Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta 'open to getting advice' about labelling China's treatment of Uighurs a genocide

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta is holding off following British MPs in declaring China's treatment of the Uighur people as a genocide, saying she'd like to know more first.

UK's House of Commons on Friday (NZ time) voted to recognise what is going on in Xinjiang, in China's northwest, as a genocide. 

"All five criteria of genocide are evidenced as taking place in Xinjiang," said Conservative Party MP Nus Ghani, including "brutal torture methods, including beatings with metal prods, electric shocks and whips" as well as forced birth control.

The UK Parliament's vote comes after the US and Canada declared the Chinese dictatorship's actions as genocide.

But New Zealand won't be following suit just yet. Asked about the situation on Newshub Nation on Saturday, Mahuta said it was "the [UK] Parliament's decision, not the government's".

"We're watching carefully what the government proposes to do on that issue," she told host Tova O'Brien.

"The last time we designated an act of genocide prior to the Genocide Convention Act of 1948 was the Holocaust, then we labelled both Cambodiaand Rwanda as acts of genocide. I'm willing to get information about what we could do. I'm open to getting advice about this issue."

The ACT Party has said it would back a vote in our Parliament to recognise it as a genocide, but can't get far without Labour's support, since Labour holds an absolute majority. The National Party has said it is "something New Zealand should seriously consider", while Green spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said the party "absolutely condemns" the abuses, but whether to call it a genocide or not would have to go to a caucus vote. 

Asked earlier by Newshub, Mahuta palmed the question off to the Ministry of Foriegn Affairs and Trade, which said it supported a fact-finding mission by independent observers. 

Mahuta reiterated this position on Saturday.

"We've called for an independent observer to get information from Xinjiang so we know exactly what's happening."

China has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. In response to the vote in the UK House of Commons, the Chinese embassy there said it was the "most preposterous lie of the century, an outrageous insult and affront to the Chinese people, and a gross breach of international law and the basic norms governing international relations".

China claims it is carrying out counter-terrorism and deradicalisation in the region. Uighurs are mostly Muslim. 

Mahuta acknowledged the evidence already shows there are a "number of atrocities" being carried out against the Uighurs. 

"Continuing to call on China to enable independent advisers to go into the country, into Xinjiang, would actually be a huge step forward." 

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