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Ignoring China’s treatment of Uyghurs sets a dangerous precedent

Posted By on August 29, 2019 @ 06:00

Despite China’s efforts to limit scrutiny of its persecution of its Uyghur Muslim minority, the growing body of credible, publicly available evidence on the scope and scale of Beijing’s Uyghur ‘re-education program’ has effectively exposed it for what it is—a targeted and deliberate campaign of arbitrary incarceration and persecution based on ethnicity that amounts to cultural genocide [1] and also potentially involves crimes against humanity [2].

There have been some indications that continued media coverage of China’s mistreatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities has had an impact in Beijing. China is facing increasing pressure from the United States and its allies on a range of economic and strategic issues, and it’s possible that China’s recent declaration [3] that it had released most of the Uyghurs incarcerated in its camps is an attempt to remove the Uyghur question from the list of pressure points affecting its international relations.

But Beijing’s declaration lacks both credibility and supporting evidence. Recent satellite imagery and reports from journalists who have visited the region confirm [4] that Beijing continues to operate and expand a network of more than 120 detention centres [5] across the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Amnesty International has noted [6] that it has received no reports about large-scale releases from the detention centres and has accused China of ‘making deceptive and unverifiable statements in a vain attempt to allay worldwide concern for the mass detentions of Uyghurs and members of other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang’.

Nevertheless, Beijing appears to be winning in the court of global opinion. Although the recent move [7] by 22 countries to write to the UN Human Rights Council condemning China’s treatment of its minority communities gave the issue further international prominence, the fact that a further 37 countries [8] also wrote to the council defending Beijing’s ‘remarkable achievements in the field of human rights’ undermined the impact of this statement.

The problem for those advocating for a global response to what has been seen as comparable in scope [9] to the Stalinist anti-nationalities programs in the Soviet Union is that most countries continue to ignore the reality of what is happening in Xinjiang. The most cynical position has been that adopted by some predominantly Muslim countries [10] that profess adherence to the principle of Muslim solidarity but turn a blind eye to Beijing’s program of cultural genocide targeting Muslims, clearly preferencing trade and economic relations with China over the fundamental human rights of other Muslims. And some, such as Indonesia, have dismissed reports [11] of religious persecution of Uyghurs as merely Western propaganda aimed at denigrating China.

But as more evidence on the details of Beijing’s systematic persecution and forced assimilation of Uyghurs and other Muslims comes to light, it will be increasingly difficult for these countries to deny the reality of what is unfolding in China.

For example, there’s increasing evidence that Uyghur children [12] are also being swept up in Beijing’s dragnet. Children as young as two years old are reportedly being subjected to a ‘systematic policy of intergenerational separation of parents and children’. Witnesses say that children are being forcibly housed in highly secure orphanages and educational facilities that are focused on ‘intensive, state-controlled and highly coercive Chinese language education and immersion, along with political indoctrination and psychological correction’.

Beijing can’t credibly claim that these children represent security risks, and this program reflects Beijing’s statement that it intends to ‘break [the Uyghurs’] lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins’ via a range of enforced measures, which has been interpreted [13] as confirmation of Beijing’s genocidal intent. This conclusion has been further supported by reports [14] of mass forced sterilisation of Uyghur women held in detention camps.

Beijing also appears to be seeking to monetise its program of Uyghur internment. Recent reporting [15] has shed light on the extent of Beijing’s exploitation of Uyghurs incarcerated in forced labour camps. And while Xinjiang authorities claim that they’re focused on building skills and improving employment prospects for the local Uyghur population, forced detainee labour is clearly being exploited by regional authorities to attract companies to Xinjiang, while also being used as a mechanism to further control the lives of Xinjiang’s Uyghurs.

And, most alarmingly, there are also indications that China is conducting forced organ harvesting from Uyghurs. The Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China concluded in its final report [16] in June 2019 that it was ‘sure beyond a reasonable doubt … that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practiced for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims’.

The tribunal identified a significant disparity between the number of ‘eligible’ organ donors [17] in China—5,146 for 2017—and the number of organ transplant operations in China, which has been estimated to be between 60,000 and 90,000 a year. This disparity raises serious questions about where China’s hospitals are sourcing organs for transplant.

The tribunal concluded that while ‘Falun Gong practitioners have been one—and probably the main—source of organ supply … the concerted persecution and medical testing of the Uyghurs is more recent and it may be that evidence of forced organ harvesting of this group may emerge in due course’.

According to an expert submission [18], since 2016 DNA sequencing has been conducted for the entire population of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslims in Xinjiang as part of a program of ‘forced health checks’ that did not include the ethnic Han population of the region. Given claims of organ harvesting, this is significant [19] because ‘blood-typing is a prerequisite for organ matching, and DNA analysis can lead to more accurate organ matching [18] and thus lower rejection rates’.

But the situation that is unfolding in western China is about more than just Uyghurs—it is about China demonstrating to other authoritarian and oppressive regimes that the international community is no longer interested in enforcing rules on how a state treats its citizens. Should the international community continue to fail to act, the Uyghurs—a vibrant and distinct ethnic group that has been prominent in Central Asia for well over a thousand years—along with the idea of collective moral responsibility [20] for protecting populations from ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

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URL to article: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/ignoring-chinas-treatment-of-uyghurs-sets-a-dangerous-precedent/

URLs in this post:

[1] cultural genocide: http://theconversation.com/despite-chinas-denials-its-treatment-of-the-uyghurs-should-be-called-what-it-is-cultural-genocide-120654

[2] crimes against humanity: https://chinatribunal.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Short-Form-Conclusion-China-Tribunal.pdf

[3] declaration: https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/7/30/20747028/china-uighur-muslims-internment-camps-forced-labor

[4] confirm: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/09/world/asia/china-xinjiang-muslim-detention.html

[5] 120 detention centres: https://freebeacon.com/national-security/network-of-chinese-concentration-camps-for-uighurs-uncovered/

[6] noted: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/china-claims-uyghers-have-been-released-deceptive-and-unverifiable

[7] move: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/11/more-than-20-ambassadors-condemn-chinas-treatment-of-uighurs-in-xinjiang

[8] further 37 countries: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/china-mass-detentions-uighur-muslims-un-letter-human-rights-a9003281.html

[9] comparable in scope: https://freedomhouse.org/blog/beijing-s-persecution-uighurs-modern-take-old-theme

[10] predominantly Muslim countries: https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/07/08/muslim-leaders-are-betraying-the-uighurs/

[11] have dismissed reports: https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/3015681/indonesia-doubts-western-reports-human-rights-abuses

[12] Uyghur children: http://www.jpolrisk.com/break-their-roots-evidence-for-chinas-parent-child-separation-campaign-in-xinjiang/

[13] interpreted: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/china-has-launched-a-massive-campaign-of-cultural-extermination-against-the-uighurs/2019/01/07/efe03c9c-12a4-11e9-b6ad-9cfd62dbb0a8_story.html?noredirect=on

[14] reports: https://www.news.com.au/world/asia/chinas-sickening-acts-on-female-prisoners-at-reeducation-camps/news-story/34d531c19a5bb060881a76ac8b478609

[15] reporting: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-15/uyghur-forced-labour-xinjiang-china/11298750

[16] final report: https://chinatribunal.com/final-judgement-report/

[17] ‘eligible’ organ donors: https://newatlas.com/forced-organ-harvesting-china-tribunal/60219/

[18] expert submission: https://chinatribunal.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/April_Submission_Maya-Mitalipova.pdf

[19] significant: http://www.jpolrisk.com/what-is-the-evidence-of-forced-organ-harvesting-in-china/

[20] collective moral responsibility: http://www.globalr2p.org/about_r2p

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