The Dutch Parliament on Thursday passed a non-binding motion declaring that China’s ongoing detention of Uyghur Muslims in internment camps amounts to genocide.
The Netherlands is one of only three nations to have made such a declaration against China. The US led the pack, with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo having issued a statement on January 19, in which he determined that China was in the midst of committing genocide against the Uyghurs and other ethnic minority groups, and called for the cessation of all persecutory and cruel treatment in the Xinjiang region. The Canadian House of Commons passed a similar resolution last Monday.
The Dutch and Canadian motions both state that China has been engaging in acts governed by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The convention declares that genocide, “whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law,” and defines it as:
acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
According to rights groups, up to one million people are currently being held in “transformation-through-education” camps in China’s Xinjiang region, the majority of whom are Uyghur Muslims. The prisoners are reportedly being subjected to political indoctrination, enforced disappearances, destruction of cultural sites, forced labor, and coercive birth prevention campaigns and policies including involuntary abortions and sterilizations.
In a statement published on Friday, the Chinese embassy in the Netherlands maintained that “genocide in Xinjiang is an outright lie,” and accused Dutch parliament members of using the issue as “leverage for political gains.” The embassy “strongly urge[d] these parliament members with ulterior motives to stop their wrongdoing before it’s too late.”
As pressure to take a tougher stance against China continues to mount in the UK and France, it remains to be seen whether other European nations will follow the Netherlands’ suit.