Evidence of meeting #122 for Subcommittee on International Human Rights in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was chinese.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Chair  Ms. Anita Vandenbeld (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.)
Farida Deif  Canada Director, Human Rights Watch Canada
Adrian Zenz  As an Individual

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Zenz, would you like to expand on on how you think we should be immediately responsive?

1:30 p.m.

As an Individual

Adrian Zenz

My suggestion is to really come on board with other governments, to try to make joint statements with other governments, because I see that as much more effective than unilateral action. Although Canada by itself taking steps is of course also necessary and helpful, I highly recommend multilateral action, working with other governments.

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Do you have any recommendations about how we can establish the credibility of the numbers we're hearing for these detention camps and of what is occurring inside them? We have conflicting information. Is there something that really quickly you can recommend to us?

1:35 p.m.

Canada Director, Human Rights Watch Canada

Farida Deif

Short of having access to Xinjiang and access to files, it is very difficult to completely confirm the numbers. What we have called on governments to do, including this government, is to work together in a concerted way with other governments that are concerned about the human rights abuses happening in Xinjiang, to call for an independent UN mechanism to be able to enter Xinjiang to investigate the abuses there and determine the scale of the abuses as well. If that's done in a concerted way with many other governments, it might have success.

1:35 p.m.

Ms. Anita Vandenbeld (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.)

The Chair

That is our time, so we'll move to Mr. Tabbara for five minutes.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to the witnesses for being here.

My question will be towards the judicial system within China. Could you comment on whether there may be a two-tier system within the judiciary there for Chinese citizens and for Uighurs?

You mentioned, Ms. Deif, that there was no access to a lawyer. Mr. Zenz, you mentioned that officials denied the existence of these camps. If this were taken into trial or into a court, what would be the outcome, if you're not able to get access to a lawyer?

If these institutions are not strong, who's left to defend the Uighurs?

1:35 p.m.

As an Individual

Adrian Zenz

The so-called re-education, if I may start out, is inherently an extrajudicial procedure. It's an administrative detention determined by public security authorities without the involvement of the courts. There are no court proceedings and also no ways to appeal or to even know what the charge is, and there's no conviction; hence no conviction can be appealed either.

This is the very reason for which the Chinese government itself eventually decided to abolish the nationwide “re-education through labour” system. Local police authorities could easily abuse the system to simply put dissidents or anybody they did not particularly like into a re-education facility.

In Xinjiang we now have rejuvenation of this same system, likely on a larger scale and with greater intensity, and the Uighurs or other Muslims who are interned have no right of appeal. Of course, the issue in Xinjiang is also that even if you were formally censored, even if you were to go through formal proceedings, there is evidence that even so you would have very little recourse to a fair trial. That, however, is a different matter and not the explicit focus of my research.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marwan Tabbara Liberal Kitchener South—Hespeler, ON

Ms. Deif, could you comment as well?

1:35 p.m.

Canada Director, Human Rights Watch Canada

Farida Deif

I think it is inherently a two-tier system at all levels, a very repressive, abusive two-tier system that has instilled an enormous amount of fear among the Uighur community in China and across Xinjiang. I can't really speak to the judicial processes, because again, as my colleague said, these are all extrajudicial mechanisms, around which the Chinese government has tried to create a kind of veneer of legality, but it doesn't really stand up to the facts.

I would say, in terms of that two-tier system, that a few other issues are important to note. Even when we speak about checkpoints and increased surveillance in Xinjiang, there are checkpoints inside the area, in which the Han Chinese will go in one way in a sort of “fast pass area” for Chinese tourists who might be visiting the province, while if you are an ethnic Uighur or other Turkic Muslim you are forced through a different checkpoint area in which there are retinal scans and all kinds of other biometrics employed. At every level, then, it is a two-tiered system.

1:35 p.m.

Ms. Anita Vandenbeld (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.)

The Chair

Thank you.

We'll move on to to Mr. Sweet.

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Thank you very much, Chair.

I want to take the opportunity to say to Dr. Zenz that I greatly appreciate his work.

I think you know that we gave the Dalai Lama honorary citizenship here in Canada. I moved that motion in the House of Commons. I notice that you've done quite a bit of work exposing the plight of Tibetans. I greatly appreciate that.

I'd like to pose to you the same question that was answered by Human Rights Watch, which Ms. Khalid asked.

Do you have any evidence, or have there been any reports of the Uighurs being subjected to the same treatment that the Falun Gong have been subjected to, as far as organ harvesting is concerned?

1:40 p.m.

As an Individual

Adrian Zenz

I have mainly focused on researching official government documents, but also have had statements from informants. I myself have not been able to ascertain evidence on organ harvesting. I have also not particularly attempted to research it. I therefore cannot really comment on that matter.

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Okay. Thank you.

I forget which witness mentioned taking a multilateral approach. Dr. Zenz, I think you did.

I'm wondering about the motivation of the League of Arab States. Have there been any statements from there? Has any one of the member countries or have any of the members taken some leadership on this, particularly because of the Uighurs being a Muslim minority group in China? Have you heard of anything along those lines, so that Canada could work with any of those members?

1:40 p.m.

As an Individual

Adrian Zenz

Muslim governments have been surprisingly silent on the matter—various sources have speculated as to the reasons, which are probably complex—with the exception of the Malaysian government, which also moved to criticize the belt and road initiative and has been a lot more forthcoming in its perception of China.

The Malaysian government might, then, be an option. Other Muslim governments have been very disappointing in failing to take a public stance on the matter. It might be advisable to point this fact out and not to let it simply pass by, since, as you correctly pointed out, many other nations have large or majority Muslim populations.

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Yes.

Prior to this study, the one that seized us the longest concerned another large Muslim community, the Rohingya, who have been severely persecuted and of course have been driven from their homes as well. Not many nations have come to their defence either.

What about Human Rights Watch? Did you want to respond to the question that I put to Dr. Zenz?

1:40 p.m.

Canada Director, Human Rights Watch Canada

Farida Deif

I think there are certainly members of the organisation of Islamic states that might be able to partner with Canada and different allies to move on this.

I would also stress that there are a number of rights-respecting governments that are deeply concerned by what's happening in Xinjiang. Canada can partner with them—doing so provides a level of political cover, in a way—either through the United Nations Human Rights Council or at the General Assembly, to push forward resolutions that would denounce what's happening in Xinjiang, denounce the persecution of religious minorities.

Canada has always been a champion on this issue and on human rights in China. Our colleagues in our China team have had very strong relationships with the embassy, the Canadian consulate in Beijing. Generally, from a private diplomacy perspective Canada is quite strong on raising these issues, on connecting with human rights defenders, on raising human rights issues.

As my fellow witness has mentioned, however, this sort of private, backdoor diplomacy has limitations. Really, at this point, given the scale and severity of abuses, there needs to be a concerted public outcry by a number of concerned states, including Canada.

1:40 p.m.

Ms. Anita Vandenbeld (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.)

The Chair

Thanks very much.

We now go to Mr. Fragiskatos.

October 18th, 2018 / 1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you to the witnesses.

My question goes to Professor Zenz. I'm interested in learning as much as I can about what is actually taking place on the ground and about some of the underlying dynamics.

This question is certainly not to excuse what is taking place. I think we're all horrified to hear what has apparently transpired, but I want to know a little bit more about the nature and goal of Uighur activism.

Is it cultural in nature, in terms of securing greater cultural freedoms for the Uighur people? Is it political in nature, so that the goal would be cultural freedom plus political autonomy within a united China? Or is there an underpinning of an independence sentiment that drives it?

What do you have to say to that, sir?

1:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Adrian Zenz

I'm sorry, your first question was about what goes on inside the re-education camps?

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

No. I said I want to know as much as I can, as an observer, about what is taking place on the ground, and then I pivoted to ask about the nature of Uighur political activism. I think you heard that part of the question, did you?

1:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Adrian Zenz

Yes, I was just wondering if these are two distinct questions.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

No, they're not. The nature of political activism is my question.

1:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Adrian Zenz

Okay. There have been various degrees and types of discontent among Uighurs on the ground in China over the course of history. There was a particular incident in the 1990s in a particular area of Xinjiang, which was related to access to religious freedom.

After the Cultural Revolution, during which of course religious freedom was greatly suppressed, there became a greater space for this. As part of a clash between what the authorities perceived as an overuse of religious freedom, the Uighurs responded with writing, to an extent. This also has employment ramifications.

Uighur activism has been portrayed as religious terrorism. More recently, this portrayal has an aspect of truth to it, because Uighurs, to an extent, were radicalized and influenced. Some went to Syria, and some swore to take revenge for what has been done to their people.

However, it is highly necessary to see all of this as part of a much bigger picture. There are various types of discontent among normal people on the ground in Xinjiang, and they have responded in very different ways. Some of them, of course, have responded with violence, not necessarily only religiously motivated, but also politically and economically motivated.

That would be a succinct answer to your question.

Beyond that I would say that it's not been my particular area of expertise to study in detail the nature of Uighur separatism.

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Ms. Deif, do you have anything to add to that?

1:45 p.m.

Canada Director, Human Rights Watch Canada

Farida Deif

Yes, I would just say that over the past five years there have been a number of violent incidents involving Uighur or suspected Uighur perpetrators, but it's really important to note that the “Strike Hard” campaign's broad mandate to punish and control all of the Muslims in Xinjiang can't really be justified in the name of public safety.

The stated goals of the “Strike Hard” campaign are state security, ethnic unity and social stability, but we know very well that these are overly broad terms that the Chinese government often uses to crack down on any political expression.