Canada must do more than condemn the mass detention and surveillance of Uighur Muslims in China and abroad in light of new evidence known as the China Cables, according to a Uighur Canadian activist.
"There are very verbal expressions of concerns, without any concrete action," Mehmet Tohti, the Canadian representative for the World Uyghur Congress, told The Current's interim host Laura Lynch.
"It is really, really shocking."
A trove of leaked Communist Party documents from 2017 have shown hard evidence of the scope of the mass detentions of Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province in northwestern China.
The documents also show how the Chinese government is tracking and monitoring Uighurs living abroad, including in Canada.
The China Cables were obtained and verified by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, in collaboration with CBC News and other news organizations around the world.
Experts say that as many as 1.8 million Uighurs are held, or have been held, in detention camps in China in the past three years — up to 15 per cent of the entire Uighur population.
According to the documents, detainees are subjected to indoctrination and constant monitoring. They must study Mandarin and are effectively banned from using the Uighur language.
The cables also backed up what many Uighurs abroad have been alleging for several years: that the Chinese government monitors Uighurs living around the world, including in Canada, and may arrest Uighurs with foreign citizenship who return to China.
"If this level of atrocity does not send the alarm bell, I don't know what has to happen to make our politicians or world communities to act," said Tohti.
Guillaume Bérubé, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, wrote in an email to The Current that the Canadian government is "deeply concerned by the human rights situation faced by Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities in China. This is an issue our government has raised directly with the Chinese."
Bérubé added that on July 8, Canada and more than 20 other countries presented a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council "expressing these concerns."
"We continue to call on the Chinese government to ensure the human rights of its people — including freedom of religion — are fully respected," he wrote.
Tohti said Canada should apply the Magnitsky Act — a law which allows Canada to impose sanctions on individual foreign officials — against specific officials in Xinjiang province. It's something that several China experts in Canada have called on the federal government to do.
"If this kind of atrocity is not enough to ... use the Magnitsky [Act], what else should happen [in order] to use it?" Tohti asked.
He also criticized the Canadian government for its membership in the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank, a Beijing-based institution that funds projects throughout Asia, including China's massive Belt and Road international trade infrastructure program.
Many of China's Belt and Road projects run through Xinjiang province, which borders several countries including India and Pakistan.
"That's the reason we are suffering today," said Tohti. "Canada should cut should cut that funding to the bank."
Some experts have said the Belt and Road Initiative is a key reason behind the crackdown on Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the province.
"The BRI is an important factor behind the central government's urge to bring the restive region of Xinjiang once and for all under its control," Adrian Zenz, an independent German researcher specializing in Xinjiang, told Agence France Presse earlier this year.