VANCOUVER—An adviser to British Columbia Premier John Horgan will not be seeking reappointment after he sparked outrage when he called accusations of genocide against Uyghurs in western China “lies.”
The province’s Minister of State for Trade, George Chow, issued a brief statement late Thursday saying Bill Yee, a former provincial judge, would not seek a new term.
“All members of the Chinese Canadian Community Advisory Committee, including Mr. Bill Yee, have ended their term,” Chow’s statement said. “Their appointments expired in February 2021.
“I can confirm that Mr. Bill Yee will not be seeking reappointment to the advisory committee.”
Yee made his comments in Cantonese March 30 on Toronto radio station A-1. He called evidence of genocide in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region “made up” and “lies.”
He also accused Canadian politicians of not even knowing where the region is and said Canadian politicians speaking up about the human rights abuses had ulterior motives.
Over the last year, credible accounts of the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang have emerged from numerous sources, including journalists, think tanks, academics and human rights groups.
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Allegations include forced labour, forced sterilization, systemic rape and political indoctrination in internment camps. The Chinese government insists the camps are vocational training centres.
Last year in Ottawa, a House subcommittee on international human rights heard from more than a dozen witnesses including Uyghurs and other Turkic people alleging they were tortured or sexually assaulted by Chinese authorities while detained. The subcommittee later declared a genocide is happening in Xinjiang.
The federal Parliament voted in February for a motion to recognize a genocide is happening there 266-0, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet abstaining.
Yesterday, a number of prominent Chinese Canadians and community leaders wrote Horgan a letter demanding Yee be removed.
Mehmet Tohti of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project said, over the last couple of days, his organization mobilized more than 100 emails to Horgan’s office, expressing concern about Yee’s presence on the committee.
“Bill Yee is the symbol of pro-CCP talking points in Canada to work and advance the interests of the Chinese Communist Party,” Tohti told the Star upon hearing the news. “We cannot let it go and treat this problem business as usual.”
When first approached by the Star about Yee’s comments last week Chow’s office did not say his term had ended in February. Follow-up questions about why the information came to light only after the initial story broke were not answered.
Jeremy Nuttall is a Vancouver-based investigative reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @Nuttallreports
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