China condemns French parliament's Uyghur genocide declaration

·3 min read

The authorities in China have reacted angrily to a French parliament resolution on Friday that accuses Beijing of carrying out a genocide against its Uyghur Muslim population, a move that has further strained ties two weeks before the opening of the Winter Olympics.

The French resolution adds to a chorus of complaints from western nations which have criticised Beijing for placing an estimated one million Uyghurs in forced labour camps. The text describes "the violence perpetrated by the People's Republic of China against the Uyghurs as constituting crimes against humanity and genocide".

France's National Assembly joins the parliaments of Canada, the Netherlands, Britain and Belgium in criticising China. The United States government has formally accused Beijing of genocide in western Xinjiang.

But China rejects such accusations and hit out at French lawmakers on Friday.

"The French National Assembly's resolution on Xinjiang ignores facts and legal knowledge and grossly interferes in China's internal affairs," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing. "China firmly opposes it."

The French motion was proposed by the opposition Socialist Party in the lower house of parliament but also backed by President Emmanuel Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) party.

The non-binding resolution by France's National Assembly was adopted with 169 votes in favour and just one against on Thursday.

The text calls on the French government to undertake "the necessary measures within the international community and in its foreign policy towards the People's Republic of China" to protect the minority group in the Xinjiang region.

"China is a great power. We love the Chinese people. But we refuse to submit to propaganda from a regime that is banking on our cowardice and our avarice to perpetrate a genocide in plain sight," Socialist Party chief Olivier Faure said.

The only person who voted against the resolution was MP Buon Tan (LREM), who heads the France-China Friendship Association.

The UN Genocide Convention was signed on 9 December 1948 in Paris and became effective on 12 January 1951. China ratified the convention on 18 April 1983, the United States on 25 November 1988.

But China reserved some exceptions for itself saying in a footnote that "does not consider itself bound by article IX of the said Convention," which stipulates that "disputes between the Contracting Parties relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment of the present Convention, including those relating to the responsibility of a State for genocide or for any of the other acts enumerated in article III, shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice at the request of any of the parties to the dispute."

Moreover, legal scholars Zhu Wenqi and Zhang Binxin point out that "though China is a party to the Genocide Convention ... there is no provision incorporating genocide into Chinese criminal law," which ultimately means that those who commit acts of genocide go free and, even if Chinese officials were formally found guilty of acts of genocide, they will never be prosecuted for that crime in China.

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