New Zealand Lawmakers Pass Motion Condemning ‘Severe Human Rights Abuses’ in Xinjiang

The motion fell short of labeling the situation ‘genocide,’ as other Western nations have in recent months.

New Zealand Lawmakers Pass Motion Condemning ‘Severe Human Rights Abuses’ in Xinjiang

Lawmakers in New Zealand on Wednesday unanimously agreed that “severe human rights abuses” are taking place in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and called on the government to “work with all relevant instruments of international law to being these abuses to an end.”

The motion, put through the House of Representatives following a debate, follows the U.S. State Department’s designation in January of the situation in the XUAR as genocide—a term that has since been applied by parliaments in Canada, the Netherlands, and the U.K. A recent vote to adopt a similar resolution failed in Australia’s parliament.

While the vote represents the strongest move to date condemning rights abuses in the XUAR by New Zealand, whose economy and regional influence is dwarfed by nearby China, it fell short of labeling them part of a policy of genocide by Beijing. Members of the ruling Labour Party sought to have the term removed from the motion, which was initially proposed by the right-wing minority ACT party.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the passage of the motion, calling it “a statement that is strong and that is clear.”

Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, ACT Deputy Leader and Foreign Affairs spokesperson Brooke van Velden told members of the House that evidence of a genocide in the XUAR—where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since 2017—is “voluminous, from multiple sources, and credible.”

“It is also true that the Uyghur people have been engaged in terrorism across China,” she said.

“This should not be without consequence, but genocide is not a justifiable consequence for anything. It is certainly not justifiable to show ‘absolutely no mercy’ as [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] called for in the ‘People’s War on Terror’ centered on Xinjiang.”

Van Velden warned lawmakers that 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,” she said.

She noted that China must be recognized as a perpetrator of genocide under the 1949 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, citing a state-sponsored “intent to destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

Specifically, she pointed to acts carried out by authorities that include killings, causing serious bodily or mental harm, inflicting conditions calculated to bring about the destruction of a group, preventing births, and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

She also stressed that the vote should not suggest that New Zealand was seeking to punish China as a nation or its people, but rather to hold China’s ruling Communist Party government accountable for its actions in the XUAR.

A day earlier, she had expressed concern that the label was removed from Wednesday’s motion, calling it “a sad state of affairs that we need to soften our language to debate the hard issues.”

“New Zealand must assert ourselves and our values and not be picked on by one country,” she said.

“We cannot sit by as a democratic nation as a genocide is happening in one of our largest trading partners. It’s a matter of human rights.”

‘Watered down’ motion

Dolkun Isa, president of the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) welcomed the unanimous vote, but said he was troubled by the decision to omit the label of genocide from the motion.

“This is still a positive step in the right direction because all members of the New Zealand Parliament from across all parties have voted unanimously to recognize China’s severe human rights abuses of Uyghurs,” he told RFA’s Uyghur Service.

“We’re deeply grateful for the strong support of New Zealand. At the same time, we call on other democratic governments to break their silence and recognize China’s Uyghur genocide.”

Luke John de Pulford, a human rights campaigner who founded the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China along with political representatives from seven other democracies, told RFA that the originally proposed wording for the motion had mirrored what was passed by the U.K. parliament last month.

He said the approved version had been “watered down,” ostensibly because New Zealand either isn’t in “a comfortable enough place in their bilateral relationship to speak freely about what's happening in China” or that “they’re not comfortable with declaring these things as genocide and crimes against humanity without having had some kind of international investigation.”

“It is a step in the right direction, but New Zealand should not prioritize their bilateral relationship with China over speaking up their values,” he said, adding that the government should quickly move to take “corresponding actions” over the motion.

Jilil Kashgary and Alim Seytoff. Translated by Alim Seytoff. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Cambodia’s Hun Sen Pushes Vaccines, People Ask For Food

Many have been confined to their homes for weeks, and have been blocked from going out to make purchases needed to feed their families.

Cambodia’s Hun Sen Pushes Vaccines, People Ask For Food

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered military doctors to vaccinate the residents of Phnom Penh’s so-called red zones, areas of the city locked down amid a recent surge of COVID-19 infections, but residents forced to stay at home say their greatest need is food.

Many have been confined to their homes for weeks, and have been blocked from going out to make purchases needed to feed their families, one resident told RFA’s Khmer Service on Wednesday.

“I am begging the government to help us,” said Mong Koeun, who lives with his family in a rented room in Phnom Penh’s Sangkat Stung Meanchey district.

“If we can’t go out to do our daily work as usual, please help us with food or with money so that we can support ourselves,” he said, adding that he recently saw news of a distribution of food in the area, but that his family had been overlooked.

“We have been facing a great deal of hunger and malnutrition so far,” he said.

Mong Koeun’s comments came after Hun Sen ordered doctors this week to vaccinate all residents of red zones, with a voice message sent on May 5 to officials extending the time available for the task.

Nearly 150,000 have already been vaccinated in the red zones, and Cambodia now has enough vaccines available to inoculate at least 520,000 people more, Hun Sen said.

“Another 500,000 doses will arrive [from China] on May 11, and another 500,000 doses will come on May 15. So we will have an additional million doses on hand,” Hun Sen said, adding that residents should observe social distancing when going to get their vaccines.

Non-residents should also not enter the red zones to get vaccines for themselves, he added.

Weeks of lockdowns in Phnom Penh have hurt the city’s poor the most, said Sum Samon, director of the Urban Poor Women’s Development Organization (UPWD). Government has been slow to act, and red-zone residents have been begging for help every day, she said.

“Another problem has been a lack of the things needed to guard against infection, as the poor don’t have enough money to buy hand sanitizer or masks that need to be regularly changed,” she said.

Call for access

In a May 5 statement, New York-based Human Rights Watch called on Cambodian authorities to immediately grant unrestricted red-zone access to United Nations agencies and other aid groups, and to end “abusive police enforcement of public health measures.”

“Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government is failing to meet its obligations during the pandemic lockdown to protect poor and vulnerable communities,” said HRW Asia director Brad Adams.

“The government should immediately allow UN agencies and aid groups full access so they can help hungry people with food, health care, and other essentials necessary for their survival,” Adams said.

In neighboring Laos, 46 new cases of COVID-19 infection were recorded on May 5, with 19 reported in the capital Vientiane, 15 reported in Bokeo province, six reported in Champassak, and six reported in Savannakhet.

A total of 1,072 cases of COVID-19 infection have now been reported in Laos since the pandemic began, with 99 patients recovered, 973 still receiving medical care, and no deaths reported.

The Lanxang indoor sports complex at Donekoy village in the Sisattanak district of Vientiane has meanwhile been turned into one of three makeshift hospitals now operating in the capital.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer and Lao Services. Translated by Sok Ry Sum and Max Avary. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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