Pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip has called reports of genocide in China’s Xinjiang region “an over-the-top exaggeration” and “too loaded and detached from reality.”
Speaking with pro-government businessman Adrian Ho in a video posted onto New People’s Party’s YouTube channel over the weekend, the duo sought to dispel growing international concern over China’s mistreatment of Uighur Muslims.
Ho, who has business interests in Xinjiang, referred to the size of the Uighur population in Xinjiang to dismiss reports of genocide: “When you’re talking about genocide, you basically have to eliminate 10 million people.”
“Where is the proof? That is an over-the-top exaggeration,” Ip said in response.
The predominantly Muslim Uighur ethnic group are among the minorities targeted in what Beijing claims is a campaign to tackle unrest and separatism.
The UN says a million Uighurs have been arbitrarily detained in “political reeducation camps,” whilst Human Rights Watch reports that surveillance and repression in Xinjiang has increased dramatically since 2016. The NGO says that biometric data is collected from residents, passports are confiscated, religious activity restricted, “abnormally long” beards, public prayers and Muslim veils banned, whilst vehicle and mobile phone owners are made to install trackers. Contraceptives, sterilisation and abortion have been reportedly forced upon Uighurs to control the population. The US has deemed Beijing’s actions to amount to “genocide.”
Earlier this month, the BBC reported instances of systematic rape and sexual abuse within the camps. Beijing, meanwhile, has made repeated assertions that the camps are necessary to maintain peace and stability in the region and have denied any rights abuses.
“I think raping… or any physical assault of your people is absolutely ridiculous, without proof,” Ho said. He called reports of Uighur mistreatment a “smear campaign of China’s integration of its multicultural people.”
“If you ask me, I think their rights are even better in the region than so-called Chinese people in the region,” Ho added.
In a tweet linking to the video, Ip referred to an Economist article to bolster her claims: “The Economist warns against accusing China of genocide in Xinjiang. Too loaded and detached from reality.”
The Economist article warned foreign governments against labelling China’s mistreatment of Uighurs as the official legal definition of “genocide” — which does not include “cultural genocide.” Instead, it recommended using the term “crimes against humanity” to describe China’s behaviour.
Ip, however, cited the article in an attempt to dispel reports of any mistreatment against the Uighur community.
The blunder is the latest in a string of tweets from Ip denying Chinese mistreatment of the Uighurs. In recent months, Ip has tweeted about members of the Uighur community who are celebrities in China in an attempt to disprove any rights abuses against the wider Uighur community.
“The US accuses China of genocide in Xinjiang. But one of the hottest stars in China is Dilraba Dilmurat, and she is not the only Xinjiang success story. What genocide?” one tweet read.
Last month, the outgoing Trump administration labelled Beijing’s mass detention and mistreatment of Uighurs as “genocide.” The description was later reiterated by US State Secretary Anthony Blinken.
UK calls Xinjiang probe
Ip’s claims come amid growing international pressure on Beijing over its treatment of the ethnic minority group.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called on China to give “urgent and unfettered” access to Xinjiang to investigate potential rights abuses at a United Nations Human Rights Council session on Monday, citing reports of “extreme” mistreatment “on an industrial scale.”
Meanwhile on Monday, the Canadian parliament voted to designate the treatment of Uighurs as a “genocide.”