With Parliament back, Canada’s Uyghurs press Ottawa for China boycott

One man fears his extended family in China has been killed

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At the very least they want Ottawa to embrace a diplomatic boycott of February’s Winter Olympics in Beijing.


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“Canada should stand up against China. We have to protect human rights,” said Nabijan Elqut, who will attend three days of advocacy on Parliament Hill on Tuesday to focus more attention on the plight of Uyghurs in China.

Elqut has been in Canada since 2004.

But in 2017, he lost all contact with his family back home in Hotan, China.

He thinks they are in concentration camps, or even dead.

Elqut says countries have been slow to jump on any boycott bandwagon because “the politicians think about the trade, the money. Most of the time they think about the money first.”

The Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project has organized the three days of advocacy in Ottawa to coincide with Parliament’s return with fewer than 100 days to the Beijing games.


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“We want action,” organizer Kayum Masimov said. “The time for empty rhetoric has passed and our government should act.”

“A full diplomatic boycott is the bare minimum what we as a country should do. Preferably, we would like to see the games relocated or postponed.”

Their anger, concern, and worry stems from what they say is a genocide being committed by the Chinese government.

Millions of Uyghurs have been jailed, the Advocacy Project says.

Children have been ripped from their families.

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And forced labour, Masimov said, has fed the Chinese economic engine.

Only recently have some countries started discussing a possible diplomatic boycott.

The Canadian Olympic Committee has already said a full boycott is off the table and will only punish athletes.


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  1. In this file photo a member of the Uyghur community holds a placard as he joins a demonstration to call on the British parliament to vote to recognise alleged persecution of China's Muslim minority Uyghur people as genocide and crimes against humanity in London on April 22, 2021.

    OPINION: Parliaments working together against the Uyghur genocide

  2. In this file photo taken on July 5, 2020, demonstrators staged a protest across the street from the Chinese consulate in Calgary, demanding China stop the persecution of the Uyghur people and the freedom of imprisoned Canadians.

    TEICH: The Uyghur genocide is a genocide, let’s call it one

  3. In this file photo the Canadian flag flies above the Canadian embassy in Beijing on January 15, 2019.

    KILGOUR: Genocide, Uyghurs and Beijing

But athletes are also being challenged to avoid the opening and closing ceremonies.

“China cares a lot about loss of face. So people not showing up for their big party would have an impact on the government. Especially if there were quite a few countries,” said Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, Senior Fellow with the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.

“I would be very surprised if there is not a diplomatic boycott,” said McCuaig-Johnston, who also served as a federal deputy minister.

Masimov said Tuesday’s event will also appeal to the consciences of Canadian Olympians.


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