China ‘bears responsibility for committing genocide’ against Uighurs, claims legal report

Report found that China’s actions against Uighurs in Xinjiang ‘amounts to an intent to destroy’ them as a group

Namita Singh
Tuesday 09 March 2021 15:33
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<p>File Image: This photo taken on 4 June 2019 shows a facility believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, north of Akto in China's northwestern Xinjiang region</p>

File Image: This photo taken on 4 June 2019 shows a facility believed to be a re-education camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, north of Akto in China's northwestern Xinjiang region

The Chinese government’s actions against the Uighurs in the Xinjiang region “amounts to an intent to destroy” them as a group and violates every single provision of the United Nation’s Genocide Convention, an independent legal analysis by experts on international law has concluded.

The report, released on Tuesday by the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy think tank in Washington DC, examined the key development in the region from May 2013 and concluded that China’s government “bears responsibility for committing genocide” against Uighur Muslims.

The researcher found that nearly one to two million people were detained in the internment camps built in the Xinjiang region with over 380 detention sites that were either newly built or significantly expanded since 2017.

It also found that a total number of 350,000 people were formally prosecuted in 2017 and 2018 in the Xinjiang courts. The figures are significantly higher than the annual prosecutions reported in the years prior, which remained under 30,000.

China has been facing criticism over its treatment of the Uighur population with former detainees of the camps accusing guards and officials of systematic rape and sexual violence.

The country has repeatedly defended its network of facilities in the province, calling them voluntary “vocational training centres” while at the same time framing them as a necessary part of counter-terrorism efforts.

The newly released report significantly dismantled the claim by China, as it examined the government’s action against the five definitions of genocide laid out in the convention.

The UN Genocide Convention, which China is a signatory to, defines genocide as an attempt to commit acts “with an intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

The report found that China violated the Genocide Convention on all five counts including killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members; deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The authors of the report slammed the government for continuously denying “meaningful independent access” to the Xinjiang region.

The report detailed the accounts of physical torture and sexual violence with the former inmates telling the researchers that they have witnessed police taking young girls into a closed room to “take turns with them”, with some never returning. Others described that “female detainees [were] forced to routinely undress, squat in the nude, and smear ground chilli pepper paste on their genitals in the shower while [they were] filmed”.

The report further said that there are a large number of Uighur detainees who have died or been killed under police or in camp custody, with newly built crematoria in the region indicating “that authorities may be concealing the overall number of deaths and torture within the camps”.

The detainees were also subjected to verbal abuse, said the report, with guards telling the inmates that “‘you are not humans”, “there is no such ethnic group as the Uighurs”, “being an Uighur is a crime”, and, in one instance, “you don’t look like a human” after the detainee was raped and struck by an electroshock prod.

“China has pursued a dual systematic campaign of forcibly sterilising Uighur women of childbearing age and interning Uyghur men of child-bearing years,” said the researchers as they concluded that the government did so in order to prevent “the regenerative capacity of the group”.

Uighur parents are “increasingly detained in internment camps and forced labour facilities” while their “children are being sent to state-run orphanages and raised in Chinese language environments”, the report found as it called out China for “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”.

China has, however, continuously denied the allegation of genocide against Uighurs with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi recently insisting that the country is “always committed to protecting and promoting human rights”.

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