A US think-tank has accused the Chinese government of committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang, saying it has found “clear and convincing proof” that Beijing violated “each and every act” banned by the United Nations convention against genocide.
In its Tuesday report, the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy said Chinese President Xi Jinping set in motion the effort to destroy Uighurs as a group when he launched the “People’s War on Terror” in Xinjiang in 2014.
Chinese officials followed up with a campaign of mass internment, killings of Uighur leaders, forcible sterilisations, separating children from their families, and destroying the Turkic Muslim group’s identity, including by demolishing mosques and other sacred sites.
The United States government, the Canadian and Dutch parliaments have already labelled China’s treatment of the Uighurs genocide, while Washington has also imposed sanctions on several Chinese officials over the rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Beijing, however, rejects the genocide charge, claiming the internment camps are vocational training centres aimed at fighting “extremism”.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the UN Human Rights Council in February that “there has never been so-called genocide, forced labour or religious oppression in Xinjiang”. He invited the UN human rights commissioner to visit the closed-off region, but did not give a time frame.
Newlines said its report was the first independent analysis of China’s treatment of the Uighurs under the 1948 Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It involved the contributions of more than 30 experts, who examined all available evidence that could be collected and verified, including Chinese government communications, witness testimony and analysis of satellite imagery.
The experts found “clear and convincing proof that China is responsible” for committing all five acts that constitute genocide, the report said.
These acts are: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Mass deaths, forcible sterilisations
The report said there were credible reports of mass deaths under the mass internment drive, while Uighur leaders were selectively sentenced to death or sentenced to long-term imprisonment.
“Uyghurs are suffering from systematic torture and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, including rape, sexual abuse, and public humiliation, both inside and outside the camps,” it said.
Chinese authorities have also systematically imprisoned Uighurs in unliveable conditions, particularly men of childbearing years, while also transferring members of the ethnic group into forced physical labour and forcibly imposed birth prevention measures on Uighur women.
In 2019 alone, the Chinese “government planned to subject at least 80 percent of women of childbearing age in [Xinjiang] to sterilizations or IUD placements” it said, adding that the mass-birth prevention strategy meant that the population growth rates in the two largest Uighur prefectures decreased by 84 percent between 2015 and 2018.
Finally, with Uighur parents increasingly detained in internment and forced labour facilities, Uighur children are being sent to state-run orphanages and raised in Chinese-language environments, the report said.
One county in the city of Kashgar built 18 new orphanages in 2017 alone, the report said, while a Ministry of Education document revealed that between 2017 and 2019, the number of children separated from their families and placed into state-run boarding schools in the region increased by 76.9 percent.
The report said these policies are directly orchestrated by the highest levels of state, including Xi and the top officials of the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang. Government orders on Xinjiang used language such as “eradicate tumours” “wipe them out completely … destroy them root and branch,” “round up everyone,” and “show absolutely no mercy”, according to the report.
It said Xi also praised the “success” of the Xinjiang policies during a September 2020 speech, deeming them “completely correct” and promising to continue the same strategies for years to come.
“Simply put, China’s long-established, publicly and repeatedly declared, specifically targeted, systematically implemented, and fully resourced policy and practice toward the Uyghur group is inseparable from “the intent to destroy or whole or in part” the Uyghur group as such,” it said, using an alternative spelling for the Uighurs.
“Therefore, China bears State responsibility for an ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs, in breach of the Genocide Convention,” it added.