The Dutch House of Representatives on Thursday voted to recognize China’s abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in its Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) as genocide, becoming the first parliament in Europe to do so as pressure mounted on Western leaders to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
The non-binding motion, approved by a cross-party majority, follows a similar resolution passed by Canada’s House of Commons last week and an official designation of the situation in the region as genocide by the U.S. in January.
Authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps in the region since early 2017. Reports suggest the camps are used as punishment for signs of “extremism” that authorities say include practicing basic forms of Islam, adhering to cultural traditions, and violating strict family-planning policies.
Chinese officials have said the camps are centers for “vocational training,” but reporting by RFA’s Uyghur Service and other media outlets shows that detainees are mostly held against their will in cramped and unsanitary conditions, where they are forced to endure inhumane treatment—including systematic rape—and political indoctrination.
Amid increasing international scrutiny, authorities in the region have begun to send detainees to work at factories as part of an effort to label internment camps “vocational centers,” although those held in the facilities regularly toil under forced or coerced labor conditions.
Several other motions were proposed by the Dutch Parliament on Thursday, but failed to pass, including one requiring companies to review their China-based supply chains for risk of ties to forced labor and another banning the import of cotton products from the XUAR.
A third called for a refusal of the EU-China Investment on Agreement (CAI) without strong and enforceable human rights clauses, while a fourth called for the relocation of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
The Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) exile group welcomed the approval of Thursday’s motion and called on the Dutch government to adopt it and “work together with international allies to put an end to these crimes.”
“The recognition of the Dutch House of Representatives of the Uyghur genocide is most welcome,” WUC President Dolkun Isa said in a statement.
“It sets an important precedent in Europe for other European Parliamentary bodies to follow. It is key that the Dutch government follow suit and take appropriate action in coordination with international allies.”
The WUC expressed hope that national governments will see the recent designations and take an official stance on the situation in the XUAR.
Letter from lawmaker
The latest recognition of genocide by a foreign parliament followed a missive by U.S. Representative John Katko of New York calling on U.S. President Joe Biden to boycott the 2022 Olympics if they are held in Beijing, citing state-sponsored rights abuses in the XUAR.
In the Feb. 22 letter Katko, who is the ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Homeland Security, wrote that the U.S. must “stand up and defend its commitment to human rights and the rule of law that this country was founded upon and act immediately to curb ‘the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state.’”
“Participation in an Olympics held in a country that is openly committing genocide not only undermines those shared values but casts a shadow on the promise for all those who seek free and just societies,” the letter said.
Katko referenced reports of arbitrary detention, forced sterilization, torture of those detained, forced labor, and restrictions on the freedoms of religion, expression, and movement in the XUAR as reasons for why the U.S. should boycott the Games.
“The evidence is clear—the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is deliberately and systematically working to eliminate an entire population within its own borders,” he said.
“In doing so, it expects the rest of the world to be silent and, in the case of business operations and global supply chains, complicit in these actions. The United States simply cannot in good faith participate in an Olympic Games in a country that is committing genocide and continuously attempts to manipulate and lie to the global community about such atrocities.”
Katko called on Biden to work with allied nations in a unified movement to relocate the Games to a country “that actually lives up to the values of the Olympic Charter.”
Other calls to boycott
The lawmaker’s call on Biden to boycott the Olympics in Beijing was joined Thursday by former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who compared them to the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics in an op-ed carried by Fox News.
“The United States should boycott Beijing 2022 given China’s threats abroad and tyranny at home,” she wrote.
“Given Communist China’s direction, it could soon become what Nazi Germany was in the 1940s. It is not a country the United States should glorify through participation in the Winter Olympics.”
Haley said that China will claim participation in the Beijing Olympics by the U.S. and other nations as further proof of its world leadership, but a boycott would show that “actions have consequences.”
Canadian leaders have also pushed for a boycott or relocation of the Games, including more than a dozen federal lawmakers, thirteen Members of Parliament, and Olympic gold medalist Jean-Luc Brassard.