China is in fierce terms distancing itself from the motion in which the House of Representatives classifies the treatment of Uyghurs as genocide. China sees the motion as “deliberate slander” and as a “gross interference in a domestic affair”, says the Chinese Embassy in The Hague. The Chamber would completely ignore the facts and “common sense”.
The reaction of the embassy does not come as a surprise to many Uyghurs in the Netherlands. “Still, I am always disappointed,” says 21-year-old Alerk Ablkim. His father, a well-known Uyghur writer, poet and publisher of childrens books, has been stuck in what China calls a reeducation camp since 2017.
“ The official lecture was then that my father and his sister would have helped a Uigur woman flee the country. And that would be punishable.” Alerk (he would like to be mentioned by his first name, after Uyghurs custom) acts as a bridge between Dutch society and the Uyghur community here. He speaks out about what happened to his father and many other Uyghurs.
In an educational centre set up by them in Zeist, these Uyghurs tell about their family members:
estimated that more than a million Uyghurs have been in Chinese criminal camps in the Xinjiang region, where they are employed. According to the embassy, China is fighting terrorists and separatists in Xinjiang. Abroad does not have to interfere with that. The embassy urges MPs not to jeopardise relations between the Netherlands and China.
“ By hyping the Xinjiang issue before the elections, MPs abuse the issue for political purposes, without respect for the law. This shows their ignorance and bias towards China and their selfishness and narrowness of mind.”
This week, the Canadian House of Commons, and before that, the US government, already described the treatment of the Uyghurs as genocide. Among the Uigghur community in the Netherlands, it is proud that the House of Representatives occupies the same position.
“ The Netherlands is the first country in the European Union to make such a statement. As a result, we also feel recognized as Dutch people,” says Alerk. Now that the news about the position of the Chamber has penetrated well, the enthusiasm of the group has been somewhat tempered. “We realize its symbolic. Only the House of Representatives classifies it as genocide, not the cabinet. There are no hard actions attached to it either.”
Meanwhile, China is keeping an eye on whether the ruling of the House of Representatives finds resonance elsewhere in Europe, says TCCEIT-correspondent Sjoerd den Daas. “The Netherlands is not that big, but it remains an EU country. This could have consequences at EU level if more countries start to speak out in this way or if Brussels has a stronger voice to speak the word genocide.”
Alerk hopes that the Netherlands will take further steps. He welcomed a motion by D66 to allow the Winter Olympics to take place in a country other than China in 2022. “But a truly independent committee should also go to our area to get all the facts out of the table. To find out what happened to our family members and to get in touch with them.”
The main objective, as far as he is concerned, is the rapid closure of the penal camps. “So we can stop bleeding and start healing.”