MARCO RESPINTI | BITTER WINTER
On May 26, 2021 the Italian Parliament voted unanimously to condemn Chinese atrocities against Uyghurs and other Turkic people, most of whom Muslim, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), which its non-Han inhabitants call East Turkestan.
After a debate which lasted for months, the House of Representatives approved, with no contrary vote, a unified text, condensing different resolutions presented by MPs Paolo Formentini, Andrea Delmastro, Lia Quartapelle, Iolanda Di Stasio, and Valentino Valentini, representing a wide bipartisan consensus.
The text adopts a strong language, focusing on illegal birth control practices, repression of religious freedom, forced labor, internment camps, arbitrary detention, and massive digital surveillance.
“The Italian parliament sent a clear message,” commented Formentini, who is the vice president of the Foreign and European Affairs Committee of the Italian House of Representatives and has been a major force behind the resolution. “Regarding human rights, Italy, which is an integral part of the West, never retreats,” he said. Personally, Formentini did use the word “genocide” in describing the CCP’s crimes.
The approved text quotes evidence of PRC’s crimes brought forth by such institutions as the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and the China Tribunal, as well as personalities such as French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian, and World Uyghur Congress president, Dolkun Isa. On October 1, 2020, Isa had testified before the Italian House of Representatives’ III Commission, which is responsible for Foreign and EU Affairs, and adopted the unified text on crimes against Uyghurs.
The text points also at precedents including the U.S. December 3, 2020 decision to inhibit import of cotton produced though forced labor in the XUAR; the U.S. State Department condemnation of China under both the Trump and the Biden administration, calling “genocide” the PRC’s Uyghur policy; the April 22, 2021 UK House of Commons bipartisan motion recognizing the Uyghur genocide; the December 17, 2020 European Parliament’s resolution to condemn the PRC’s treatment of Uyghurs, and the March 22, 2021 Council of European Union’s sanctions against CCP representatives, on the basis of similar action upheld by the US, Canada, and the UK.
The motion also reacts against PRC’s sanctions against five MEPs, 3 MPs of EU countries, two academics, four European institutions and two research centers for denouncing the PRC’s misdeeds on human rights.
The adopted motion asks the Italian government to follow with similar condemnations of the PRC at international level, taking seriously testimonies from XUAR and helping the victims. It also calls for a ban on trade of goods that may be connected to forced labor. And it asks the PRC to allow free access in the XUAR to UNHCR officials as well as independent observers, researchers, and parliamentarians.
In the text, the word “genocide” appears three times: with reference to both the Trump’s and Biden Administrations’ State Department indictment of the “genocidal nature” of the PRC’s crimes against Uyghurs under the 1948 UN Genocide Convention. and to the UK Parliament’s recognition of such an abominable crime in the XUAR.
The Italian motion, however, doesn’t use the term “genocide” in itself, and stops short of calling for a recognition of the CCP crimes in XUAR as “genocide.”
In fact, several MPs were against defining what China is doing in the XUAR as “genocide,” and avoiding the word in the text made its unanimous approval possible. Perhaps we may consider it as a first step towards the acknowledgment by Italy that the CCP’s crimes are, indeed, a genocide.