China lashes New Zealand after it condemns 'abuses' of Uighurs

China has detained "upwards of one million" ethnic minorities including Muslim Uighurs in the western region of Xinjiang. PHOTO: REUTERS

WELLINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - China has criticised New Zealand after its Parliament passed a motion declaring "severe human rights abuses" are taking place against Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.

The motion "grossly interferes in China's internal affairs, and runs counter to international law and basic norms governing international relations", the Chinese embassy in Wellington said in a statement on its website. "The Chinese side deplores and firmly opposes such action."

New Zealand has in recent years tried not to upset China - its largest trading partner. That position is becoming difficult to maintain as a spat between China and Australia, New Zealand's closest ally, escalates. China said on Thursday (May 6) that it is suspending a regular economic dialogue with Australia, causing the Australian dollar to fall.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said earlier this week that New Zealand's differences with China are becoming more difficult to reconcile.

China has detained "upwards of one million" ethnic minorities including Muslim Uighurs in the western region of Xinjiang, according to a United Nations assessment. The United States and lawmakers in several Western nations have said China's actions there amount to genocide. Beijing says it is fighting terrorism while providing economic opportunities to adults and education to children.

The parliamentary motion about China's actions in Xinjiang, agreed to by all MPs after a debate on Wednesday, calls for New Zealand's government to "work with all relevant instruments of international law to bring these abuses to an end".

The motion put forward by the libertarian ACT party was watered down to gain the approval of Ms Ardern's governing Labour Party, ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden said.

The original version called on Parliament to recognise that minorities in Xinjiang "are suffering crimes against humanity and genocide," Ms van Velden said.

"The British Parliament had a debate about genocide," she said. "Here in New Zealand, other parties, who had the power of veto, would not allow this debate to proceed if the motion mentioned genocide."

Ms Ardern responded by saying she was pleased the motion gained the support of the whole Parliament.

"I'm pleased that unlike many other countries, where there've been abstentions from motions, where government parties in particular have not voted in favour, we have a statement that is strong and that is clear," she told reporters.

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