China denounced a French parliament resolution a few weeks ago accusing Beijing of committing genocide against its Uyghur Muslim population, a move that soured relations ahead of the Winter Olympics.
The resolution joined a chorus of Western nations condemning Beijing for what they say is the incarceration of an estimated one million Uyghurs in forced labor camps, calling “the atrocities perpetrated by the People’s Republic of China against the Uyghurs of crimes against humanity and genocide”.
Beijing rejects genocide and the existence of forced labor camps in Xinjiang, accusing Uyghurs testifying abroad about the region of being paid liars.
The National Assembly of France joined the parliaments of Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Belgium in passing similar resolutions.
China has been officially accused of perpetrating genocide in Xinjiang by the US government.
Last year, the Dutch parliament passed a similar resolution which earned it a strong rebuke from Beijing.
Italy and Belgium condemned China for Xinjiang but did not use the term genocide.
China, on the other hand, rejects these allegations and attacks French parliamentarians.
At a regular press conference, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “
The French National Assembly’s resolution on Xinjiang ignores facts and legal understanding and shamelessly interferes in China’s internal affairs. China is categorically against it.
The Chinese Embassy in France criticized the action, saying it was illogical and would damage bilateral relations.
“The French side is fully aware of the folly and the danger of the resolution. The embassy said in a statement that it should “show consistency between rhetoric and action” and take “real initiatives” to ensure the healthy development of Sino-French ties.
Opposition Socialists in the lower house of the French parliament put forward the proposal, which was endorsed by President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM) party.
The French National Assembly passed a non-binding resolution with 169 votes in favor and one vote against.
He urged the French government to take “the necessary measures within the international community and in its foreign policy towards the People’s Republic of China” to safeguard the minority population in the Xinjiang region.
“China is a major player in the world. The Chinese people are worshiped by us. But we will not allow ourselves to be swayed by the lies of a dictatorship that relies on our fear and greed to commit genocide in broad daylight,” said Olivier Faure, the leader of the Socialist Party.
He spoke to lawmakers about the circumstances in internment camps where men and women could not lie in cages, were exposed to rape and torture, and were forced to undergo organ transplants.
The French government has refused to label China’s treatment of the Uyghur minority as “genocide”, saying the phrase is a legal term that can only be substantiated by a judicial investigation.
Beijing has repeatedly rejected requests from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to study the situation in the region.
During a speech to the European Parliament, President Emmanuel Macron, who has tried to stay out of increasingly strained relations between China and the United States, was asked about the Uyghurs.
He told campaigning MEP Raphael Glucksmann: “France is discussing this very explicitly in all our bilateral conversations (with Beijing).”
He said he supported a European law that would “limit the importation of items resulting from forced labour” and that European companies working in China should be required to monitor supply chains.
In Xinjiang, human rights organizations say they have uncovered evidence of mass detentions, forced labor, political indoctrination, torture and forced sterilization.
Beijing rejects genocide and the existence of forced labor camps in Xinjiang, accusing Uyghurs testifying abroad about the region’s realities of being paid liars.
China has justified the camps in Xinjiang as vocational training centers aimed at reducing the pull of Islamic extremism after initially denying their existence.
The United States has imposed sanctions on a growing number of Chinese leaders and companies for their treatment of Uyghurs, prompting Beijing to retaliate with tit-for-tat measures.
The announcement comes on the eve of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Several Western countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, have declared “diplomatic boycotts” of the games and will not send representatives.
China has sanctioned European, British and American lawmakers, as well as academics in Xinjiang and a London legal firm.
Petros Aramidis is a geopolitical analyst based in Athens.