Feb 25, 2021 - World

Dutch parliament recognizes China's treatment of Uyghurs as genocide

Picture of an Uyghur man shouting into a megaphone during a demonstration in the Netherlands
"Freedom for Uyghurs" demonstration in the Netherlands. Photo: Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Dutch parliament on Thursday passed a nonbinding motion recognizing China's treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority in the northwestern region of Xinjiang as "genocide."

Why it matters: The Dutch parliament is the first legislature in Europe to determine that China's campaign of surveillance, mass detention, forced labor and sterilization of Uyghurs amounts to genocide, a judgment also shared by the U.S. State Department and the Canadian parliament.

What they're saying: "A genocide on the Uyghur minority is occurring in China," the motion stated, according to Reuters.

  • Yes, but: The parliament did not directly name the Chinese government as responsible.

Between the lines: Government ministers in both Canada and the Netherlands either abstained or voted against the resolutions, as a formal designation of genocide has legal ramifications that could make dealing with the Chinese government extremely difficult.

  • Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok instead called the situation a "large-scale human rights violations against Uyghurs," per Politico.

The big picture: The move comes at a time when many European countries are grappling with how to balance economic ties with China, the world's second-largest economy, while addressing its growing authoritarianism and rampant human rights abuses.

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