A stunning new report from the Newlines Institute states that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has breached every provision of the UN Convention on Genocide Prevention. This report is the first non-governmental organization (NGO) independent legal analysis and application of the 1948 Genocide Convention in regards to the treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, China.
On the last day of the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an official determination that the People’s Republic of China is “committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, for targeting Uighur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.” The US was the first country to adopt these terms to describe the CCP’s unconscionable human rights abuses in its far northwest.
Recently, there has been public pushback on claims of genocide in Xinjiang, ranging from notable publications like The Economist to lawyers within the State Department. In the matter of human rights, and particularly for egregious atrocities like genocide, accuracy and precision are nonnegotiable. At the same time, moral clarity should never be set aside in the face of incontrovertible evidence. Based on the findings in the Newlines Institute report, the facts are just that—incontrovertible. China is waging a gruesome, ongoing genocide in Xinjiang.
What Is Genocide?
The term genocide didn’t exist before 1944. Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemki created the term to describe the Nazi practices of systematically murdering millions of Jews. He formed the word by combining geno-, the Greek word for race or tribe with –cide, from the Latin word for killing.
In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide. The Genocide Convention was the first human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations and signaled a global commitment in preventing future atrocities like the Holocaust from occurring again.
The Genocide Convention defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” The acts enumerated include:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; or
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The bar for proving genocide is high. For the US government to make an official determination, an “intent to destroy” must be demonstrated, but that can be difficult to demonstrate. According to the Newlines report, “China’s policies and practices targeting Uighurs in the region must be viewed in their totality, which amounts to an intent to destroy the Uighurs as a group, in whole or in substantial part, as such.”
Genocide in China
When making the official genocide declaration, Sec. Pompeo stated that one of the key facts in his determination was the CCP’s efforts to severely oppress Uighur women with draconian birth control measures. Uighur women are subjected to forced pregnancy checks, medication that stops their menstrual period, forced abortions, and surgical sterilizations. One of the major reasons that Uighur women are sent to the internment camps is for having too many children. China’s goal, it appears, is to eradicate future generations of Uighurs by manipulating who can and can’t bear children, and how many children a family can legally conceive.
Since 2017, the CCP has waged a systemic campaign of oppression and persecution against Uighur Muslims. The state-sanctioned violence has come in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), China’s westernmost territory, where Uighurs have lived for centuries. The CCP is using totalitarian tactics like pervasive surveillance, thought control, ideological reeducation, forced birth control, and compulsory labor. Many Uighurs are living a nightmare.
Other patterns of the CCP’s repeated destructive acts include:
- Government-mandated homestays
- Mass internment
- Mass birth-prevention strategy
- Forcible transfer of Uighur children to state-run facilities
- Eradication of Uighur identity, community, and domestic life
- Selective targeting of intellectuals and community leaders
In a recent BBC article that sparked significant public conversation, eyewitnesses describe the torture and sexual abuse many Uighur women experience in the internment camps, including accounts of gang rapes by security guards, resulting in “bites all over the body.” Other detainees have described being tortured for failure to comply with strict military-style orders and rules or for simple everyday behavior.
In addition to the brutal oppression Uighurs face in the internment camps, a new report from the US Department of Labor found “an estimated range from at least 100,000 to possibly hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in China who may be working in conditions of forced labor following detention in Chinese Communist Party re-education camps.” China has the world’s second-largest economy, but it is the world’s worst perpetrator of forced labor.
How Has the Rest of the World Responded?
While other governments have condemned the CCP’s actions against the Uighurs, none have formally issued a genocide determination. Canada’s House of Commons voted overwhelmingly in February to declare China’s actions as a genocide, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been reluctant to follow suit, saying the term is “extremely loaded” and that further examination was needed before a decision could be made.
The European Union is poised to sanction Chinese officials and one entity in Xinjiang for the first time since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. These human-rights sanctions are similar to the Global Magnitsky sanctions in the US. In Britain, the Parliament voted against a proposal by a narrow of 319-308 that would rescind trade agreements with any country if the UK High Court deemed it to be committing genocide. The pressure is mounting for other governments to forcefully pressure the CCP on human rights, especially as reports continue to materialize of China’s brutal and oppressive treatment of Uighurs.
China has denied any allegation of genocide. Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister stated that the “so-called ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang is ridiculously absurd. It is a rumor with ulterior motives and a complete lie.”
Biden Administration’s Approach
While Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged in his confirmation hearing that China has committed genocide, other high-ranking State Department officials have not been as clear. When asked if she concurred with former Sec. Pompeo and Sec. Blinken’s determination of genocide in Xinjiang, President Biden’s nominee for deputy secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, answered using the past tense. Sherman then used the term “atrocities,” which is legally distinct from genocide.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently stated, “The position of the United States is that what is happening is genocide. We will look for opportunities to work with other partners on putting additional pressure on the Chinese. We’ll also raise it directly, and it will be a topic of conversation. Addressing the genocide issue will be a topic with the Chinese directly.”
Countering China morally must remain a top priority for US foreign policy. A genocide determination sends a powerful signal to the international community that the United States will not remain silent in the face of the CCP’s atrocities toward the Uighur people. President Biden should lead other governments to take a strong and decisive stance toward China’s gross abuses of human rights. The world said “never again” after millions of Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, and we must continue to uphold our commitment to human rights and international religious freedom.