After the US, Canada and Britain, Lithuania’s parliament on Thursday described China’s treatment meted out to its Uyghur Muslims as “genocide”. Additionally, Lithuania recommended voting to call for a U.N. investigation of forceful detention camps set up by China imprisoning Uyghurs and to ask the European Commission to review relations with Beijing.
Beijing however continues to be in denial of abusing its minorities and has condemned the countries for using the term.
The non-binding resolution which was supported by three-fifths of Lithuanian parliament members called on China to abolish a national security law in Hong Kong. It also demanded to let observers into Tibet and begin talks with its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
However, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte and Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis did not cast their votes despite being present in the Parliament.
Dovile Sakaliene, a lawmaker blacklisted by China, said, “We support democracy, as we will never forget the cruel lesson of living under occupation by a Communist regime for 50 years.”
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian in a briefing on Friday firmly opposed the move. He also warned Lithuania to correct its mistakes to avoid harming relations between Lithuania and China.
Lithuania leaves China’s 17+1 cooperation
Along with passing the resolution, Lithuania also left China’s 17+1 cooperation forum with central and eastern European states, calling the group ‘divisive’. The also asked the other European Union members to also leave the group of 27 nations. “Lithuania no longer considers itself a 17+1 format member and does not participate in this initiative,” Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told Agence France-Presse.
“From our perspective, it is high time for the EU to move from a dividing 16+1 format to a more uniting and therefore much more efficient 27+1. The EU is strongest when all 27 member states act together along with EU institutions,” the foreign minister added.
These are part of several steps that the country has taken in recent months that signify deterioration of its relations with China. Earlier, the country had blocked Chinese investment and announced that it would open a trade office in Taiwan.
Lithuania under Soviet rule
Lithuania suffered repression under the Soviet rule from 1940-1991. The country is now a member of the EU and NATO, and consistently plays a prominent role in advocating tougher Western diplomatic lines towards Russia and Communist countries such as China.
Uyghur detention camps
The Xinjiang autonomous region in China is facing the worst kind of cultural and ethnic genocide. There is a long history of dissonance between the indigenous ethnic Uyghur and Chinese authorities. The Chinese government refuses to categorize Uyghurs as an indigenous population and describe Uyghurs as a regional minority.
China is facing criticism and worldwide condemnation over its unkind and harsh treatment towards the Uyghur Muslims. A Uyghur-Kazakh citizen, Gulbahar Jelilova reported that she was ruthlessly beaten and raped while in custody. Stew Chao, a journalist working with Aljazeera reported that Abduveli Ayup-prominent Uighur writer, activist and Uyghur language defender was put in a detention centre and later brutally tortured.
There is also ample evidence that suggests China is systematically targeting Uyghur Muslims through a state-planned birth control process. Zumrat Dawut and Kalbinur Sidik who survived from Chinese detention camps narrated that Uyghur women who conceive more than three children are forcefully sterilized. Women survivors from these camps narrated that they were beaten, raped, and given mystery injections.
Uyghur Muslim minorities confined in camps were forced to criticize their faith and basic Islamic values. They are forced to recite communist party propaganda and criticize Islam as part of the indoctrination process.
Unfortunately, the Uyghurs of China have found no support from other Islamic and Muslim nations.