP
The motion urges the United Nations to investigate Beijing for its re-education camps and calls on the Australian government to ensure the country is not profiteering off forced labour in Xinjiang.
The Chinese government has repeatedly denied accusations of human rights abuses, including genocide, in the far western province.
Independent senator Rex Patrick last week accused the Australian government of failing to call out China’s mistreatment of Uighurs after it blocked his attempt to push through a Senate motion that would have recognised the Chinese government’s actions against the Muslim minority as “genocide”.
While not going that far, the resolution to debated on Monday acknowledges parliaments and governments of other countries – including Britain, Netherlands, the United States and Canada – have recently said China’s actions in Xinjiang amount to genocide under international law.
The Australian Uighur Association’s Bahtiyar Bora said all members of Parliament should support the new motion and demand the Australian government “take much stronger action on what many believe is genocide taking place in plain sight”.
“At least one million innocent civilians have been locked up for no reason in a network of several hundred prisons,” he said. “This is beyond the usual leftright divide – this is about basic human dignity and the future of the entire Uighur population.”
Ramila Chanisheff from Australian Uighur Tangritagh Women’s Association said democratic nations such as Australia had a duty to call out China for its actions.
“The Chinese government has also separated thousands of children from their parents and placed them in special orphanages, in order to indoctrinate them,” she said.
Private members’ motions do not normally go to a vote, but it has been given an hour of allocated time for debate from 10.15am .
Mr Andrews said there was “mounting evidence” of the Chinese government mistreating Uighurs.
Earlier this year the BBC reported first-hand accounts of systematic rape, sexual abuse and torture in Uighur detention camps.
Philip Citowicki, who was a policy adviser to former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, said the motion was a reminder that many federal MPs were deeply concerned about the situation in Xinjiang.
″This bipartisan motion was long in the making and acts as a release valve for many MPs who have wanted to speak up but have been rightly carefully managed by governments and its desire to limit commentary outside of the control senior officials,” he said.
“Airing their grievances on the floor of the house offers an opportunity for many MPs to push the conversation on a recognition of genocide and similarly speak out as other parliaments around the world have….Without a doubt, the government would be very mindful of just how this would play out diplomatically and seek to carefully manage escalating tensions.”
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