OTTAWA, Canada - Ramping up pressure on Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to toughen his stance on China, Canada's parliament has overwhelmingly approved a controversial motion declaring Chinese actions against Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region as being genocide.
Canadian lawmakers voted 266-0 in favor of the non-binding motion tabled by the opposition Conservative Party. Though Trudeau and his cabinet abstained from the vote, the motion garnered widespread support from Liberal backbenchers.
The motion also called upon the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing if the alleged rights abuses in China against the Uighur minority continue.
"We can no longer ignore this. We must call it for what it is - a genocide," Conservative lawmaker Michael Chong said, citing testimony, documents and media reports.
China's move to set up "vocational training centers" in Xianjing, claiming they would help combat extremism and provide people with new skills, has come under heavy criticism, with critics describing the centers as concentration camps targeting the Muslim Uighur minority group.
Beijing has denied any wrongdoing and refuted accusations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
"Western countries are in no position to say what the human rights situation in China looks like," Cong Peiwu, the Chinese ambassador to Ottawa, said in an interview ahead of the Canadian vote.
"There is no so-called genocide in Xinjiang at all," he stressed.
Canadian PM Trudeau has so far been hesitant to use the term "genocide" to describe the situation in China, and instead has sought a consensus among Western allies on the issue.
"Moving forward multilaterally will be the best way to demonstrate the solidarity of Western democracies ... that are extremely concerned and dismayed by reports of what's going on in Xinjiang," Trudeau said last week, after speaking to fellow G7 leaders.
Monday's vote is likely to further fuel diplomatic tensions between China and Canada.
Relations between the two nations have been strained since 2018 when Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on a U.S. warrant. Soon after Wanzhou's arrest, China detained two Canadians on charges of spying.
According to a government source, Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden are likely to discuss relations with China during their virtual bilateral meeting on February 23.
On his last day in office, former U.S. President Donald Trump had charged China with committing "genocide and crimes against humanity" in Xinjiang.
The Biden administration has been campaigning to ensure that the genocide declaration is upheld, according to Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden's nominee as ambassador to the United Nations.