I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number five of the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Pursuant to the motion adopted by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on February 20, 2020, today is the second meeting of the subcommittee on its study of the human rights situation of the Uighurs.
Today's witnesses are appearing by video conference and proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website.
Interpretation in this video conference will work very much as in regular committee meetings. You have the choice at the bottom of your screen of “Floor”, “English” or “French”. As you are speaking, if you plan to alternate from one language to the other, you will need to also switch the interpretation channel so it aligns with the language you are speaking. You might want to allow for a short pause when switching languages.
When speaking, please speak slowly and clearly. When you are not speaking, your mike should be on mute. Should any technical challenges arise, such as in relation to interpretation or a problem with your audio, please advise the chair immediately and the technical team will work to resolve the problem.
Before we begin, we would like to emphasize our focus on Uighurs. Several of our witnesses we've heard from are experts in human rights in general, and some will be here with an emphasis on China. There are and will be opportunities through future meetings of this committee and other government committees to address many issues in respect to China and other human rights issues. I say this because our witnesses are here to share their expertise on Uighurs, so to reiterate, the focus is on Uighurs.
I commend all our witnesses from yesterday's meeting. They were truly amazing. We had experts, we had advocates, we had academics. We had personal stories of courage and bravery. We thank them for coming forward.
I now welcome today's witnesses. For this panel, we have from the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign, the head, William Browder; as an individual, Olga Alexeeva, sinologist and professor of contemporary Chinese history, from the Université du Québec at Montreal; Azeezah Kanji, legal academic and journalist; and Errol Mendes, professor of law and president of the International Commission of Jurists Canada.
Clerk, I believe that is the order in which we will be going.
Mr. Browder, you will start off. You will have six minutes to address us with your opening statement and then we'll move to members' questions.
You may begin.
Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for giving me this opportunity to address you today on the shocking persecution of the Uighur minority in China.
I come to this from a slightly different angle than other people on the panel and other people who have testified. Some of you may know me. For many years I've been coming to Ottawa to advocate to pass the Magnitsky act in Canada. My background is that I was in Russia for many years. Sergei Magnitsky was my lawyer. He uncovered a massive case of corruption, exposed it, and was, in retaliation, arrested, tortured and killed. I came up with this idea of the Magnitsky act, which would freeze the assets and ban the visas.
I came first to the United States, and they passed the Magnitsky act in 2012. I then came to Canada. Canada passed the Magnitsky act in 2017. Now, in total, there are seven countries with Magnitsky acts.
The Magnitsky act is quite a powerful tool in dealing with human rights abuse. It used to be that 40 years ago people like the Khmer Rouge didn't go on vacation to Saint-Tropez, but now you have people from all these different countries who commit human rights abuses travelling to foreign countries, buying property, doing all sorts of things. It becomes a way of creating consequences in a situation where the world didn't have consequences before.
As a result of this, I have been approached in numerous countries by numerous people about numerous issues. About two and a half years ago, I was in Washington, D.C., working on implementing getting more people sanctioned under the Magnitsky act. I was asked by a U.S. official who was involved in the Uighur situation if I could spend half an hour meeting with a member of the Uighur community who this person thought I should meet. I agreed to the meeting and ended up meeting a woman named Gulchehra Hoja.
Gulchehra is a Uighur. She lives in Washington, D.C., and she works for an organization called Radio Free Asia, which is a U.S.-funded media organization that reports on things going on in Asia without any interference from the Chinese government. She works on the Uighur language service. Gulchehra sat down with me and she told me her story. It was quite remarkable. She was the first person to be able to interview somebody coming out of the Uighur concentration camps. She interviewed a woman who had come out of a camp and told the story of what had happened. In retaliation for telling that story, 25 members of her family were arrested in China and put into these concentration camps.
Hearing that story, I didn't know anything about these concentration camps before, and so I started to work with her to hear what was going on and get more information. As I'm sure many members of the panel will present today, I learned about the forced sterilization of women. I learned about the way in which literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people were being arrested. I learned about the forced separation of children from their families. It's become obvious to me that this is probably the most significant human rights issue that we currently face in the world.
In addition to my personal contact with Gulchehra, I'm a descendent of a Holocaust refugee. My mother had to flee Vienna during the Holocaust. To see that we have a genocide that is effectively taking place right before our eyes when we all said, “never again”, I feel compelled to do what I can for the Uighur people, and for Gulchehra and other victims.
The one thing we can do again, or we can do in this situation, is apply Magnitsky sanctions on the officials in China who are perpetrating this abuse. This is exactly why the Magnitsky act was created. The United States has imposed sanctions using the Magnitsky act on four Chinese officials, including a member of the politburo, and I'm scratching my head and wondering why Canada, which has the Magnitsky act specifically for this purpose, doesn't apply those sanctions right now.
I'm here today to strongly advocate for Canada to join the United States in sanctioning the Chinese officials responsible for this and hopefully expand that sanctions list so that many more people in China who are perpetrating this genocide are held responsible.
Thank you very much.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you today about the political context surrounding the repression of Uighurs in China.
As you know, since 2017, hundreds of thousands of Uighurs have been detained in so-called re-education centres, which the Chinese authorities claim is intended to combat Muslim extremism. In fact, the opening of these camps is only the latest in a very long series of repressive measures adopted by the Chinese government against Uighurs.
The autonomous region of Xinjiang, where the majority of Uighurs live, was only integrated into the Chinese space in the 19th century. Since that time, the Uighurs have been fighting against Chinese assimilation practises, and this struggle is today led by multiple independence movements, violent or not, based on various ideologies, notably “Pan-Turkism,” the movement for democracy and radical Islamism. They all share the same objective: to establish an independent Uighur state in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang has therefore always been a control challenge for Beijing, but since the 1990s, the Uighurs' struggle for independence has intensified. Many factors explain these developments. As a historian, I could go on for hours explaining them to you, but I think the main reason is that the Uighurs now feel marginalized on their own territory. More and more Chinese migrants are now coming to Xinjiang. They are monopolizing arable land and water resources and taking advantage of government aid to set up businesses, while the Uighurs are getting poorer.
The Chinese also predominate in local government. The feeling of being dominated by China for the benefit of the Chinese and at their expense has generated, as you can imagine, a very deep sense of unease among the Uighurs. This frustration has quickly turned into protest, which is normal, and it takes different forms in Xinjiang, from bombings and spontaneous riots to student demonstrations and peaceful activism by Uighur activists who have fled abroad.
Nevertheless, Beijing qualifies all these actions as terrorist acts inspired by the international Islamist movement. According to Beijing, the existence of some Uighur Jihadist groupings with links to al-Qaeda thus legitimizes the intensification of repression in Xinjiang. This hardening is reflected in thousands of arrests and the trivialization of torture and ill-treatment of Uighur prisoners.
In response, as you may know, a new wave of deadly attacks occurred in China in 2013 and 2014. These attacks, in particular the attack on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, have had a thunderbolt effect among the Chinese leadership, who now see the Uighur problem as a threat to national stability. In their view, this justifies the authoritarian takeover of the entire Uighur population and no longer just militants, sympathizers or people whom they describe as terrorists.
Starting in 2014, the number of Chinese law enforcement personnel patrolling Xinjiang territory has been increased. There are now more than 100,000 Chinese law enforcement personnel. Cameras with facial and voice recognition tools have been installed throughout the country to track people and vehicles everywhere, including in rural areas. Biometric data collection, including DNA, has also been initiated for the entire Uighur population. It is understood that these surveillance measures are extremely intrusive. The problem is that they are also accompanied by arbitrary arrests, house searches, confiscation of passports and bans on certain religious practices. At the same time, more than 20 internment camps have also been opened throughout the Xinjiang region. The criteria for sending people to these camps are arbitrary and unclear.
It is enough to possess an unapproved edition of the Koran, to abstain from drinking alcohol, to do Ramadan or to travel too often to Turkey or Egypt to find oneself in one of these camps for an indefinite period of time. Indeed, the legal procedures are also very opaque.
The Uighurs are now subjected to repressive practices. They have been victimized for decades, but the scale of the current repression is unprecedented. More than 1 million Uighurs, or 10% of the population, are now being held in camps in Xinjiang. In Beijing’s view, this strategic region, which is rich in natural resources, would be an inalienable part of the country’s territory. It is inconceivable for Beijing to renounce it or to grant its people any kind of autonomy. It must also be said that the instability in Xinjiang poses risks to the Chinese project. As is well known, the New Silk Road is very dear to Xi Jinping’s heart.
This very serious, very tense and very particular political context places Uighurs in an impasse. It feeds the breeding ground for resentment and hatred towards the authorities in Beijing and the Chinese in general. In my opinion, the harshness of the repression could only push young activists, frustrated by this incredible injustice, to opt for a more violent approach. Therefore, one can only imagine that, in the long term, this policy may lead to conflict.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you for the invitation.
We are witnessing in Xinjiang, China, what we had hoped would never happen again after the Second World War. I'm talking about the detention of over a million Uighurs. This is an ethnic and religious group on whom we are witnessing enforced birth control efforts by the Chinese government to reduce the numbers of this group. While the Chinese claim that these are vocational and training camps, there are credible reports that these camps include enforced propaganda sessions, forced labour and physical abuse, and some are alleging even deaths.
There is no one who is excluded. I want to give you an example of a leading Muslim female professor who I had gotten to know during my many years of doing research in China. Gulazat Tursun is a professor of law and was a supervisor of Ph.D. students at Sichuan University. She was one of the well-known international academics focusing on human rights. She was a visitor at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at Harvard University and Denmark's Danish Institute for Human Rights. Despite these credentials, she was basically detained in one of those camps, and to this day we are not certain whether she has been released or not.
Others have had an even worse fate. One academic may be facing the ultimate fate. Dr. Tashpolat Tiyip, a renowned scholar of geography and a former president of Xinjiang University, was suspected of being at risk of execution as he faced the end of a two-year reprieve of his death sentence, according to the Scholars at Risk Network in September of 2019. We haven't heard about his fate either.
I agree with my friend, former justice minister Irwin Cotler, that we should join the U.S. and other countries who have imposed targeted sanctions against the key figures in Xinjiang who are the major planners for the mass detention. I have suggested that the Magnitsky sanctions should target the architects of the detention, and I give names. I suggest the governor of Xinjiang, Shohrat Zakir and the region's party chief, Chen Quanguo, who is a member of the politburo of the party at the highest ranks of the Chinese government.
There are others, but these two, I think, are the chief planners of the detention. Both have asserted that these allegations of what amount to serious international crimes, which I would like to talk about, against the Uighurs are fabricated lies and absurd. In fact, Zakir goes even further by describing the camps as boarding schools where the rights of the students are protected.
In 2017, Parliament passed the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, which implements the Magnitsky sanctions and which targets specific officials in terms of freezes and travel bans and also freezes their assets. Similar laws, as my friend Bill Browder has said, have been adopted by the U.S and other European countries. Now the European Union, thanks to his championship, has also considered expanding the Magnitsky sanctions across the European Union.
As is known, Bill was one of the major champions for this provision because his own lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was murdered by Russian officials. I had the privilege of assisting in a minor way in having Bill come up to Canada and promote the adoption of the Magnitsky law here in Canada.
I would like to briefly address the views of another legal colleague who is also the next ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Rae. In an interview with the Globe and Mail, he stated that the Canadian government must consider the consequences of imposing sanctions on senior government officials for human rights violations against minority groups.
While I agree with him that a government can never afford to engage in non-consequential thinking and non-consequential acting, he seemed to imply that could include any actions involving our two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, and further trade actions on our agricultural and lumber products. However, Canada cannot bend its foundational commitments as a society to the rule of law. That is the antithesis of what's happening in Xinjiang. We cannot abandon our often-stated commitments to the promotion and protection of universal human rights embodied in our promise of “never again”. We cannot be seen to be bystanders to the latest, yet again, serious international crimes that come within the definition of crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and genocide.
We cannot stay silent or inactive in the face of these atrocities or we forfeit our right to be regarded as champions of equal human dignity and the rights of all peoples on the world stage. History has shown that silence is the complicit partner to genocide.
Canada cannot be silent or inactive against what I consider to be mounting crimes against humanity, including genocidal acts against the Uighurs. I consider that the actions of the Chinese government amount to crimes against humanity and genocidal acts, especially as they continue in terms of forced birth control acts against the Uighurs.
Now, the officials who I suggest should be targets for these Magnitsky sanctions may not have any frozen assets here in Canada, or may not even want to travel here in Canada, but the signal we send with the targeted sanctions, to not just China but the entire world, is that we are acting on behalf of humanity. We hope our traditional allies will follow suit and perhaps even consider joining us.
Regarding the threat of possible punishing consequences from China, given that we are already facing such actions with the detention of two Canadians as a consequence of the Meng Wanzhou extradition proceedings, I suggest that we must develop a longer-term strategy and policy on China that addresses both the hostage diplomacy actions and some of the other consequences we are facing in terms of trade sanctions, etc., which I think violate world trade rules. I think Canada and its government must develop a longer-term strategy with our traditional democratic allies and hopefully a future U.S. administration that puts in place economic, social and multilateral deterrents to not only the use of hostage diplomacy but also the ability of China to target democratic countries that are bound by their values, principles and constitutions to adhere to the rule of law.
This could include common approaches to make Chinese global companies subject to national security, human rights and anti-corruption scrutiny, and penalize them for complicity in their state's actions amounting to the most serious international crimes. Given the reports that are coming out of Xinjiang, I think some of the brands that are being made by forced labour and finding their way up to the U.S. and Canada should be one of the key actions that this committee, and in fact the larger committee, should be looking at to deal with those forced labour products. In fact, under the recent CUSMA, the trade agreement with the U.S. and Mexico, there is a prohibition.
Official documents prescribing mass forced sterilization and mass surveillance; satellite imagery documenting the destruction of ancient cultural sites and the proliferation of concentration camps; drone footage showing men, heads shorn, shackled and blindfolded, being herded onto trains—these are just some of the glimpses we've had of China's practices in the Uighur homeland of East Turkestan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, despite the cone of secrecy China has placed around it. We don't even know for sure exactly how many hundreds of thousands—millions—of Uighurs have been incarcerated in what is suspected to be the largest regime of minority internment since the Nazi Holocaust.
China's infamous network of concentration camps is just one node of a far more extensive project. It's extensive spatially, with the intensive surveillance state penetrating into Uighur villages, homes, bedrooms, cellphones and even DNA through mass biometric collection, even reaching abroad to target Uighurs living in Canada and elsewhere. It's also extensive temporally, with this just the latest stage in what academics have analyzed as China's decades-long, if not centuries-long, project of settler colonization and deliberate demographic change in the resource rich territory China refers to as Xinjiang, meaning literally “new frontier”.
The concentration camps are just one note in a project that is both more spatially and temporally extensive, temporally with just the latest stage in what academics have analyzed as China's decades-long, if not centuries-long, project of settler colonization and deliberate demographic change in the resource rich territory China refers to as Xinjiang, literally meaning “new frontier”.
The renowned scholar of colonialism, Patrick Wolfe, famously said, “The question of genocide is never far from discussions of settler colonialism.” In the case of China's policies against the Uighurs, this question of genocide is not just abstract or metaphorical but imminent and literal.
In the UN genocide convention, as well as in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, genocide is defined as any one of the five following acts: one, killing; two, causing serious bodily or mental harm; three, infliction of conditions calculated to bring about physical destruction; four, imposition of measures intended to prevent births; or, five, forcible transfer of children. Any one of these listed acts, when conducted with an intention to destroy a people as a people, “in whole or in part”, qualifies as genocide when committed with the requisite genocidal intent.
In the case of the Uighurs, however, there is evidence of all five categories of genocidal acts having been committed, with reports of deaths in concentration camps; tortures, such as electrocution and waterboarding; forced starvation and exposure to diseases, including the coronavirus, in concentration and forced labour camps; a sterilization campaign, in which 80% of new intrauterine birth control devices in China were installed in Xinjiang, which constitutes less than 2% of the Chinese population; and, the separation of almost half a million children from their families and communities.
As for the question of intent, when officials describe Islam as an “ideological virus”, an “incurable malignant tumour”, and a “weed” infecting the “crops”, efforts at eradication are the logical extension.
Testifying to the seriousness of the crime, the genocide convention includes not simply an obligation to punish genocide after the fact, but an obligation on all states to prevent genocide. According to the International Court of Justice “a State's obligation to prevent [genocide], and the corresponding duty to act, arise at the instant that the State learns of...the existence of a serious risk that genocide will be committed.” That threshold of serious risk has surely long been passed.
In 2014, the UN office on genocide prevention released a framework for identifying warning signs of genocide and other atrocity crimes. Virtually all of those signs are present in Xinjiang.
Having also worked on advocacy regarding the Rohingya genocide, which is now before both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, I saw how long states avoided recognizing that situation as genocidal or proto-genocidal in order to avoid triggering their duty to prevent, as states previously refused to recognize the Rwanda genocide even as it was unfolding in the sight of the eyes of the entire world in 1994.
Even in the face of compelling evidence, the capacity for denialism is great, as are the shame, repentance and horror in hindsight when “never again” is permitted to occur again and again.
Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you for the opportunity.
Mr. Browder, I want to thank you very much for all your great work. You've appeared before this committee on a number of occasions. You are the great example of a businessperson with a conscience, pursuing legal recourse for a friend, a lawyer from your firm who was tortured and murdered, as you said. I want to express my gratitude for all the work you did to ensure that countries like ours have a Magnitsky act, not only in a memorial to Sergei but also to make sure we can correct any other human rights violations.
Mr. Mendes, Ms. Kanji has just laid out the case very articulately for the threshold that's been met in regard to genocide. Obviously, our committee will be making a statement after all this testimony, and a report. In your opinion, with your jurisprudence experience, do the actions of the Chinese Communist Party meet the threshold of genocide?
As Ms. Kanji rightly stated, one of the biggest challenges, if this were to go to court, would be on what's called the specific intent—the intent, either in whole or in part, to eliminate a group. In my view, that's where China will try to make its defence: “Well, prove it.” Ms. Kanji quite rightly came up with certain types of evidentiary evidence that would be required to prove that intent.
The big problem I foresee, however, in terms of taking it to a court, is that China has not become a party to the International Criminal Court, and if we were to take it to the International Court of Justice, again, China would probably deny it has jurisdiction.
This is why I think it is very critical for Canada, first of all, to show its resolve by having the Magnitsky sanctions apply, but second, to work with allies, especially if we can have a future U.S. administration that is willing to work with all the democratic countries, to put together a democratic strategy to put more and more pressure, including private sector pressure, on China to stop its actions.
It's going to take a long time. It's going to be very complex, but we have to start, and start now.
I want to thank all the experts for testifying and informing us at this committee with your testimony.
I'd like to put forth the first question to Mr. Mendes around the Magnitsky sanctions. You mentioned two names, but I'd like to get your opinion. On July 9, 2020, the U.S. Department of Treasury actually implemented these very sanctions on a number of individuals and one entity. I wanted your opinion on that. There's the Communist Party secretary of the Uighur autonomous region, Chen Quanguo. Another gentleman is Zhu Hailun, a former deputy secretary of the Uighur autonomous region. There's also Wang Mingshan, the XPSB, and another individual.
Mr. Mendes, what is your opinion on this, in terms of going that far? You only mentioned two initially.
I don't know if Mr. Browder would also like to contribute to that.
If all the individuals you mentioned are involved in the detention, absolutely.
I mentioned these two in particular because the targeting of sanctions against these two would reach up to the highest level, especially if we target Chen Quanguo, because he is a member of the politburo of the party. In other words, he works with President Xi Jinping. It would send a message directly to Xi Jinping if we were to focus on that particular individual.
As I said, and I think we have to recognize this, it could trigger consequences, but I think we absolutely have to stand up, even if that happens. That's the reason why I focus on these two. The second one is the governor of Xinjiang, Shohrat Zakir. Again, he's not as high as Chen Quanguo. That's the reason why I focused on those two.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you to all of our witnesses for participating today. Yesterday, of course, we heard from witnesses. It was very hard to hear the testimony of many of them, and it was very moving. I like that today we are doing a lot of discussion about some of the propositions of what we can do moving forward.
I'm going to start by playing a little bit of a devil's advocate role, not necessarily because I don't agree with the Magnitsky act and calling out individuals, but just to clarify the impacts.
Mr. Browder, I'll pose this to you, and then perhaps to Mr. Mendes afterwards.
We know the Magnitsky act addresses individuals, and it does not in fact impact the underlying system. How can we enact widespread, systematic changes in China, not just on the Uighur issue, but in terms of Hong Kong, in terms of the Falun Gong, by targeting individuals one at a time? That's one question. The other one is this: When targeting individuals, is it possible that by increasing and creating this confrontation we will limit our opportunities to use diplomacy and persuasion?
Perhaps you could both comment on that. I think I know what you're going to say, but I'd like to hear your words, please.
The beauty of the Magnitsky act is that it doesn't sanction the country. Why is that beautiful? A lot of people in China are victims of the regime as well, so you end up in a situation where instead of sanctioning the perpetrators, you're sanctioning the victims. I don't think Canada has a beef with the Chinese people; Canada and the world have a beef with the organizers of this genocide, which is the Chinese government.
Now, the other elegance of the Magnitsky act is that if anyone were to suggest right now that the world should cut off business relations and diplomatic relations with China over this issue, everyone would say, “Well, that's totally unrealistic. That's never going to happen.” China is too important a business player, too important a financial player, and too important a diplomatic player. What's so elegant about the Magnitsky act is that it allows the Canadian government, the U.S. government, the British government and other governments to create real punishments for people who are doing real abuses, and at the same time being realistic that they're not just going to cut off all trade and diplomatic relations with China. This is what I would describe as a powerful intermediate step. It doesn't in any way come to the level of genocide.
By the way, I should point out that you don't have to prove genocide to do Magnitsky. That's not necessary. You can do Magnitsky because of human rights abuses. Human rights abuses are clearly defined, whether genocide is defined or not, which I think it is. You have a situation where the people who are doing this have already met the threshold. You can do this; it's politically possible, and you don't have to do it alone. You can do it with the British, and you can do it with the United States. You can do it as a way of making clear that this is not acceptable and the situation will be escalated going forward.
It is true that some of the Uighur fighters who are leading the fight against the repressive measures of the Chinese government are members of Islamic terrorist organizations. Some of these organizations are recognized as such, including by the Canadian government. I am talking about the Islamist Party of Turkestan, but there are others.
The problem is that China represents them all as fighters in this international jihadist movement. The truth is that when we look at the data, for example, the number of Uighur fighters in Guantanamo Bay or the number of Uighur fighters arrested after the dismantling of Daesh, we realize that there are tens of them, not hundreds as the Chinese government claims.
Yes, some young people are becoming more radical, which is not surprising since they have no other forums or ways of expressing themselves. They have no voice or margin for action, and this has created a favourable environment for recruitment, including by Koranic schools and international jihadist movements. However, I repeat that they are small groups, very small groups. It cannot be said that, even among the various more or less radical Uighur organizations, they are all of Islamic terrorist inspiration. Yes, there are a few, but they are a minority.
I can address that first.
On the ombudsman, as you know, there's been a controversy about whether or not there are sufficient tools to be able to carry out what some of the NGOs and others wanted it to do. I don't think it's the right mechanism. I think what is the right mechanism is a law that just came into force on July 1, 2020 under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which now says that importation of forced labour products, either in whole or in part, should be prohibited.
How do we do that? There was a bill, Bill , that was being forwarded by John McKay, one of your colleagues, and a senator, which would require mandatory reporting on whether or not companies have taken all due diligence in making sure that they don't bring in products based on modern slavery or forced labour. Some have said that's not going far enough.
My actual recommendation to this committee and the full committee is to focus on what other countries like France are doing, which I think is the most effective. It requires a law of due diligence that forces companies, in advance, to show that they are not involved in modern slavery or forced labour and requires that the senior officials of these companies state in advance that they have checked to make sure there are no products coming in of forced labour, and there are penalties if they fail to do so.
I think we should look to Europe, to France for sure, to think about how we go further than what we have already. I'm not sure the ombudsman is a sufficient mechanism for that.
There are so many themes to draw on here.
One point I'm taking away from the testimony of Mr. Browder and Ms. Kanji is that it seems that, in international human rights work, we've identified these mechanisms like the Magnitsky act, like doctrines, like responsibility to protect, but all these mechanisms require executive action. In many of these cases, it's not about the tools being available; it's a failure of executive action. I'm wondering if we need to develop these doctrines a little bit by compelling executives more effectively to act in cases like this, introducing maybe automatic triggers that require executives to impose Magnitsky sanctions and recognize genocide to uphold their obligations when they happen.
It hasn't been mentioned, but in the U.S., the imposition of sanctions came about not as a result of the executive acting on their own, but as a result of legislative action through the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which required the Trump administration to respond.
I'd be curious to hear from Ms. Kanji and Mr. Browder about whether they think we need to move beyond just giving tools to the executive and compel executive action in cases where there is clear evidence of genocide or gross violations of human rights.
Maybe Mr. Browder can go first, and then Ms. Kanji.
In the camps in Xinjiang, there are even Kazakhs, Hui, and all the Muslim minorities living on Chinese territory.
It should be noted that before setting up these re-education centres in Xinjiang, the Chinese government tested them elsewhere, namely in Tibet. At the time, it created what was called re-education schools for Buddhist monks, a bit like summer camps for deviant populations. It sent Tibetan monks, political opponents, and people supporting on the Internet certain ideas that the Chinese government didn’t support.
These pilot projects were tested in 2014 and 2015. When the Chinese government found not that they were working well, but that they were achieving the desired results, it increased the scale of the projects and set up real internment and concentration camps on the Xinjiang territory. This also affects other minorities, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, who live on Chinese territory.
When you look at the ways in which you can get the seemingly second-most powerful superpower in the world now to act, you have to look at what it cares most about. What China cares most about right now is its economic growth. A lot of the Communist Party promise to its people is basically that as long as we promise you economic growth, you will basically abide by our being in power, and we can do whatever we want. That's the compact the Communist Party of China has made.
Well, that also depends on the rest of the world agreeing to work with China on that economic growth, be it in the World Trade Organization, be it in terms of investments or be it in terms of business relationships, etc. That's where I think it is critical to have not just the multilateral approach, if you like, but also a private sector approach, to have some type of way in which you can work with other countries in their private sector areas to find out how one can co-operate to prevent forced labour, to prevent child labour and to prevent the type of situation in which they may become complicit in human rights abuses—for example, providing surveillance technologies—and to further the human rights violations in those countries. I think over time that will be a much more persuasive impact on China than even making statements, etc.
I think it requires the democratic countries to work together. I think it does require political leadership. That's why I was very encouraged when former Vice-President Biden said that one of his first objectives would be to organize a democratic summit to deal with these sort of issues. We should right now be saying to the potential next president of the United States, “We're with you. We're going to work with you. We're going to help work with other democratic countries to see how we can put this in place at the political level, at the governmental level and at the private sector level, and to see how we can work together.”
Hopefully, we have champions like Bill Browder, who has the credibility to promote that in the United States, as I'm sure he would do if he were asked.
I'd like to start by asking a few more questions of Mr. Mendes. I missed an opportunity previously to ask a little bit more about private sector pressure and how we can utilize that tool.
You spoke a little bit about the Canadian ombudsperson not having the teeth, not having the ability to do the job they need to do. This is something that's very close to my heart, something I've worked on for a number of years.
Is it possible, in your opinion, that we could change the scope of the ombudsman's role to make it more effective?
Also, what further legislation would you like to have the Canadian government and Canadian parliamentarians consider as we go forward to make sure that we have good, strong anti-slavery legislation such as you indicate France has?
Could you speak a little bit to that, please?
On the ombudsman, among the criticisms that civil society has made, which you should think about, is that it's primarily voluntary. It's not mandatory for the private sector to actually comply with what the ombudsman says. Secondly, it does not have the ability, under the Inquiries Act, to actually compel documentation, etc. It lacks the powers of investigation that could then allow the ombudsman to be seen as a powerful tool for companies to respect the rules on modern slavery, forced labour, child labour, etc.
My suggestion is to really look at what other countries have done, the measures that have basically met with approval from people who actually live this on a daily basis. For example, the French due diligence law requires companies, in advance, to make sure, and to produce documents to that effect, that they have looked into whether or not, in their supply chains, there are instances of child labour, forced labour, etc., and to sign off at the highest levels on that. If they don't, there could be real consequences. In other words, it moves from just a voluntary position to the ability to investigate and potential consequences. So that's one thing.
My computer crashed before I could answer the other question you asked me. It was a good devil's advocate question that you asked. It was, what could happen if the Chinese just ignore whatever we do and suggest?
Here's where I want to make something clear. I spent 15 years of my professional life researching in China, at all of the top universities. I even met some of the top people in the supreme court, etc. The one thing I came away with is that the Chinese government is not the Chinese people. The people I met, including one woman, five feet tall, who basically did the same thing as the man with two baskets who stopped the tank. She did that also. She did it because she did not believe that her own people should be crushing the students at Tiananmen Square. I think what we should be focusing on is what the government is doing. I have tremendous affection for the people of China as a whole. We should separate them from what is happening with the Communist Party of China, and indeed the present leadership of the Communist Party.
When I first went to China in 1993, I felt completely free to speak my mind on human rights. I actually met people from Xinjiang, and from Tibet, etc., and was amazed at how free and open the conversation was. At that time Jiang Zemin was the president. He basically allowed this to flower.
I think we should be focusing on the fact that this could be the predicament of the present leadership of the Communist Party of China and how the rest of the world deals with it. That's why we need a level of sophistication much, much higher than just quoting China as being the problem. It's not China that is the problem. It's not the people of China who are the problem. It's the present leadership. Even within that leadership there are grumbles that the idea of collective leadership has been tossed out, which Deng Xiaoping basically said should have happened in China.
We are playing chess at one level. What Canada has to do and what the rest of the democratic world has to do is to play chess on three or four levels, trying to figure out how we deal with this level of aggression. It's not just in terms of Xinjiang. It's there in Hong Kong. It's there with our two Michaels. It's there in the South China Sea, and potentially could be devastating for the whole world. It could also be there in Taiwan.
What I'm suggesting is that, on China, Canada should play a lot on different levels to deal with the situation.
I will address my question to Mr. Browder one more time.
You spoke about being in the U.K. Recently the U.K. Foreign Minister expressed his profound concerns over what is happening to the Uighur community in China. In response, in a BBC interview, the ambassador from China spoke out categorically and denied there were any concentration camps and stated that the Uighur people are living freely and happily in China. And he called the video we had spoken about in yesterday's testimony, of Uighur men being blindfolded and shaved and then put on trains, fake news.
The U.K. Foreign Minister did not go as far as calling this a genocide, but said that they would contemplate sanctions on China, on the Government of China.
What can we do to compel more of a united or organized front? It seems that individual states are very fearful of taking these actions against China, especially with the response of the Chinese representative that if the U.K. does this, we will act in kind?
Mr. Browder, can I have your thoughts on this, please?
I watched that interview with the Chinese ambassador and so did most people here in the U.K. We were all appalled by his responses and heartened by the tough interviewing techniques of that particular person who interviewed him, Andrew Marr.
For what it's worth, there is a fever pitch inside the political establishment in every different party to do something about this Uighur situation and to do more than has been done so far. Dominic Rabb, the foreign secretary, has not yet—I stress the word “yet”—announced Magnitsky sanctions. I believe it would probably be easier to get him to do it if Canada were to do it in concert and to basically sanction the same four individuals. If the U.K. sanctioned the same individuals and Canada sanctioned the same four individuals that the U.S. sanctioned just recently, I think that would be the way to go.
As for my personal prediction, the U.K. has just recently implemented the Magnitsky Act, just two weeks ago. They sanctioned 25 individuals from Russia, roughly 20 from Saudi Arabia and a few from Myanmar and North Korea. I would be surprised if.... Given the situation with China, given what's going on with Hong Kong, given the fact that the U.K. has just cancelled the extradition treaty with Hong Kong and given the fact that the U.K. has offered Hong Kong British national overseas residents the opportunity to become citizens, it doesn't seem that great a step further to add those four people to the Magnitsky list and get this process started.
I may be reading the tea leaves wrong. It's very foolhardy to make political predictions, but my sense of the mood right now here in the U.K. is that something will happen. Dominic Rabb, the foreign secretary, has indicated to me that he has been in touch with your foreign minister about Magnitsky in the past, so I would hope that this would be something that they would be talking about together.
Ms. Kanji, you've highlighted this sort of I guess schizophrenic approach, if you like, of the Chinese state towards Islam, where on the one hand they're involved in genocide domestically but supporting it abroad. They're seeking to eradicate Islam, but on the other hand, they're pretending to extend a hand of friendship towards Muslim majority countries; countries that have been very muted in their response. This is part of the state colonialism of the Chinese state that you referred to. There are two questions about that.
First of all, what can we do to end support for Chinese state colonialism in Asia, such as perhaps withdrawing from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and not supporting the belt and road initiative? I would appreciate your take on that.
Secondly, how can we work with Muslim majority countries more effectively to build partnerships to oppose Chinese state colonialism and to have a unified response to what's happening to the Uighurs?
Participation in the belt and road initiative on Canada's part would be extremely fraught, given, as Professor Alexeeva has described, the extreme investment in exerting control over Xinjiang precisely because of its geopolitical importance for the belt and road initiative.
There are other kinds of economic participation in Xinjiang that are also problematic for the Canadian state. For example, Canadian mining companies are investing in projects in Xinjiang, which is very rich in resources. There are reports, for example, that Dynasty Gold Corp. is operating a mine in Xinjiang.
These are the kinds of projects on the part of Canadian corporations that need to be examined to ensure that Canadian entities are not themselves complicit in the colonial project in Xinjiang.
When it comes to building stronger partnerships with the OIC and Muslim-majority countries in addressing this issue, I think we have to understand that many Muslim countries are very economically beholden to China through the belt and road initiative and other infrastructure development projects at this point. It is precisely these economic interests and economic entanglements that are preventing Muslim countries from taking any kind of strong stance—and in fact actively whitewashing and supporting China's project—with respect to the Uighurs.
On the contrary, it is precisely that Canada isn't similarly economically beholden to these types of Chinese projects that enables Canada's to be a stronger voice.
Welcome back, everybody. We have our second panel of witnesses with us.
I just want to say that we've had some really amazing, tremendous witnesses come forward over the last day and a half. I know this is going to be the same with our next witnesses, who are going to give us their own personal stories and accounts of what they have seen and heard and learned.
Both of our next witnesses are Uighur-speaking and do not speak English. We do have a Uighur interpreter. Kayum Masimov is with us today in person. Of course, our witnesses are via video conference.
We also have with us Omerbek Ali, a Uighur rights activist. We also have Ms. Gulbahar Jelilova, who is also a Uighur rights activist.
Before they get started, I also want to say that with consecutive Uighur interpretation, it's going to take a little bit longer. Translation is consecutive because of interpreter availability and technology considerations. There need to be six booths for consecutive third language, and because of physical distancing, it's only possible to have four booths. So when asking your questions, please pause to allow for interpretation time.
The study is now being televised via the House of Commons website.
We're going to start with an opening statement from Omerbek Ali.
You'll have approximately six minutes, but we'll accommodate. That does not include the consecutive interpretation time.
[Witness spoke in Uighur, interpreted as follows
My greetings. I am in Holland right now. My name is Omerbek Ali. I was born on April 30, 1976, in Pichan County of the city of Turpan. I have a degree from the high technical college.
I was employed in the city of Karamay until 2006. While employed, I was subjected to wage discrimination. I was not able to live a normal life without sinning in disaccord with my religious Muslim beliefs. Because of my ethnic background and religious beliefs, I was constantly taken into custody and interrogated by police every month and even on a weekly basis. My house was repeatedly searched by police, and I was not even able to go out to the street as my ID was blacklisted. Because of all these barriers in my life, to continue living in a dignified manner I was forced to immigrate to Kazakhstan.
Up to 2014, I was involved in textile commerce and then I moved to furniture commerce and up to 2017 I was employed at Tumar travel agency as its deputy director, as a tourist guide and a Chinese language interpreter all at the same time.
In 2017, there was an Expo Astana exhibition and on an invitation from the Chinese side, I travelled to Urumqi. Once our business meetings were conducted and were over, I went to see my parents on March 25 around 11 p.m.
At 10 a.m., five policemen came to forcefully detain me, although they had no warrant for such an arrest on them. They brought me to the police station where they took away all my cash, my passport and all ID. From there they took me to another place that resembled a hospital. There I was subjected to a very close examination of my skin, kidneys, liver and urine.
All this time I had a black hood on my head. I was not able to see anyone. I became very afraid. Then they removed my black hood and they started examining my iris, my eyes. I became very afraid. I got the impression, seeing this kind of close examination, that I would be slaughtered.I became very afraid. Even now when I see white medical gowns, I am afraid. That is why I don't go to any hospitals for any reason.
The same evening I was taken to the county prison. About 30 or so men were detained like me. We were given one small steamed bun and a watery soup to eat for breakfast. For lunch we were given a boiled vegetable resembling an eggplant and again a small steamed bun. The same was given for supper. To get that food, we had to sing three Red songs before and after the meal. These songs were about the Communist Party and Xi Jinping, and in Chinese it goes, “Thanks are given to the CCP, to the motherland, to President Xi. Wishing President Xi good health, wishing the motherland prosperity and strength, wishing unity and harmony to the people of our country”.
On April 3, I was taken to another basement of the prison in Karamay city at police headquarters. There I was subjected to very cruel tortures. I was electrocuted. I was hung up. I was whipped with wires. Needles were inserted. I was beaten with rubber batons and pliers were used on me. Under all these savage torture tools I was forced to confess to crimes I have never committed. The accusations were crimes against national security, inciting, organizing and covering up for terrorist activities. They were even telling me I was trying to build a terrorist organization or I took terrorists under my wing. Patronage accusations were brought against me.
I categorically refused to sign these documents. I insisted on my innocence. I asked them why I was forced to confess to crimes I did not do, why they were torturing me, that I am an innocent man. They asked if I was a Kazakh, a Muslim, a Uighur. They said there is no difference, that we're all terrorists, and they forced me to sign documents. I resisted signing these papers.
Along with me, there were other detainees. In one cell, there were about 37 to 40 people. In one hallway, there were 17 cells. There were 34 wings on each side, with four more buildings like that. Anyone who was detained in these places was forced to confess to such crimes, which they did not commit. They were all subjected to torture. Psychologically, it was very demanding. No person would come out in good health after seeing such education.
[Witness spoke in Uighur and Russian, interpreted as follows:
Thank you very much and my greetings to you all. Thank you for this opportunity. I would like to tell my tragic story and talk about the tragedy of my people.
My name is Gulbahar Jelilova. I am a citizen of Kazakhstan. All my ancestors, all my relatives, were born in Kazakhstan. I am the mother of four children. We have a very limited time frame but I will try my best.
For 20 years I've been conducting a small-scale business in Urumqi. In 1996 I went for the first time to Urumqi, East Turkestan. I was detained on May 22, 2017. I was actually kidnapped from the hotel where I was staying in Urumqi city, Hotel CU.
Three policemen and two policewomen took me away from the hotel and they started interrogating me. They were forcing me to sign documents. I was in an interrogation period from eight o'clock to 11:30, and the documents that were given to me I was not able to understand. I was asking them, “I don't know Uighur or Chinese. Please bring me a consular representative or interpreter to explain what is it I have to sign.” Later on I learned that in the regional paper it was written that I was Gulbahar and I was committing terrorist acts.
I didn't sign and I was taken away to another prison. It's the prison called the Sankan. It's the third prison. I entered inside and they started immediately taking samples of my blood and urine. I was stripped naked, and after that they gave me the yellow-coloured uniform. On the same day, I was put in shackles which weighed five kilos.... They were taking samples of my urine to check whether I was pregnant or not. If I was pregnant, then they would do an abortion on the spot or take me away to the prison.
As you might see on the picture, there are a number of cells. There is a picture of a cell. I was taken to cell number 714. It's exactly the same cell I was put in. What you can see is a transparent toilet, and everyone can see what is inside.
Once a week we were given two pills to digest. There is a small window in the wall and they would give us a cup of water and these two pills and we had to swallow them and show them that they had been consumed. Every 10 days we were given injections in our hands and they would not say what kind of medication it was.
We would not take a shower for months. We were forced to sleep on the metal bed. There is no hygiene, there is no running water, and this is a very bad sanitary situation. In one month all detainees got fleas in their hair and we were all shaven afterwards. We have had rashes and sores all over our bodies. We would not take a shower for months.
Sometimes we were taken away. There were two types of prison cells. One is underground with cameras in it and there is one outside where no cameras are present. Detainees were taken away in black hoods and the guardians would do anything they wanted to do to us.
We would be seated in a chair like this. They were insisting and inquiring and asking us again and again to sign documents. I would say, “Why would I sign something I don't understand? What is written there?” They would keep insisting and insisting, and if I would not sign the documents they would take me to the prison.
They once took me away to the open air prison with no cameras and I was seated forcefully on a chair for 24 hours without food or anything. I was still resisting and they were beating me and electrocuting me. At the end there was one guardian who came out and he took his pants down and he forced me to commit something, which I'm not going to talk about. This is what's happening.
I witnessed some girls taken away for 24 hours. They had been tortured. They'd had needles put under their nails. They'd had needles put in their cheeks. Some girls would disappear and we would never see them again.
They even made fake ID for me claiming that I was a citizen of China so that the consul representative of my country would not look for me. They were torturing me like this.
I spent time with girls who had been put on death row. In fact, right now they don't shoot prisoners. They make them fall asleep by injection.
The papers I am showing are original. These are letters written by my children on my behalf claiming that I was not a terrorist, and they were seeking to have me released. My children sent these letters to Putin, and one letter written by my children went to the United Nations. After that, I think I was released because of these papers.
I lost 20 kilos. I lost vision in my eyes. I had no hair.
I was released. For one week I was fed. I was taken care of. They gave me makeup. My hair had turned white, so they dyed my hair a different colour, all these things. They issued me a visa, a normal visa. They talked to me and told me that I had to remain silent, that if I wouldn't stop talking, they would reach me, because China has long arms. They said they would reach me and kill me anywhere in the world.
[Witness spoke in Uighur, interpreted as follows:
I will try to say a few words on this topic.
I will talk about my personal experience. I was detained in Karamay for eight months, and 90% of those detainees were bureaucrats, professors, teachers, or those involved in the oil-producing industry. Although there is no tangible proof, I can claim by my experience among those detainees, these people, that they certainly do not need any educational facilities to get further education.
I would estimate that, because of the international pressure, right now the Chinese state is trying to distribute the bulk of the detainee population to the Chinese interior. In Karamay, 20% to 30% of detainees have already been transferred. They work in dire conditions. Although there is no proof, I can estimate. My guess is that right now, again because of the pressure, detainees are being transferred into sites in the interior of China.
The hidden genocidal campaign of China is still in progress. I would argue that if a commission were delegated by the U.S. or Canada to investigate the facts on the ground, and these commission team members would go house to house to investigate things, then much more information would come to light. Then we would know the true extent of the situation on the ground.
I thank you all.
Let me respond to something Ms. Jelilova said about accountability. What is going to happen to those who are involved in these horrific crimes? This is an issue that we as a committee have to grapple with, trying to end impunity for those involved in these crimes and ensure accountability. One way we try to do it is through Magnitsky sanctions, saying to those who are involved in these abuses that they will not be able to move their money or themselves to another country; that they will face consequences if they ever try to leave.
I'll ask two questions together, and you can respond to both as you wish.
The first question is to ask for your take on appropriate accountability mechanisms.
My second question is about potential vulnerability in general within Kazakhstan and other countries in central Asia to Chinese state influence. What is the nature of the discussion about what's happening to Uighurs in central Asia? What can we do to strengthen the collective response and reduce the dependency of countries in and around China, a dependency that limits their ability to respond effectively to what's happening?
[Witness spoke in Uighur, interpreted as follows:
I will share with you my own personal opinion about this issue. Thank you for posing such an interesting and important question.
I would invoke the resolution adopted by the U.S. Congress on Uighur people. If Canada could only follow this, it would be a good direction.
Then unite, together with such democratic like-minded countries as Japan and the EU Parliament, and announce an embargo on China. Unless we take concrete steps to turn up the heat on the commercial interests of China, the death camps in East Turkestan will continue to be operational. These measures are very much about a united front of like-minded countries against ongoing Chinese influence.
With regard to central Asia, I would personally think that we cannot and should not expect much from these countries. These countries are completely corrupt. They are being taken hostage by current Chinese influence. I would rule out influencing central Asian states at all at this stage.
[Witness spoke in Uighur, interpreted as follows:
I'd like to add something and ask a question, if I may.
First, I was somewhat of an interpreter. I'm fully bilingual. I speak Chinese fluently. I was a manager making roughly $2,000 a month. My circumstances were good. Did I need some sort of degree?
Second, my father, who was retired, was fluent in Chinese. He had a degree. Did he need another degree of some sort?
These are intellectuals, business people, relatively wealthy people and the like. So I ask you, do people like that need a degree?
[Witness spoke in Uighur, interpreted as follows:
Once I was released from prison, I gave an interview to a BBC journalist. During my interview, I mentioned the case of the Uighur DNA sample collection. I touched on organ harvesting. I also warned about bacteriological weapons development being conducted by China. I was warning in every interview and in every meeting, be it in Japan or in the Czech Republic. At the time, nobody was paying attention to this. Suddenly, in the current context, everyone has woken up. Now they're saying, “Oh, Omerbek told us about this.” My message is that we have to pay attention to the CCP. If these atrocities don't stop, we will get even worse results, and worse is about to come.
I would like to conclude by asking that we unite our international efforts with all the various NGOs, be it Amnesty International, interparliamentary commissions or different states and like-minded countries, to stop these atrocities and unite in this anti-Chinese campaign in order to stop all that is happening. I would ask the Canadian government to be considerate of Uighur refugees stranded in third party countries like Turkey. These Uighur refugees are becoming stateless. They are facing challenges over there. On humanitarian and compassionate grounds, I would like one more time to draw your attention to this topic.
Again, thank you very much for your time.
Pursuant to the motion adopted by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on February 20, 2020, today is the second meeting of the subcommittee on its study of the human rights situation of the Uighurs.
Today's witnesses are appearing by video conference. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. I want to thank our clerk and our technical team for assisting the witnesses with their equipment and connectivity.
Interpretation in this video conference will work very much like a regular committee meeting. You have the choice, at the bottom of your screen, of either the floor, English or French audio channel. Should any technical challenges arise, for example in relation to interpretation, or a problem with your audio arises, please advise the chair immediately and the technical team will work to resolve them.
At this point I'd like to welcome our witnesses. You'll be the final panel of this second day of this study. We're glad you're with us. Today we are going to hear from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the director of human rights initiative, Amy Lehr. Then we will have, from the Uyghur Human Rights Project, the senior program officer for research and advocacy, Dr. Elise Anderson. As an individual we have Guy Saint-Jacques, consultant and former ambassador of Canada to the People's Republic of China.
You will each have six minutes to do your introductory statement. After those statements, we will be moving to rounds of questions by the members.
With that, we will start with Amy Lehr.
Distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for holding this hearing and offering me an opportunity to speak. I'm happy to see you engaged on such an important and pressing topic.
As noted, I'm the director of the human rights initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a large non-partisan think tank based in Washington, D.C. Over the past year my program has been conducting research on forced labour in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, or XUAR.
Our work combined open-source research in Mandarin with interviews with those subjected to forced labour. Our findings to date have confirmed that forced labour practices in the region are part of the Chinese government's efforts to repress ethnic and religious minorities through what they call re-education. Forced labour also combines with widespread surveillance in the region.
Because China plays such a dominant role in many international supply chains, products entering the U.S., Canada, Europe and other countries are at risk of being tainted by forced labour. Today I'll explain how forced labour in XUAR is part of a larger system of ethnic minority repression and is relevant to western supply chains, and we'll provide some policy recommendations that might help effect change.
As has already been documented, the Chinese government has forcibly detained and held in extrajudicial detention facilities, also known as re-education camps, more than one million Muslim minorities in this region. The goal is to cut the minorities' ties to their religious and cultural identities and bring them into mainstream Han Chinese culture. This is seen as a way to enhance stability in the region.
The Chinese government's clampdown on ethnic minorities is believed to be the largest-scale detention of religious minorities since World War II, and according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, may amount to crimes against humanity.
In the name of combatting religious extremism and enhancing security in the region, the government subjected minority detainees to re-education and vocational training within and outside of the detention facilities. As you've probably heard earlier today, this training includes intensive Mandarin classes, praising the CCP, and in many cases, job training.
As the government goes through this process, factory work has revealed itself to be an integral element of the effort. The government has used labour transfer programs to move thousands of minorities into manufacturing positions in XUAR's factories and in other Chinese provinces where they are, in some cases, subjected to forced labour. The full extent of the forced labour is impossible to know because access to the region is so limited.
This re-education campaign is closely linked to the government's poverty alleviation and pairing programs. The poverty alleviation program seeks to move minorities from their traditional rural villages into factory work. The government requires local officials to meet quotas of rural minorities transferred to work, and that creates pressure to find people to transfer, whether or not they want to go.
Because of the high level of surveillance in XUAR and the risk of being sent to a detention camp or prison, it is presumed to be very challenging for ethnic minorities to resist transfers. The government also provides financial incentives for companies to re-educate and employ ethnic minorities. Our research and interviews indicate that at least some of those transferred to work are not doing so willingly, and are often significantly underpaid. This, in turn, raises serious forced labour concerns.
These re-education efforts and poverty alleviation programs I discussed are combined with what's called the government's pairing program. Under this program mainland Chinese provinces are partnered with specific regions of XUAR. Each pairing program has a sectoral focus based on the needs of pairing mainland firms, including the textile, electronic and agricultural sectors, among others. Those companies that are in the pairing program are pressured to open factories in XUAR and may be asked to receive minority workers, both within XUAR and in their factories in the rest of China. Some of those workers have been re-educated, some are re-educated in detention facilities and others are part of poverty alleviation. Again, because we don't have access to the region, it's really hard to know just the scope of forced labour within these programs and within these companies participating in the pairing program.
We've been doing some research on what XUAR produces. It's a key cotton producer, but it also produces and exports a number of other products, including electronics and machinery, plastics, apparel and agricultural goods. These sectors are all priorities in the pairing program. There's a question of whether this is creating a risk of forced labour in these other supply chains as well, and this deserves further research.
I just want to touch briefly on XUAR's role in global supply chains, looking particularly at textiles and apparel as a case study, because we understand those linkages better. I would note that other sectors may also include substantial components from XUAR.
XUAR produces around 20% of the world's cotton and is the third-largest producer of cashmere in China. China is the world's largest cashmere producer. We have found that XUAR directly exports few products globally. Rather, they're transformed within China, in many cases. Apparel was 25% of XUAR's international exports in 2019, and footwear was another 10%, but this severely understates XUAR's role in supply chains. Most of the cotton, for example, is shipped to other regions of China to then be incorporated into yarn, textiles, etc., and this is much, much harder to trace.
One challenge is that China is one of the world's two largest cotton producers, the world's largest yarn producer, its largest textiles producer and its largest apparel producer. Because XUAR cotton, and increasingly, yarn, are incorporated—
Greetings to the members of the subcommittee. I'm very honoured to be testifying today. I'm sitting before you as an advocate for Uighur human rights, and as a scholar whose research has focused on Uighur cultural expression for more than a decade.
Just this month there's been a significant shift in expert analysis of the Uighur human rights crisis. Authoritative institutions and experts have begun to label what is happening as a campaign of probable crimes against humanity, and likely, genocide. For many years the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP, has been systematically destroying the institutions that long served to maintain and pass on Uighur cultural knowledge. Uighur language journals have been shuttered. Poets and musicians have been disappeared by the hundreds. Mosques have been bulldozed, and more than one million living, breathing individuals have been taken away to camps and prisons en masse.
Recent investigations of forced labour and forced sterilization, including the alarming statistic that population growth among Uighurs in two prefectures declined by 84% between 2015 and 2018, have shed light on the government's totalizing campaign of repression.
The CCP claims it must assimilate the Uighur population to quell unrest and stamp out terrorist activity, but these are excuses that mask the horrors happening on our watch. By politically indoctrinating and forcibly assimilating Uighurs, the CCP is attempting to remove their loyalty to any source of authority other than the CCP itself. In conscripting Uighurs into involuntary work schemes and turning the Uighur region into a manufacturing hub for inexpensive labour, the CCP is securing control of Uighur lands for resource extraction and global trade, while ripping apart Uighur families and communities in the process. In other words, the relationship between the CCP and the Uighur region is, at its core, a colonial one, recalling the dark and painful histories and present circumstances of liberal democracies such as the U.S., Australia and Canada, vis-à-vis indigenous peoples.
The CCP is enacting a genocide because it is a colonizer. Land and subjugation of the local people are dual prizes in its end game. The CCP has sought totalizing control of the Uighur region since it came to power in 1949. It established autonomy in the region in 1955. That autonomy was and remains a sham.
Many Uighurs, meanwhile, profess an almost spiritual connection to this land, their homeland, something that outside observers far too often overlook in our analyses. In the 1990s, for example, as the Chinese state incentivized Uighur farmers to sell their lands, the beloved folk musician Küresh Küsen urged his brethren not to do so, singing, “The land is great. The land is mighty. The land is the source of life. Brother farmer, I beg of you, do not sell your land”.
During my own time living in the Uighur region over the past decade-plus, I was struck by how much the concepts of land and homeland still seemed to shape everyday life for Uighurs. In 2015, an acquaintance of mine and her aunt took my mother, who was visiting, and me to visit the tomb of a revered Uighur scholar near Kashgar. This tomb had long been a holy site of pilgrimage, but is now a state-designated tourist spot. At the tomb a sheik described the history to us, and we wandered the grounds where, off in the distance, beyond the tomb and the state-built museum attached to it, there lay a cemetery on a mountain of sand. Deep green poplars, the quintessential marker of the region's oasis towns, stood in stark contrast to the sea of sand that lay even further beyond it.
My acquaintance led us to a stream of clear, pure spring water, and we crouched down together. "Can't you see why people would see this place as holy?” she asked me, as she scooped spring water into a bottle. I could.
For Uighurs, their land has a sacred significance as a source of meaning and life. That land, along with the home that it inspires and the very lives that play out on it, are now under grave threat. The Uighur crisis is one of the most pressing humanitarian concerns in the world today, and it demands a multi-faceted policy response by governments and multilateral actors around the world.
I have several recommendations for Canada, which I will elaborate on in the Q and A if you're interested in taking them up.
First, focus on refugee admissions. Second, punish and deter harassment of Uighur Canadians. Third, block forced labour imports. Fourth, prohibit companies from exporting high-tech tools to China. Fifth, impose coordinated, targeted sanctions on perpetrators. Sixth, make legal determinations as to whether the Uighur crisis constitutes a genocide.
It's time for the Government of Canada to act on the global promise of “never again”.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to thank the committee for inviting me to take part in today's meeting.
Today, I'll be talking mainly about the increasing level of repression since 2012, when Xi Jinping became the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. Then, I'll turn to the Canadian government's policy on China.
As you know, I spent 13 years in China, during the 1980s and 1990s, and I was Canada's ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016. I saw things in China change, including the country's economic growth and treatment of its ethnic minorities. Ever since the Qing dynasty conquered Xinjiang in the 18th century, there have always been tensions. The measures taken by the Chinese have heightened tensions, culminating in 2009 with the riots in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. The Chinese government subsequently became very concerned about the emergence of ISIS.
Keep in mind that, in 2013, China began experiencing a wave of unprecedented attacks on its territory. You may recall two high-profile attacks: the October 28, 2013, suicide car bombing in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, killing two and injuring 40; and the March 2014 mass stabbings at the Kunming railway station, killing 30 or so. China was experiencing a terrorism problem and President Xi Jinping wanted to fix it. He cited a serious threat to social stability to justify imposing extremely strict security measures in Xinjiang, including the installation of cameras, the setting up of checkpoints, the closure and destruction of mosques, the ban on beards and veils, and tight control over people's movements.
Of course, since Chen Quanguo was appointed general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party for Xinjiang in August 2016, the repression has continued, with the opening of re-education camps and the detention of at least a million Muslims.
Now I would like to talk of the Canadian experience in Xinjiang. When CIDA was active, we had a very important assistance development program that was mainly focused on the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, but also helping women to get into business. There were a number of very successful projects in Xinjiang.
We also have had a very sad consular case inasmuch as a Canadian citizen, Mr. Huseyincan Celil, was arrested in Uzbekistan in the spring of 2006 and extradited to China. We have never been able to have consular access to him. Of course, despite this, consular officers have met members of his family during visits to Xinjiang.
I went to Xinjiang with a delegation led by Senator Plett in May 2013 as part of the activities of the Canada-China Legislative Association. We raised the case of Uighurs, our concerns. We had meetings at the Islamic centre, but it was clear that all this was staged. After the departure of the delegation, I travelled to Kashgar. I met with the family of Mr. Celil. I also made representation to the local authorities to try to improve the situation of Mr. Celil—all this to no avail.
I would add that it has become very difficult to discuss human rights issues with China since Xi Jinping came to power. We are now dealing with a China that is very confident, assertive and aggressive, that refuses to receive lists of cases of concern, and that rejects what it considers foreign interference in its affairs. Furthermore, it has succeeded in controlling the UN Human Rights Council, where even Muslim countries will refuse to condemn China for what it is doing in Xinjiang.
What should the Canadian government do? In my view, it is now impossible to remain ambivalent on China, after seeing what it is doing in Xinjiang, in Hong Kong, in the South China Sea, not to mention the heavy price that we have been paying since the arrest of Meng Wanzhou. It's very clear where Xi Jinping wants to take China, as he reported to the 19th party congress in October 2017. He said that China has succeeded without adopting western values and he gave China as a model for the world.
Of course, we need to continue to engage with China to address major global issues such as pandemics or global climate change. However, as trust has been lost, it is time to take more measures to indicate that we will take a more realistic approach in our dealings with China, one based on the protection and defence of our interests and values such as freedom of speech, of religion, and of equal opportunity for all.
We should also react quickly to cases of intimidation or interference with Canadians of Chinese origin, or Uighurs, or Tibetans living in Canada. There should be zero tolerance for such cases.
Of course, we also need to work more closely with like-minded countries to reinforce the multilateral system and to underline that rules apply equally to all. We should also agree on common positions and similar reactions when China acts as a bully or engages in hostage diplomacy. This applies also to whether sanctions should be applied against Chinese officials. We need to be in good company.
The message to China should be simple: We welcome you to play a larger role on the international scene, but you have to abide by all international treaties and rules and stop acting as a bully.
I'll be happy to answer your questions. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Welcome, Mr. Saint-Jacques.
First off, thank you very much for your service to Canada. It's greatly appreciated.
You mentioned the difference in China since Xi Jinping has become the leader of the CCP. I posed this question to one of our other panels yesterday and I'd like to pose it to you.
Since the great “Yellow Emperor”, and Mao Zedong trying to take on that role and the Great Leap Forward, the multiple purges that happened under Mao Zedong, as well as the Hundred Flowers and all those incidents that cost millions of lives, we haven't seen anybody who really resembles Mao as much as Xi Jinping does. I wonder if you would share that observation.
To really understand this and understand what the risks are, you ideally would not only be looking at direct exports into Canada, or imports into Canada from Xinjiang, but also the indirect implications on your supply chains. That's the harder part.
In my experience, what you need is someone with Mandarin skills—strong, strong, written Mandarin research skills—to be looking at Chinese company documents and government statements to identify some of these companies that are involved in the pairing program, getting subsidies for re-educating people, etc. That takes research.
I think that if you were to perhaps have your ombudsman...they would need funding to hire that person with that expertise. You can't do it in English. They might be able to help to provide watch-lists of companies to be aware of and also the sectors to focus on. I think that would be quite helpful.
I also would suggest that when you think about global Magnitsky or your equivalent—those kinds of sanctions—I agree with the ambassador that they need to be used on a multilateral level. From everything we know about sanctions, that's what makes them effective. However, you can target companies too, or government officials, at least with U.S. global Magnitsky you can. I think that's another opportunity. Frankly, company officials may care a lot more about coming to the U.S. and Canada than CCP officials...somewhere in Xinjiang. I just want to plant that idea as an option.
Another element you could consider, and this could be broader than just to Xinjiang, would be having the kind of ban on goods produced with forced labour that the U.S. has. Again, you could do that in a way [Technical difficulty—Editor]. It's not anti-China; it's just trying to manage forced labour issues across the world.
Obviously I think that engagement with your company in trying to get them to start proactively looking at their supply chains is really, really key. In the U.S., there's a really strong push for that which we'll be seeing over the coming weeks.
I hope that helps to address some of your questions.
Yes, I'm happy to do that.
What we know about poverty alleviation is taken mostly from public documents, but a little bit is based on our interviews as well. It's a program which, on its face, sounds quite benign, but it's the idea of, with all of these minorities who are backwards and poor, living in rural areas, moving them into factory jobs, with the assumption being that that's what they want. There are quotas, so government officials are expected to meet certain quotas.
Typically, as a human rights lawyer, I would say when quotas like this are imposed and there are punishments for not meeting them, you end up with some really bad situations. In this case we're concerned that people are being forced to be part of poverty alleviation, transferred to work, when they don't want to, because the government officials are trying to meet their quotas.
Some of this was confirmed through our interviews. We weren't looking at the time for people who had been in poverty alleviation programming, but we happened to talk to people who had been working side by side with people who were part of the program and had been transferred to factories. It was just like the former detainees were being paid, again, minimum wage for a month over the the course of a year, having to live in dormitories separated from their family, watched at all times, not there by choice. They'd been told that if they didn't engage in this programming and go to work, they would be sent to a detention centre.
Yes, we do know of a long history of international corporations. I'm not totally certain about Canadian corporations in particular, but international corporations. One example is coal and other parts of the energy sector, and so forth.
Most of the forced labour we're seeing in the current campaign, however, is connected to these industries that Ms. Lehr has already mentioned. Textiles, electronics, agriculture, food production, tomatoes and even ketchup, which are making their way around the world, are directly involved, not even just implicated, in these forced labour schemes. We're seeing a lot of different things.
However, with this resource extraction that I talked about, that is linked really closely to a form of settler colonialism that has only been increasing in the region since the CCP came into power. It is deeply tied to the transfer of non-Uighur or non-Kazakh, non-Kyrgyz, non-indigenous peoples from outside the region into it to work for a basically paramilitary state organization that is extracting resources such as coal and oil, and so forth. It's a related system, not completely separate and not completely the same thing either.
There was an important report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, or ASPI, that went into this in some detail.
I mentioned earlier these programs around pairing, the pairing program where the mainland companies are paired up with different parts of Xinjiang, and then also poverty alleviation and labour transfers.
What we've seen is that some of these minorities are being transferred, actually in quite large numbers, tens of thousands, to other parts of China to work in supplier factories. What the ASPI report indicated is that some of those factories are, in fact, in the supply chains of major global brands. Therefore, that's a new risk that needs to be better understood and that companies certainly should be able to identify and address.
If it's okay, I'll take that on and then maybe anyone else might want to follow up.
It's a great question and one that needs, frankly, more understanding. We know that actually the surveillance in the province is primarily being conducted by Chinese companies and that really, in a way, this is like their laboratory for experimentation. They're getting lots of funding from the state, so they're getting very good at things such as facial recognition and machine learning. However, there are components they need from the west, DNA sequencers, so they're getting probably some components and parts from the west, and there have been a series of U.S. government actions to try to address that as recently as yesterday.
Also, the other thing to look at that people aren't considering very much is who is investing in some of these Chinese companies, and whether there is U.S. or Canadian venture capital that's going into the Chinese companies that are actually directly involved in the abuses.
Thank you very much to all the witnesses.
I'll start with Ambassador Saint-Jacques.
I noted you said in your statement that if we are to act, we need to be in good company, that we should be working with like-minded countries such as the Five Eyes.
Do you have suggestions as to how we can help lead and mobilize that type of effort multilaterally? For instance, we recently saw that even New Zealand didn't sign a statement on Hong Kong that we did with our other Five Eyes partners. Is there a way this can be done?
The flip side of that same question is the concern you raised that if countries move by themselves, they then become the warning, to warn off other countries, so it needs to be done in conjunction. How do we actually do that?
There are efforts that need to be made to sensitize all countries that in fact we are all in the same boat and we have a lot at stake here. You may have heard this notion that in fact it's China that is changing us more than we are changing China, and I firmly believe this is what is happening.
In the case of Canada, if you look at the engagement strategy pursued by the federal government in the last year and a half since the arrests of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, China has succeeded in forcing Canada to mute its voice. We have expressed very mild comments or criticism on what's happening in Xinjiang and what China is doing in Hong Kong or in the South China Sea.
That's why I was saying that we have to make more efforts to try to reinforce the multilateral system. That applies not only to international trade, but also to human rights, because what we are seeing now is a gradual erosion. China is very active and has been very successful with its belt and road initiative, which some of you have referred to as the “silk road”. They are providing loans and forcing countries to avoid criticizing China.
I think, again, we have a lot at stake. It's a question of using evidence such as we have heard today to tell others we cannot remain quiet on what's happening in Xinjiang. Let's discuss seriously what measures we can take together that would force China to think twice.
The Chinese leadership is very concerned about the image of China, although under Xi Jinping you are seeing a China that is a lot more aggressive, arrogant and assertive. Still, they are concerned. They need the world, because 19% of their GDP comes from international trade. Again, the message to them should be that you have to change your ways and you have to stop acting like a bully; otherwise, we won't have trust in you and we will restrict contacts.
I did touch on them in some of my answers to questions in order to get them in. I'm sorry; I thought I had a little more time than I did for my statement.
One of my suggestions, because I know there's a Canadian version of the Global Magnitsky Act—it's called GloMag in the U.S.—is that you think about how that could be applied to not only CCP officials involved in abuses but also potentially to companies and their officers in China. It's an approach called “network sanctions”. A lot of us think it's really how you can make sanctions effective.
I also thought that it would be helpful to maintain and update public watch-lists of companies, particularly Chinese companies, that are known to use XUAR forced labour or are suspected of doing so. If you look at our report from October in 2019, we outline how we think you could create that.
Again, the idea of having seizures of products produced by forced labour, including Xinjiang forced labour, would create, I think, the motivation for companies to get on top of this. You could think about government procurement practices too. That's one that I'd like the U.S. government to think about more as well. Where do you procure your stuff? Is it coming from Xinjiang? That's something the government itself has control over. Is it affected by forced labour?
Most of all, I think, you can do what you want in forced labour in terms of affecting company behaviour, but how do you work with allies? How do we have a multilateral or at least a multi-faceted approach to this so that it really starts to have the impact that we need to have? The U.S. has been doing some things on its own, often, and it obviously hasn't led to the results anyone wanted. We really need you all.
I think the diplomatic pressure is really mounting.
You may have heard the term wolf warriors, which refers to the much more aggressive strategies being used by Chinese diplomats. We've seen it in Canada, with former Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye criticizing Prime Minister Trudeau and Ms. Freeland when she was Minister of Foreign Affairs. It's a much more aggressive type of diplomacy.
As for Chen Xueming's letter published in La Presse, an excellent response was prepared today and it contradicts the claims in the letter. Mr. Xueming's letter is full of falsehoods, of course. No real consultations on the law ever took place in Hong Kong. Opponents aren't allowed to express their points of view.
The unfortunate thing in all this is that it's happening in the United States, as well. The publication China Daily has taken out advertising supplements in The Washington Post and other major U.S. dailies. The Chinese are taking advantage of the freedom of speech that exists in our societies, something that would be impossible for our diplomats in China to do. They couldn't have an editorial or opinion piece published in a Chinese newspaper. Chinese diplomats are abusing the system in that regard.
Thank you for the opportunity to expand, because I had a lot more to say than I could in the six minutes.
At the time, the situation was quite different. I think the Chinese government had not embarked on its campaign of assimilation, of destruction of the Uighur culture. In fact, there was support from the Chinese government to help Uighur women get into business to develop small trade.
Apart from CIDA's official programs, I should add that at the embassy we have the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, which can be used to support small projects. When I was ambassador, we would use these projects and sometimes give a grant of $20,000 or $50,000 to help people organize a co-operative or to fight discrimination based on gender. We got quite good results. We had a few projects in Xinjiang.
I must say that once the Chinese government changed the law on NGOs in China, preventing them from getting foreign funding, it became almost impossible to fund any of these projects. The Chinese government was very concerned that some of these projects would lead to social instability.
You're right. In fact, there was increased surveillance. What happened after.... There were four attacks that took place.
Of course the genesis of all of this was the very important riot that took place in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, in 2009. After that, in 2013 and 2014—I was in China at the time—there was the first attack on Tiananmen Square in October in Beijing, and then a very gruesome attack, using knives, at the Kunming train station on March 1, 2014. Then there was an explosion at the Urumqi train station, and then finally a suicide car attack in an open market in Urumqi on May 22, 2014.
I had a discussion with Chinese officials in the Communist Party of China after those events to tell them that the policy they were following was the reason they were generating those attacks and that in fact they had to change the attitude. I recall saying to people in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Look at the example of Canada. Here I am, a French Canadian, as ambassador in one of the most important countries in the world. Can you point out to me a Uighur ambassador that you have anywhere around the world, or a Tibetan who occupies the function of ambassador?”
I said, “You have to give better opportunities to your people while letting them protect their culture.” I said, “There is a sense of despair for what you are doing. You are creating for yourself a lot of resentment, and this will come back to haunt you.”
Of course this led to very difficult conversations, but they were not in the mood to follow any advice.
I have one observation and two questions. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I think Ambassador Saint-Jacques' point about the forceful response of African leaders to the racism directed at African nationals during the COVID situation, especially in southern China, provides a powerful example that even countries that are potentially very vulnerable to Chinese efforts of colonialism were able to stand up and push back, and it had a real impact. I think that's a model for us to follow.
My first question is for Dr. Anderson, again on the issue of colonialism.
You spoke about colonialism, and we see those colonial efforts inside the territory of the PRC as well as beyond it. It seems to me that it's important for other countries to, at a minimum, refuse to be partners in that colonialism. However, we see many nations, including Canada, that are members of, for instance, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is part of the broader belt and road initiative.
I wonder if you can speak to the AIIB, what you think about countries being members of it, and the degree to which maybe that provides the appearance of legitimacy for the belt and road initiative.
That is a big, thorny, and of course very important question.
For me and for my organization, it fundamentally comes back to this issue: When are we, collectively, globally, going to actually act on the values that we say we hold? When are we going to prioritize human rights, not even necessarily over economic gain, but at least to the same extent?
So many of us pay lip service to those values, and so many of us pay lip service to human rights, and meanwhile we are not actually practising those values in the way that our country makes policies and in the way that we interact with countries like China. I do understand there are a number of countries and a number of governments that are in a tough bind and that see they have things to gain from China, but my question is, at what expense?
I'm trying to gather my thoughts here. I wanted to jump in at several points, but I didn't really get the chance.
On multilateral action, my organization has been watching and has been happy to see a little bit of movement, a little bit of action in that regard. On June 26, more than 50 UN experts issued a statement denouncing China's human rights record, notably the treatment of Uighurs and Tibetans, as well as the deteriorating situation in Hong Kong.
On June 29, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a group of parliamentarians from 15 countries, called for a resolution to be tabled at the UN specifically about the situation in the Uighur region. I would urge Canadian lawmakers to use your voices to be part of those kinds of statements that are actually happening. There is some multilateral movement and multilateral action.
I also mentioned some things in my very quick rundown of policy recommendations that I haven't had a chance to mention yet. There are things Canada can do to focus on refugee admissions for Uighurs who are stateless. There's a crisis of Uighur statelessness in the Uighur diaspora around the world. If Canada could offer safe haven to those refugees, that would be one really positive step that Canada could take. That would also send a signal to China. That would be a form of using the Canadian voice. Canada should deter and punish harassment of Uighur Canadians who are living inside and outside of its borders.
I know I've spoken for a while, so I will turn the floor over to one of my fellow panellists. Thank you.
I'll be brief. I just want to second what Elise said about refugees.
One of the challenges for us is when we're looking for people to talk to. We have all these government documents that are the blueprints, but to me it was important to find humans who could tell us if those policies were actually being implemented. We did find some, but it's very hard to find Uighurs who will talk to you about their experiences, because they're so insecure. They don't have safety. They're refugees, and they don't have status where they are. I think that's a really vital element. I know that Canada in particular has a long history of accepting refugees, so I just want to second that recommendation.
Another thing that might be helpful would be if an international organization—and this would be hard to create—was to research what's happening in Xinjiang and issue an opinion from a legal perspective. It is my understanding that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the past has done studies when it wasn't permitted access to a region. I don't think it's entirely impossible to accomplish that, although it would obviously take the right political will. That might be somewhere Canada could help.
I think I've already touched on the questions of export controls and sanctions, etc.
Last, in a very big-picture way, continuing really aggressive efforts to support anti-corruption work around the world would be important in the long run when, again, we talk about belt and road and so forth. That is seen as feeding corruption globally, and if you're able to counter the corruption involved, it might not be so attractive to some leaders.
I'll close there. Thank you so much for having me here today.
Before we move in camera, as chair and on behalf of all of the members of committee, as well as the clerk, analysts, our interpreters, staff, technicians and everybody who has made the last two days happen, we can't thank our witnesses enough. You are tremendous experts and educators, advocates and academics. We've heard many personal stories here. Over these last two days, we have had thorough and compelling testimony that will help inform the work that we need to do.
We cannot thank you enough. On behalf of this subcommittee of foreign affairs, thank you so much.
The meeting is suspended.
[Proceedings continue in camera]