Labour waters down ACT's Xinjiang 'genocide' parliamentary motion

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern comments on the Uyghur genocide at the China Business Summit

The Labour Party has successfully watered down a parliamentary motion that would have MPs label Beijing’s abuse of the Uyghur minority as “genocide”.

Instead, Stuff understands, the revised parliamentary motion will ask MPs to confirm “possible human rights abuses” are occurring.

The ACT Party has gained support from all political parties for the revised motion to be debated in the House, after deliberations on Tuesday afternoon.

The motion’s language has become weaker than that put forward by ACT last week, and does not even go as far as the Labour Government’s own statements asserting “severe human rights abuse” have been occurring against the Uyghur in China’s Xinjiang province.

ACT party deputy leader Brooke van Velden has submitted motion to Parliament that will ask MPs to debate and vote on human rights abuses of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, China.
ACT party deputy leader Brooke van Velden has submitted motion to Parliament that will ask MPs to debate and vote on human rights abuses of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang, China.

* Labour Party undecided on parliamentary motion on 'genocide' in Xinjiang, China
* ACT party will file motion asking Parliament to debate Xinjiang 'genocide'
* China puts pressure on shoe and clothing brands, sanctions US and Canadian officials over Xinjiang

ACT Party deputy leader Brooke van Velden, who submitted the motion to Parliament, said Labour would not support the motion unless “genocide” was removed from its wording.

“It’s a sad state of affairs that we’ve needed to soften our language to debate hard issues.

“But what I have done is to ensure that our Parliament is able to talk, debate, and discuss, the human rights abuses of the Uyghur people in China.”

Stuff Circuit's documentary Deleted exposes New Zealand business and political links to a Chinese company involved in human rights violations against Uyghurs and investigates the extrajudicial imprisonment of the brother of a Uyghur New Zealander.

Van Velden declined to confirm the exact wording of the new motion.

MPs from each party that make up Parliament’s business committee, which operates behind closed doors, convened on Tuesday afternoon to reach consensus on the motion’s wording. Under Parliament’s rules, the outcome cannot be made public until Wednesday morning.

ACT will put the motion forward in the House on Wednesday.

National Party foreign affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee said his party would support the motion, and he understood the motion would pass unanimously.

"This is an elegant way of the Parliament expressing the concerns that many New Zealanders have. It highlights those concerns, and indicates that as a Parliament, we're interested to see conditions improve for Uyghur people in Xinjiang,” he said.

National Party Foreign Affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee. (file photo)
National Party Foreign Affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee. (file photo)

Green Party foreign affairs spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman​ said the Green Party would support the motion through Parliament, though considered the abuse to go “well beyond human rights abuses”.

"Whether that's genocide or crimes against humanity will need proper investigation, but it certainly reaches the threshold for action and condemnation”.

Ghahraman said she was concerned the prior motion would be “politicise” the declaration of a genocide.

"We do think that that definitions of crimes should be up to judicial bodies and independent investigators. That's not possible, in this case, because China has locked out the international community.”

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman.
Green MP Golriz Ghahraman.

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said her party would support the motion “as it rightly draws attention to the suffering of the Uyghur people and the human rights abuses they are facing”.

“The attempted genocide of these communities is undeniable – more than a million people are estimated to have been detained at camps in the region of Xinjiang and many are suffering from horrible inhumane practices.”

The prime minister’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta declined to discuss how the Labour had decided to proceed on Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier on Tuesday, Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood said there were “credible reports” of human rights violations, however “the term genocide has a very specific meaning”.

“If you start playing fast and loose with a particular word with the significance of that one, you do potentially degrade it, so there have to be independent investigations into this.”

Trade Minister Damien O’Connor warned a parliamentary debate may damage trade with China.

“Clearly the Chinese Government wouldn't like something like that ... I have no doubt it would have some impact [with trade]. That's hardly rocket science,” he said.