China is attacking the West’s colonial legacy. That may backfire on Beijing

Faced with a rising barrage of international condemnation over its alleged abuses in Xinjiang, China appears intent on returning fire, calling on Western nations to acknowledge their own complicated human rights records before criticizing Beijing.

On Tuesday, China urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to carry out a “thorough and impartial investigation” into Canada’s treatment of its Indigenous people, after the remains of hundreds of children were found in unmarked graves at two former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

“Simply apologizing is not enough, and Canada must take actual actions to correct its mistakes,” said Jiang Duan, minister of the Chinese mission to the UN in Geneva.

His comments have been accompanied by a concerted campaign in Chinese state media, including provocative social media comments by Hu Xijin, the editor of state-run nationalist tabloid Global Times, who over the weekend posted a cartoon of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sitting on a pile of skulls. The caption read, “We stole your land, we killed your men, we buried your child. Let’s reconcile.”

Beijing’s calls for a UN investigation come as Ottawa joined 44 countries in urging China to allow independent observers full and unfettered access to Xinjiang — a heavily surveilled and policed region in the west of the country — to investigate allegations of widespread abuses, including the imprisonment of up to 1 million citizens from Muslim minorities in a vast system of detention centers.