NZ Parliament passes motion on 'severe human rights abuses' of Uyghurs in China

New Zealand's Parliament today agreed it was "gravely concerned about the severe human rights abuses taking place against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities" in Xinjiang, China, calling on the Government to work with the UN and other countries to end the abuses. 

New Zealand's Parliament debating chamber.

It comes after a back-and-forth around the wording of ACT's proposal after it was diluted, according to the party's deputy leader Brooke van Velden, by the Labour Party to remove the word 'genocide'. 

ACT's Brooke van Velden: 

Van Velden spoke of the original motion having to be diluted and softened "to gain the approval of New Zealand’s Governing party". 

"The Parliaments of Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands have all passed motions condemning the Chinese Communist Party for genocide. The United States Federal Government has done so twice," she said.

"The world is looking to us now to see what standard we are going to set. Can the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) play us off as the weakest link in the Western Alliance. Will we abandon our longest standing ally across the ditch if enough carrot and stick is applied?"

She said it was intolerable for Parliament to "ignore reality and oppose this motion out of fear" for trade repercussions. 

"Genocide does not require a war. It does not need to be sudden, it can be slow and deliberate, and that is what is happening here."

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta:

Nanaia Mahuta said the New Zealand Government would continue "to call upon China in the strongest terms, to provide meaningful and unfettered access to the United Nations and the independent observers to ascertain the situation in Xinjiang". 

"While the New Zealand Government has grave concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, we have not formally designated the situation as constituting a genocide," she said.

"This is not due to a lack of concern. Genocide is the gravest of international crimes, and a formal, legal determination should only be reached following a rigorous assessment on the basis of international law." 

"International Courts have required fully conclusive evidence before reaching a conclusion of genocide. New Zealand has not previously made an independent determination of genocide."

National's Todd Muller:

Muller spoke of the strong relationship between New Zealand and China, adding it was the "depth of those personal relationships that will guide us through this difficult conversation".

"New Zealand is known for its willingness to walk softly among the hard paths of geopolitics, but we walk our own path," he said.

"We speak with our own voice and we speak it to those we believe should hear us, but we do not seek to grandstand, but neither do we shirk from uncomfortable conversations and today this House speaks in one voice, with our concerns of severe human rights abuses in China."

"We share one planet, and there are fundamental tenants of humanity that should not be constrained by borders, or political systems or ideologies. 

Green Party's Golriz Ghahraman:

Golriz Ghahraman attempted to have van Velden's motion returned to its original wording which include declaring Uyghurs "are suffering crimes against humanity and genocide". The attempt was unsuccessful and was not voted on.  

"I rise today, as an indigenous Kurdish woman, who has suffered what I would characterise in my own region as amounting to at least crimes against humanity, to ethnic cleansing, and perhaps to genocide," she said.

"I was deeply disappointed to hear leadership from both major political parties refer to trade as a consideration for them when they were discussing whether or not they would allow a motion using the word 'genocide' when they were talking about the mass torture.

"Extrajudicial detention is sterilisation and slavery of some one million people. That was stunningly callous.

"It was absolutely morally indefensible and it is a breach of New Zealand's legal obligations, our absolute responsibility to support an international rules - based order, where we uphold not only human rights but where we condemn, help to prosecute, punish, and prevent atrocity crimes, because we know that mass crimes like this are an absolute threat to international peace and security to all of our dignity, all of our human rights."

"We owe the victims action and we owe victims across the globe that same condemnation and action ... We owe it to the people of Aotearoa New Zealand to be on the right side of history."

Te Paati Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer:

"I stand as a descendant of Parihaka , a descendant of muru raupatu. The depth of pain of genocide can never be explained," Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said.

"The deliberate killing of a large number of people from particular or ethnic groups with the one aim of destroying or wiping out that nation or group is deplorable."

Ngarewa-Packer said today's motion was about "making sure that we use our sphere of influence to bring to attention that more than a million people are estimated to have been detained at internment camps in the regions, and many are suffering from rape; abuse; horrible, inhumane practices such as organ harvesting; mass torture; slavery; forcible removals".

"We must condemn these actions for what they are. We must make sure that we never lose sight of those who have been our whanaunga, those who we have living beside us."