ACT Party Files Motion to Decide Uyghur Genocide

Writer: Lois

New Zealand’s ACT Party now has Green Party support for a Parliamentary motion to vote and decide whether the government should classify the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Uyghur abuse as genocide. 

Labour remains reserved about the motion. However, the term “genocide” was deleted from the parliamentary motion following Labour’s request for ACT to soften its language. According to Parliament’s Final Order Paper released on Wednesday morning, the revised motion requests MPs to consider the possibility of “severe human rights abuses” in China’s Xinjiang province.

Members of Uyghur Solidarity Aotearoa NZ have called this revision a farce and criticised MPs who opposed using the term “genocide.”

ACT Deputy Leader and Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman Brooke van Velden filed the motion last week. The document requires each House MP’s support before it can be debated. If even a single MP objects to debate, the motion will be defeated. However, if all agree, then each party will be allowed to express their position. Finally, the Speaker of the House will request all to show whether they support the motion. A majority vote in favour would result in the motion becoming the position of Parliament.

The Labour Party and National Party have yet to decide their position on the motion at the caucus.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern remained hesitant to label Communist China’s crimes against the Uyghurs as genocide.

“What will be discussed today is a response to a very particular issue of whether or not genocide should be declared,” she stated.

“The international community and New Zealand have been calling for unfettered access for individuals to go in and establish if that is indeed happening.”

The Prime Minister cited the international laws and requirements surrounding the term. However, she reiterated that any decision would not contradict Labour’s current strong stance against human rights abuses and the need for an independent investigation of Xinjiang’s situation.

According to the 1948 United Nations genocide convention, genocide is defined as an act intended to destroy any national, ethnic, racial or religious group during times of both war and peace.

Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman stated her party’s support of the motion.

“We have long been raising concerns about human rights abuses accruing in the Xinjiang Uighur region. We are calling for meaningful action to raise this issue internationally,” she said.

The Green Party has further requested all trade details connected to Xinjiang slave labour from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Minister for Trade and Export Growth Damien O’Connor emphasised the potential damage of any declarations on New Zealand’s trade relations, particularly with China. 

Meanwhile, ACT Party leader David Seymour states New Zealand should forget trade and declare China’s genocide of the Uyghur people.

“If that’s true [declaring genocide will damage trade relations], we’re in much bigger trouble than we realise, and it would be more dangerous to acquiesce than it would be to practice our values,” he said.

“Damien O’Connor is basically saying that if we practice open, free democracy, then it will make us poorer. If that is true, then I think that we have a much more precarious position as a country than previously realised.”

National Party leader Judith Collins has also requested the government to be transparent with MPs about the details it holds on the matter.

Ms Collins added that New Zealand is a sovereign nation that should make its own decisions, including consideration for trade.

“About 30 per cent [of trade] goes to China. It is the elephant in the room when we discuss issues like this,” she said.

Alexander Gillespie, a Waikato University law professor, has said politician involvement at this stage was probably not ideal as it brings political risks for the government, including trade retaliation from China. However, the professor believes a Labour block vote would lower the party’s reputation.

“At a time of New Zealand is being accused of being too cuddly to China, it would look terrible. . .What you want is the UN experts to make such a determination – not politicians.”

Mr Gillespie said nations should make their declarations after the next six months if the United Nations investigation is continually denied. He also suggested New Zealand could send an independent investigation team to probe the situation.

China continues to retaliate against and deny all allegations of genocide, claiming it is fighting separatism and Islamist extremism in Xinjiang.

Newstalk ZB. (May 4, 2021). David Seymour: We shouldn’t care about trade and declare a genocide in China.
https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/heather-du-plessis-allan-drive/audio/david-seymour-we-shouldnt-care-about-trade-and-declare-a-genocide-in-china/.

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