In a nonbinding vote on Thursday, the European Parliament labeled the alleged human rights abuses in China's Xinjiang region as crimes against humanity and warned of a serious risk of genocide.
The joint motion was passed in a plenary session in Strasbourg, France. The vote will not change the policy of the European Union.
The document stopped short of accusing Beijing of genocide. But it suggests that Europe is moving towards the stance adopted by the U.S. and lawmakers in the U.K., France, Canada and elsewhere that designates the Chinese practices toward the Uyghur ethnic group as genocide. There is a growing consensus among lawmakers on the matter, which could add pressure on their governments to take a stronger stance.
China is not a party to a relevant law, which has made no determinations on whether genocide is taking place. Beijing has denied accusations that it has committed cultural genocide against Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
The evidence about birth prevention measures and the separation of Uyghur children from their families amounts to crimes against humanity and represent a serious risk of genocide, the resolution said.
The parliament calls for the Chinese authorities to stop all government-sponsored programs of forced labor and mass forced sterilization. The motion urges the 27 EU member states to swiftly adopt additional sanctions against high-ranking Chinese officials. The text could be an amalgamation of the views of lawmakers from the 27 states.
The European Parliament's vote was prompted by a leak in late May of what is believed to be Chinese government records describing a national mass detention program. The six day visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to China coincided with the leak, which took place at Beijing's invitation.
It was the first country visit by someone in her position to China since 2005 and was framed as an opportunity for direct discussions rather than an investigation. Human rights advocates criticized her visit as a win for Beijing's propaganda efforts.