Wednesday, 5 May 2021

ACT Deputy Leader statement on Xinjiang


Mr Speaker,

I move that this House is gravely concerned about the severe human rights abuses taking place against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. We call on the Government to work with the United Nations, international partners, and to work with all relevant instruments of international law to bring these abuses to an end.

First and foremost it is important that we are having this debate.

I want to thank members of all parties represented in our Parliament who have agreed for this debate to go ahead.

Some people think it is brave for our parliament to debate something the Chinese Communist Party may disagree with.

Think about that for a moment. We are elected by the people of New Zealand to debate freely and fearlessly, just so long as we don’t offend the Chinese Communist Party. That’s what it would have meant to not have this debate.

It is vital that we are able to have this debate in the ultimate sanctuary of free speech, our Parliament. It is vital for our democracy, for our conscience, and for our position in the world.

To our Kiwi Chinese Friends

I want to start by saying what this debate is not. I fear that some will try to misrepresent it, so let me be clear.

This is not a criticism of the country of China. It is not a criticism of Chinese people. It is certainly not a criticism of our Kiwi Chinese neighbours.

In my experience, it is that last group who are often the most strident in warning us about the regime that this debate is about, the Chinese Communist Party.

To our Kiwi Chinese friends, I say Good Afternoon, Ni Hao, Kia Ora. We need you in this conversation. We need you to look outside media that is influenced by the CCP, to examine other sources, and join in the effort to understand the rapidly emerging situation.

The road to having this debate

Before I go any further, I’d like to briefly comment on the procedures and motions that led to this debate. They may tell us almost as much about New Zealand’s position on the matter than the debate to come.

Unfortunately, we are only having half this debate. This is not the debate that I proposed to the Parliament last week. I proposed a debate on the exact Motion of Nusrat Ghani, that the British Parliament unanimously agreed to last month.

It read:

That this House believes that Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are suffering Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide; and calls on the Government to act to fulfil its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide and all relevant instruments of international law to bring it to an end.

In that debate, the Minister representing the Government, Nigel Adams, said the U.K. Government would not declare a genocide is taking place, saying that is the role of a properly competent court. Many speakers in that debate argued that no such court hearing is possible given the alleged perpetrators will not allow access to the Xinjian region.

I’ll turn to those arguments later, but the fact is the British Parliament had a debate about genocide. Here in New Zealand, other parties, who had the power of veto, would not allow this debate to proceed if the motion mentioned genocide.

It’s important for people to know how we got to debating the motion before us today. I started with the same motion as the British, then had to dilute it and soften it to gain the approval of New Zealand’s Governing party.

Our Democracy

Turning to the importance of our democracy, we are fortunate to have inherited the best system of Government. It was hard won, at times, by our ancestors. The names of battles around this chamber are a daily reminder of that.

As recently as this year, we have seen a legislature like ours, in Hong Kong, lose those rights. It is critical that we assert parliamentary sovereignty. We must reject the idea that foreign powers can interfere in our institutions.

It remains problematic that we have seen the Chinese Consulate successfully prevent students and faculty at AUT University commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The Vice Chancellor’s acquiescence was understandable, he was reliant on international student revenue. The CCP could easily turn that tap down, or off completely. But in that decision, he also made AUT University a microcosm of New Zealand as we all face the challenge he did on a larger scale.

Universities play an important role as the critic and conscience of society, but Parliament plays an essential role as the democratic expression of the people’s sovereignty.

For our parliament to ignore reality and oppose this motion out of fear, as the Minister of Trade seemed to suggest we should yesterday, is intolerable.

Our Conscience

Mr Speaker, our conscience requires that we support this motion. We know that a genocide is taking place. The evidence is voluminous, from multiple sources, and credible.

It is also true that the Uyghur people have been engaged in terrorism across China. This should not be without consequence, but genocide is not a justifiable consequence for anything. It is certainly not justifiable to show ‘absolutely no mercy’ as President Xi called for in the ‘People’s War on Terror’ centred on Xinjian.

Genocide does not require a war. It does not need to be sudden, it can be slow and deliberate, and that is what is happening here.

New Zealand and China both signed the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in 1949. It gives an internationally agreed definition of genocide.

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Not one, but each of these are occurring in Xinjian, according to multiple sources.

To take one example, there has been mass imposition of contraceptive devices upon Uyghur women, and forced sterilisation, matched by an enormous reduction in fertility rates in Xinjian.

The Parliaments of Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands have all passed motions condemning the Chinese Communist Party for genocide. The United States Federal Government has done so twice. Once under President Trump and again under President Biden. Not many things can unite those two.

Some will say that the Convention requires a competent court to decide what is and is not a genocide. That is a principle I would normally agree with, but let’s be honest. The perpetrator of a genocide is not going to submit to a court hearing.

Our conscience demands that if we believe there is a genocide, we should say so.

Our Position in the World

Finally, we must consider the geopolitical and trade implications of this situation. There will be some who say it is irresponsible to bring this motion.

The ACT Party believes it would be irresponsible not to. New Zealand plays an important role in the global community.

The world is looking to us now to see what standard we are going to set. Can the CCP play us off as the weakest link in the Western Alliance. Will we abandon our longest standing ally across the ditch if enough carrot and stick is applied?

We may face the threat of losses for speaking our mind, but we face much greater dangers if we don’t.

The standard we set may be our destiny. A small country has more to lose than most in a world where democratic nations are bullied, played off against each other and cowed by trade sanctions and worse.

Our best hope of security and prosperity is collective defence, so we must make sure the standards of the world are set as high as possible.

Conclusion

Mr Speaker, Standing Orders prevent me from amending my own motion, but I have put a signed amendment on the table which reflects the genocide occurring. I hope that some other member will move the amendment so that it can be debated.

In the meantime, I call on the Government to use all instruments of international law available to it to ensure that the genocide underway is investigated and its perpetrators be brought to justice.