Trudeau said China keeps trying to hide and play down its mistreatment of Muslim minorities

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has challenged China to publicly and transparently probe its mistreatment of Muslim minorities as Beijing and its allies call for an independent investigation into Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people.

“In Canada, we had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Where is China’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission?” the Prime Minister said Tuesday during a news conference, reported the Globe and Mail, the Canadian news outlet.

Trudeau was referring to the commission that ran for more than seven years until 2015 and documented the history and effect of the residential school system on Indigenous students and their families.

The commission made public all its findings. China, by comparison, has refused to allow independent observers into its Xinjiang region where Beijing is accused of conducting crimes against humanity.

This clash between China and Canada began at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday as the Canadian government and 40 other countries urged China to allow “immediate, meaningful and unfettered access” so independent observers can visit Xinjiang, while a Chinese envoy demanded that Canadian authorities “stop violations of human rights” at home.

Activists and UN experts have said a million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims have been subject to mass detention in Xinjiang in recent years.

China as usual denies abuses and says the centres provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism in the remote western region.

Reports have emerged about Beijing’s success in controlling the birth rate of Uyghurs and other minorities through mass sterilization, forced abortions and mandatory birth control. China for its part is trying to counter Canada’s effort at the Human Rights Council by saying it is Ottawa that merits investigation.

Trudeau said that unlike Canada, however, China keeps trying to hide and play down its mistreatment of Muslim minorities.

“China is not recognizing there is even a problem. That is a pretty fundamental difference. That is why Canadians and people around the world are speaking up for people like the Uyghurs who find themselves voiceless faced with a government that will not recognize what is happening to them,” he was quoted in the report as saying.

The Prime Minister challenged Beijing to come clean on its record. “Where is the openness that Canada has always shown and the responsibility that Canada has taken for the terrible mistakes of the past … many of which continue into the present?”

Trudeau said Canada has taken steps to recognize the relationship with Indigenous people which “had been broken over generations and centuries and needed to be fixed” - and has begun taking steps to remedy this.

Reconciliation is still “very much a work in progress,” he said, listing off changes including new schools, water treatment and protection of Indigenous language and culture.

“Thousands of kids have started their school year in brand new schools. One hundred and eight boil water advisories have been lifted,” he said. “The journey of reconciliation is a long one but it is a journey we are on.”