“Every single time I sit down with any world leader, but particularly ones where there are human rights concerns, I bring up human rights,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
Up to one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained in internment camps in China’s far western Xinjiang region, according to estimates cited by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she met on Monday with her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, “and I did raise the issue of the Uighurs”.
“We who live in freedom do have an obligation to stand up for people who don’t,” she said.
Beijing has disputed the findings of the UN report, saying the actions were necessary to combat extremism and terrorism on the country’s western frontier, on the border with Pakistan.
Authorities in China have long denied the existence of internment camps despite mounting evidence from both official documents and testimonies from those who have been held in them.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday denounced Beijing’s religious repression.
“Hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of Uighurs are held against their will in so-called re-education camps where they’re forced to endure severe political indoctrination and other awful abuses,” Pompeo said.
China has stepped up a crackdown in Xinjiang against what it calls Islamic extremism and separatist elements but many Muslims in the region accuse Beijing of religious and cultural repression.