Lithuanian parliament latest to call China's treatment of Uyghurs 'genocide'

A perimeter fence is constructed around what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter//File Photo

VILNIUS, May 20 (Reuters) - Lithuania's parliament on Thursday became the latest to describe China's treatment of its Uyghur minority as "genocide", voting to call for a U.N. investigation of internment camps and to ask the European Commission to review relations with Beijing.

The Biden administration in the United States has used the term genocide to describe China's actions towards the Uyghurs, as have countries including Britain and Canada. Beijing denies abusing minorities and has condemned countries for using the term.

The non-binding resolution, supported by three-fifths of Lithuanian parliament members, also called on China to abolish a national security law in Hong Kong, and to let observers into Tibet and begin talks with its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Neither Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte nor Foreign Minsiter Gabrielius Landsbergis participated in the vote, despite being present in the parliament.

"We support democracy, as we will never forget the cruel lesson of living under occupation by a Communist regime for 50 years", said Dovile Sakaliene, a lawmaker blacklisted by China and who sponsored the resolution. read more

China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a briefing on Friday that Beijing firmly opposed the move and urged Lithuania to correct its mistakes to avoid harming relations.

Lithuania, which suffered repression under Soviet rule from 1940-1991, is now a member of the EU and NATO, and has often taken a prominent role in pushing for tougher Western diplomatic lines towards Russia and Communist countries such as China.

Rights groups, researchers, former residents and some Western lawmakers say authorities in China's Xinjiang province have arbitrarily detained around a million Uyghurs and members of other primarily Muslim minorities in camps since 2016.

Beijing initially denied the camps existed but has since said they are training centres designed to combat religious extremism.

Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius Editing by Peter Graff

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