Australia parliament debates Uighur rights abuses motion

Australia parliament debates Uighur rights abuses motion
The motion would urge Australia to act on allegations of forced labour.
2 min read
22 March, 2021
The Chinese embassy described the motion as 'ridiculous and absurd' [Getty]
Australia's parliament debated on Monday a motion to condemn "systematic" violations of human rights by China amid increasing international rebukes of the repression of Muslim minorities.

The discussion comes after legislators in Canada and the Netherlands last month passed non-binding motions describing Beijing's treatment of the Uighurs as a genocide.

"The most egregious, systematic abuse of human rights in the world is occurring in Xinjiang," said Kevin Andrews, an MP for the ruling Liberal Party.

Andrews' proposal would push Australia to enforce modern slavery laws and investigate allegations of forced labour in the supply chain.

At least a million Uighur and other Muslim ethnic minorities are held in China's vast network of detention camps in Xinjiang. There they reportedly face abuses including widespread forced labour programmes, rape and forced sterilisation.

The motion garnered support from members of all major Australian parties on Monday, Reuters reported. 

Anne Stanley, an MP for the Labour Party, said her constituency was home to many of Australia's 3,000-strong Uighur population.

"Most Australian Uighurs know someone who has disappeared or not been heard of for many years," said Stanley, who represents the Sydney area of Werriwa.

"Those here don't know whether they are alive or dead," she said.

It was not immediately clear when MPs would vote on the motion forwarded by Andrews.

The Chinese embassy in Australia slammed the "ridiculous and absurd rhetoric on Xinjiang" in parliament.

The MPs' "allegations, based on disinformation and lies and out of political motive, were deliberately made to smear China", the embassy claimed in a statement on Monday.

Lawmakers in the US and UK have also been urged to introduce legislation banning imports linked to alleged forced labour in Xinjiang.

Of particular concern is the texiles industry. Xinjiang produces more than 20 percent of the world's cotton.

The US introduced earlier this year a ban on imports in whole or in part of Xinjiang cotton, while the UK has said it will fine businesses working in China if they cannot prove their goods are not linked to forced labour.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected