The latest release from the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Canada comes on the heels of an announcement from Global Affairs Canada, which outlined a host of new measures on Tuesday in a bid to move in on businesses that are profiting off forced labour.
“The so-called ‘forced labor’ and ‘mass arbitrary detention’ are just a concoction fanned up by some US and Western institutions and personnel,” read the Chinese embassy’s statement, published on Wednesday.
The spokesperson wrote that Canada has “grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs” in issuing the new measures and has violated “the basic norms governing international relations.”
“The Chinese side expresses its strong dissatisfaction, and firm opposition over this and strongly condemns such actions,” read the statement.
Despite China’s denials, there have been multiple reports, studies and news articles detailing the horrific mistreatment and abuse China’s Uighur population has been subjected to in the Xinjiang region.
On Oct. 20, the House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights released a statement detailing the findings of its own study into the human rights situation of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
It found China’s treatment of its Uighur population constitutes a “genocide.”
The statement described horrific human rights abuses, including mass detentions, forced sterilizations, claims of widespread organ harvesting, and coerced labour.
In light of reports like this, the Canadian government took steps this week to crack down on businesses using forced labour. The United Kingdom also released a similar suite of measures in a parallel announcement.
The government urged companies with business links to the Xinjiang region to “closely examine their supply chains” to make sure their companies aren’t participating in the use of forced labour.
Canadian companies with ties – or seeking to have ties – to the Xinjiang region will also now be required to sign a declaration with the Trade Commissioner Service.
That declaration would acknowledge the company “is aware of the human rights situation in Xinjiang; abides by all relevant Canadian and International laws, respects human rights, and seeks to meet or exceed OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.”
The feds also plan to raise awareness about the risks of doing business in Xinjiang, including through a study on the allegations of forced labour in the region.
Beyond its harsh condemnation of Canada’s new measures, China also accused Canada of colluding with other countries to undermine Xinjiang’s stability – a move they wrote is “doomed to fail.”
“Under the banner of ‘caring about’ the human rights of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, Canada distorts the facts, blames the innocent and suppressed Xinjiang enterprise for no reason, which fully exposed its hypocritical and ugly face.”
In response to Global News’ request for comment, a spokesperson for Canada’s foreign affairs minister said their Tuesday comments still stand.
“Nobody should face mistreatment on the basis of their religion or ethnicity.”
Canada’s decision not to walk-back the comments is a pattern that holds true for other Canadian critiques of China’s human rights record. One of these incidents happened in October, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized Beijing’s human rights record – including its record in the Xinjiang region.
In response, China expressed its diplomatic discontent by lodging solemn representations with Canada.
Despite the pushback, Trudeau doubled down in a press conference just days later.
“We will stand up loudly and clearly for human rights all around the world, whether it’s talking about the situation facing the Uighurs, whether it’s by talking about the very concerning situation in Hong Kong, whether it’s calling out China for its coercive diplomacy,” Trudeau said.
“These are things we will continue to do.”