The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) applauds the proposal of a resolution from Parliamentarians sitting in the Belgian Chamber of Representatives concerning China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in East Turkistan. The resolution, co-sponsored by MP Samuel Cogolati and MP Wouter de Vriendt from the Ecolo-Green grouping, most notably calls upon the Belgian government to recognize China’s crimes against the Uyghur people in East Turkistan as a ‘genocide’, which would make it the first European country to do so. A debate on the resolution will take place in the Belgian Parliament in the coming weeks.

The call for the Belgian government to recognize the Uyghur genocide references the forced sterilization of Uyghur women and other measures to suppress Uyghur birth rates in East Turkistan, as well as the separation of children from their parents, who have been detained in one of the mass internment camps, and their relocation to state orphanages. The resolution further calls upon the Belgian government to address Uyghur forced labour by introducing national mandatory due diligence legislation and import bans on goods from East Turkistan produced by Uyghur forced labour.                                                                The resolution also adds to the growing criticism of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI), urging the Belgian government to block the approval of the investment deal in its current form until China has ratified core International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions on forced labour. As part of a joint CSO appeal signed by over 50 organizations, the WUC supports this call and urges other European Member States to take similar steps to ensure the inclusion of strong and enforceable human rights clauses into the CAI.                                                                                                                   The proposal comes at a time where the question of a Uyghur genocide has been raised within various other governments in the international community. In October 2020, the Canadian Subcommittee on Human Rights found that, based on multiple hearings, China’s actions against Uyghurs in East Turkistan constitute a genocide and urged its government to adopt this opinion. Moreover, on his last day in office, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that the U.S. had formally designated China’s crimes against Uyghurs as ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘genocide’, making it the first country to do so. And earlier this week, leading lawyers at the Essex Court Chambers (London), led by Alison McDonald QC, published the first legal opinion concluding that the available evidence credibly establishes that crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide have been committed.                                                                                                                 “It is high time that the European Union and its Member States recognize China’s crimes against Uyghurs as a genocide”, WUC President Dolkun Isa said. “As such, the proposed Belgian resolution is very welcome, and I hope that the Belgian government will act upon its demands by formally recognizing the Uyghur genocide and taking concrete action to put an end to it”.                                                                                                             The WUC expresses its heartfelt thanks to MP Samuel Cogolati and MP Wouter de Vriendt for standing up for Uyghur rights and urging their government to do the same. Given the urgency of what is happening to Uyghurs and other Turkic people in East Turkistan, it is imperative that the resolution is swiftly passed in the Belgian parliament and that the Belgian government takes the concrete steps outlined in the resolution. This might prove to be a crucial first step for a European response to the Uyghur genocide, setting a precedent for other European countries to follow.