Genocide, with Chinese Characteristics
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
a. Killing members of the group;
b. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
c. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
d. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
e. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Uighur Insurgency / Uighur Genocide
Adrian Zenz, the German reseacher behind a chilling series of revelations about China's policies against the Uighur minority, said Beijing was pursuing “demographic genocide” through the use of mass forced sterilisation campaigns. In an interview 23 July 2020 with FRANCE 24, Zenz said he had unearthed documents from the Chinese authorities indicating a massive drop in population growth in the western Xinjiang region and precise orders given to the authorities to attain that goal. He claimed the goal was "ethnic dilution" by bringing more ethnic Han into the area while bringing down the birth rate of Uighurs through forced sterilisation. Zenz noted that birth suppression being one of the five criteria used by the UN to define genocide, his findings illustrate that "demographic genocide" is underway in Xinjiang. He brushed aside claims in the official Chinese media that he was an extremist Catholic firebrand and a US intelligence asset, stressing that he had become "a very big problem for Beijing" precisely because he had drawn his reports from official Chinese data.
An August 2020 article from Buzzfeed News revealed more than 300 suspect locations being used as part of the internment program in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Buzzfeed claimed that it used China's Baidu Maps to identify blank locations where it used to find a network of buildings bearing the hallmarks of "prisons and internment camps" in China's Xinjiang. By using satellite imagery, the news site said it identified 428 such locations "bearing the hallmarks of prisons and detention centers" since the summer of 2018, and said it believes "315 are in use as part of the current internment program." Aside from using "gray tiles" to spot possible camps on map platforms, Buzzfeed said it narrowed the search scale by reasoning that "internment camps" need to be near towns as it is easier for families to visit their loved ones "in custody" and guards' families need to have access to health care, and so on. Previous Western media reports claimed that Xinjiang set up "camps" in sparsely populated areas.
By August 2020 US officials were weighing "various ways" to press China to halt abuses of Uyghurs, a US official said 26 August 2020 after reports Washington was considering labeling the treatment of Uyghurs as “genocide". Talks about the possible genocide designation are now being held by officials at the State Department, National Security Council, and Department of Homeland Security but are “still at the early stages,” the online journal Politico said in an Aug. 25 report, citing unnamed administration officials. “If there’s not enough consensus to use the term genocide, the administration could instead accuse the Chinese leadership of other atrocities, such as ‘crimes against humanity’ or ‘ethnic cleansing,’ Politico said.
Nury Turkel, a commissioner on the bipartisan United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said “USCIRF has been urging the Secretary of State to formally designate the atrocities that Communist China has committed as genocide,” Turkel said, adding that China’s separation of Uyghur children from their families and growing campaign to prevent Uyghur population growth fall within the list of provisions meeting the legal definition of genocide. “The U.S. government's official recognition of genocide would help to end atrocities,“ Turkel said.
In response to the Politico report, Andrew Bates, the spokesman for the presidential campaign of Joe Biden, issued a statement saying: “The unspeakable oppression that Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have suffered at the hands of China’s authoritarian government is genocide and Joe Biden stands against it in the strongest terms.” According to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the U.S. State Department has “made statements that genocide has occurred” in five cases since the end of the cold War: Bosnia (1993), Rwanda (1994), Iraq (1995), Darfur (2004), and areas under the control of ISIS (2016 and 2017).
The US House of Representatives on 03 December 2019 approved a bill requiring a tougher response from the Trump administration to China’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), including sanctions on officials responsible for abuses. The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which was passed 407-1 in the Democratic Party-controlled House, requires U.S. President Donald Trump to condemn Chinese abuses in Xinjiang and call for the closure of mass detention camps where authorities in the XUAR are believed to have held 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities since April 2017. The legislation, which passed the Senate in September, calls for sanctions on XUAR Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, seen as the architect of the mass internment policy. An amended version of the bill still has to be approved by the Senate before being sent to Trump.
The Uyghur Human Rights Project, an advocacy group, applauded the vote and urged swift enactment of the bill, which it called “an important signal to Beijing that the international community is not ignoring the crimes against humanity taking place in East Turkestan.” “We are grateful to both the Senate and the House for demonstrating strong bipartisan cooperation in addressing the agony of the Uyghurs,” said UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat. “Each and every speech on the House floor tonight was a forceful indictment of crimes against humanity. Tonight’s action gives Uyghurs hope,” he said in a statement.
A report in November 2019 by Adrian Zenz of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation suggested a new speculative upper limit estimate of 1.8 million or 15.4 percent of adult members of Xinjiang’s Turkic and Hui ethnic minority groups, and a new minimum estimate of 900,000 or 7.7 percent. Based on the new data, the author estimates that Xinjiang likely has approximately 1,300 to 1,400 extrajudicial internment facilities. The internment drive has focused on removing male authority figures from families as part of the state’s coercive social re-engineering campaign.
Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow in China Studies at the Washington-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, published a report in collaboration with the Associated Press on 28 June 2020 detailing a dramatic increase in recent years in the number of forced sterilizations and abortions targeting Uyghurs in region. In his report, Zenz concludes such policies may amount to a government-led campaign of genocide according to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Later the same day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement, citing this report and saying that the Chinese government is using forced sterilization, forced abortion, and coercive family planning against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.
As revealed by The Grayzone, an independent news website in the US, Adrian Zenz is a member of a far-right organization, the “Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation”, established by the US government in 1983, and a senior fellow in a research group set up by the US intelligence community on the vocational education and training centers in Xinjiang. Zenz, a far-right fundamentalist Christian who believes he is “led by God” on a “mission” against China, has transformed almost overnight from an unknown researcher into a go-to pundit on Xinjiang. A closer look reveals "the U.S. Government backing, absurdly shoddy methodologies, and a rapture-ready evangelical researcher named Adrian Zenz," they wrote.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has come to dominate the Australian public’s understanding of China on many issues such as the education and training camps in Xinjiang, and the claimed Chinese military involvement in Australian universities. However, what’s worth noticing is that, according to The Australian Financial Review, ASPI is funded by Australian Department of Defence, military contractors and foreign governments including NATO, the US State Department and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The publication of a white paper on vocational education and training in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on 16 August 2019 immediately drew heated discussion both inside and outside China, focused on the training centers that "effectively eliminated" religious extremism in the restive province. The white paper, published by the State Council Information Office, includes six chapters: urgent needs for education and training, law-based education and training, content of education and training, protection of trainees' basic rights, remarkable results in education and training, and experience in countering extremism. “Religious extremism has been effectively eliminated. Through education, the vast majority of trainees can recognise the nature and harm of terrorism and religious extremism, and free themselves from the control these phenomena exert over their minds,” the white paper said. China said no terrorist incidents have occurred in Xinjiang for nearly three years since the education and training started.
A group of UN ambassadors sent a letter to the human rights council in Geneva 10 July 2019 condemning China's treatment of Uighurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang region. UN diplomats from 22 mostly European nations along with Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand signed the letter. The United States had not yet signed on. The ambassadors express concern about "credible reports of arbitrary detention ... as well as widespread surveillance and restrictions, particularly targeting Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang." They urge China to stop detaining minorities and grant them "freedom of movement" within their communities.
Randall G. Schriver, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, stated 03 May 2019 that " the detention camps, given what we understand to be the magnitude of the detention, at least a million but likely closer to 3 million citizens out of a population of about 10 million, so a very significant portion of the population, what's happening there, what the goals are of the Chinese government and their own public comments make that a very, I think, appropriate description."
From the very start of the Uighur “re-education” campaign, the Chinese state made plans to enrol state-orphaned Muslim children into high-security boarding schools. Writing in the Journal of Political Risk, German researcher Dr Adrian Zenz presents evidence to show that enrolment in Xinjiang state nursery schools, for very young children before schooling age, has gone from being far below the national average to the highest rate in the country – since early 2017. Around 90 per cent of the new pupils are from Muslim minority groups. And satellite images show that, around the same time China started expanding the facilities used for the detention of adult Uighurs, attached or independent boarding schools also started receiving dramatically increased dormitory facilities.
China’s government is using a policy of “linguistic imperialism” to marginalize the Uyghur language in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) as part of a bid to “eradicate the ethnic identity” of the Uyghur people, according to a new report by a Uyghur rights group. In their attack on Uyghur culture and identity, Chinese officials have portrayed the Uyghur language as “incompatible with modernity” and are removing its relevance from the education system and public life, Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) said 16 May 2019 in a statement accompanying the release of its report “Resisting Chinese Linguistic Imperialism.”
“Following a pattern of broader development policy that has promoted the adoption of [majority] Han [Chinese] civilization as central to modernization, China has moved to diminish the status of the Uyghur language in society,” UHRP said. In the face of such an attack, UHRP said it is imperative for Uyghur families to ensure a future for spoken and written Uyghur by passing the language and culture from parent to child at home.
Republican Congressman Christopher Smith co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China, accused China on 30 November 2018 of committing genocide against the Uihgurs, calling their actions "without precedent in modern times." He also scoffed at a threat made Cui Tiankai, China's ambassador to the US that Beijing would retaliate if the U.S. imposed sanctions. "It's about time we stood up for the Chinese people," he said, "because that's where our hearts, that's where our solidarity has to be with, not with a dictatorship that ruins lives."
The word “genocide” was first coined by Polish lawyer Raphäel Lemkin in 1944 in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. It consists of the Greek prefix genos, meaning race or tribe, and the Latin suffix cide, meaning killing. Lemkin developed the term partly in response to the Nazi policies of systematic murder of Jewish people during the Holocaust, but also in response to previous instances in history of targeted actions aimed at the destruction of particular groups of people. Later on, Raphäel Lemkin led the campaign to have genocide recognised and codified as an international crime.
Under Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, " genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such ... 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...."
An editorial in Global Times published 31 August 2018 spoke of "the Chinese system rooted in the reality of Xinjiang and understood and supported by most developing countries. The region had been on the verge of great turmoil, and violent terror activities almost went out of control. Whether Xinjiang governance abuses human rights must be judged by whether its results safeguard the interests of the majority in the region. Had the situation in Xinjiang several years ago not been controlled, more people would have been brainwashed by extremist thoughts and joined the terrorists, leading to more killings against innocent lives. Xinjiang enjoys peace and tranquility from the chaos over the past two years. It's difficult to calculate how many lives have been saved and how many people have been relieved from dreadful days.... To a large extent, the past turbulence in Xinjiang was caused by external factors. Western accusations of Xinjiang governance seriously misled the extremists, making them believe they were launching religious Jihad and won sympathy and support from Western and international society. "
Beginning in April 2017, Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been jailed or detained in political “re-education camps” throughout the XUAR. Numerous reports in 2018 of detention of large numbers of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities held incommunicado and often for long periods, without being charged or tried, under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism. There is no official data on how many people are in long-term detention or who have been forced to spend varying periods in political “re-education camps” for even nonthreatening expressions of Muslim ethno-religious culture like daily greetings.
By late 2018 human rights groups said China had detained up to 2 million Uighurs to promote what the government calls "ethnic unity" in the country's far west. Estimates about the number detained range from tens of thousands to upwards of two million. The "vocational training centers" exist for people who committed minor offences without qualifying what this means. Some sources report a total Uigher population of 10 million, which Chinese census gives the present population of the Uighurs as slightly over 6 million. To put that "one million" number in dog-years, assuming that only males are incarcerated in these camps, this suggests that essentially all "military age men" [ie, age 18 to 40] are presently confined to thought reform centers. Another set of numbers offered by the US Defense Department in May 2019, named 3 million out of 10 million, yields the same conclusion.
More than one out of every six ethnic Uyghurs in one county in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) are being detained in political “re-education camps,” according to local officials. Onsu (in Chinese, Wensu) county, in the XUAR’s Aksu (Akesu) prefecture is home to around 230,000 people, according to the county government’s website. Some 180,000 of them are members of minority groups—the largest of which is Uyghurs. While investigating the political re-education camp network in Aksu, RFA’s Uyghur Service spoke with an officer at the Onsu county police station who said that “30,000 people” from the county are currently held in re-education camps.
The 30,000 detainees are held in five main camps in the county. The biggest camp is housed in a recently constructed four-story building located approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the seat of Onsu county in Yangaq Plaza, and holds around 10,000 inmates. A second camp is located in Jam Bazar village and holds around 7,000 people. A third camp, holding around 5,000 people, is located in Qizil Bazar village, around 40 kilometers (25 miles) outside of the seat of Onsu county and some 17 kilometers (10 miles) outside of Aksu city. The fourth and fifth camps, known as the Party School Re-Education Camp and the No. 2 Middle School Re-Education Camp because it is housed in a four-story former school building, are both located inside of Onsu township and hold 1,000 and 7,000 people, respectively.
Reports include mass surveillance disproportionately targeting ethnic Uighurs, including through frequent baseless police stops and the scanning of mobile phones at police checkpoint stations. Additional reports indicate mandatory collection of extensive biometric data in XUAR, including DNA samples and iris scans, of large groups of Uighur residents. Reports indicate that all XUAR residents are required to hand in their travel documents to police and apply for permission to leave the country, and that permission may not come for years. This restriction impacts most heavily on those who wish to travel for religious purposes;
Reports that many Uighurs abroad who left China have allegedly been returned to the country against their will. There are fears about the current safety of those involuntarily returned to China.
To further improve the response time to emergency incidents, such as terrorist attacks, Xinjiang has established a network of public security service stations in all cities and counties. Security officers are expected to arrive at any emergency within a minute. The region plans to set up more stations this year to strengthen the network, according to the regional government. Despite increased security, southern Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture still witnessed terrorist attacks and violent incidents targeting civilians and government buildings.
Beginning in April 2017, Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas had been jailed or detained in re-education camps throughout the XUAR, where members of the ethnic group have long complained of pervasive discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression under Chinese rule. Detainees face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers in the camps and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities. By December 2018 authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) were secretly transferring Uyghur detainees to prisons in Heilongjiang province and other areas throughout the country to address an “overflow” in the region’s overcrowded political “re-education camps,” according to officials. While investigating claims from members of the Uyghur exile community, official sources in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture’s Kona Sheher (Shufu) county confirmed to RFA’s Uyghur Service 15 December 2018 that authorities have been moving Uyghurs from detention centers in the XUAR to prisons in other parts of China. “Based on the seriousness of their crime, inmates are being transferred to other major prisons in the region and also to inner China,” an officer at the police department in Kona Sheher’s Tashmiliq township told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I think they are being transferred to inner China because they can be educated better there, and another reason is that since there are too many prisoners here and we are experiencing an overflow of inmates.” The officer said that authorities began relocating Uyghur inmates to other parts of China at “the beginning of this year.”
"Some international voices say Xinjiang has concentration camps and re-education camps," Xinjiang Governor Shohrat Zakir said on the sidelines 12 March 2019 of the annual meeting of China's ceremonial legislature. "These kinds of statements are completely fabricated lies, and are extraordinarily absurd." Beijing contends the camps are part of a broader campaign to reduce the threat of Islamic extremism. "The number of people in the education centers should be less and less, and if one day society no longer needs [them], these education centers can gradually disappear," Zakir said.
July 2009 witnessed an outburst of ethnic violence in the far-Western Chinese province of Xianjiang, between the native Uighur population and the transplanted Chinese majority Han residents of the capital city of Urumchi. This region's history as a way-station on the fabled silk route means that there is a tremendous cultural and historical significance to the land and its people.
Uyghurs in the city of Urumchi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, gathered on July 5, 2009, to protest authorities' handling of a reported attack on Uyghur factory workers by Han factory workers in late June in Guangdong province, and to protest government policy toward Uyghurs. Reports indicate the demonstration began as a peaceful protest and later turned violent as protesters clashed with police, who used tear gas and stun batons against the protesters, and later were reported to fire on the crowds. Official Chinese media sources described the demonstration as a riot orchestrated by U.S.-based Uyghur rights activist Rebiya Kadeer, and reported that the incident left at least 156 people dead and over 1000 people injured. Demonstrations also are reported to have occurred in other cities in the XUAR, and demonstrations and outbreaks of violence were reported again in Urumchi on July 7. Sources including overseas media have reported that violence in the region has included both Uyghurs' attacks on Han Chinese and Han attacks against Uyghurs. A number of details about the incidents remain unknown, and the Chinese government has instituted controls over the flow of information on the events.
The Chinese government engages in systematic and egregious violations of the freedom of religion or belief. Religious activities are tightly controlled and some religious adherents were detained, imprisoned, fined, beaten, and harassed. Yet, religious communities continue to grow rapidly in China and the freedom to participate in officially sanctioned religious activity increased in many areas of the country over the past year. High-ranking Chinese government officials, including President Hu Jintao, have praised the positive role of religious communities in China and articulated a desire to have religious groups promote "economic and social development". The law governing religion in China is the National Regulations on Religious Affairs (NRRA), first issued in March 2005 and updated in 2007.
In the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), governmental repression of religious freedom increased in 2008. Chinese government authorities routinely have equated peaceful religious practices among Uighur Muslims with religious extremism and separatism and have used the global war on terror as a pretext to crack down on even the most peaceful forms of dissent or religious activity. Uighur Muslim clerics and students have been detained for various "illegal" religious activities, "illegal religious centers" have been closed, and police continue to confiscate large quantities of "illegal religious publications."
XUAR Party Secretary Wang Lequan stated that the government would use "preemptive attacks" and institute "anti-separatist reeducation" in the XUAR to ensure national safety. The government continues to limit access to mosques, including the participation of women, children, communist party members, and government employees. All imams in Xinjiang are required to undergo annual political training seminars to retain their licenses, and local security forces monitor imams and other religious leaders. Imams at Uighur mosques are reportedly required to meet monthly with officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau and the Public Security Bureau to receive "advice" on the content of their sermons. Failure to report to such meetings can result in the imam's expulsion or detention. Religious leaders and activists who attempt to publicize or criticize human rights abuses in the XUAR have received prolonged prison terms, on charges of "separatism," "endangering social order," and "incitement to subvert state power." Numerous Uighur Muslims have been arrested for peacefully organizing and demonstrating for their religious freedom.
Officials in the XUAR prohibit teaching Islam outside the home to minors, and police have stepped up attempts to halt private religious education programs in some parts of Xinjiang province. Teachers and organizers can be charged with conducting an "illegal religious gathering," a criminal offense. Minors are prohibited from participating in any religious activity or instruction before finishing nine years of compulsory public education.
Components of the Armed Police Corps of Xinjiang Province in the Peoples Republic of China have placed increased emphasis on counterterrorist train-ing and improved force structure for special-purpose elements. This includesa exercise focusing on rapid crisis response and on the integrated useof helicopters, paratroopers and ground combat vehicles, as well as on cre-ating a special-operations component and reorganizing the anti-hijackingcomponent of the corps. The police corps has also reportedly upgraded itscommunications infrastructure. While the Armed Police Corps concerns generally include what are characterized as "criminal gangs" and other violentlawbreakers, the force has also been involved in rural and urban suppression and counterinsurgency efforts. Approximately 15,000 personnel ofthe Armed Police Corps were stationed in the southern portion of Eastern Turkestan by 2004 to ensure what officials of the regional Chinese Communist Partycall "the unity of the great motherland.
Throughout Xinjiang, teachers, professors, university students, and other government employees are prohibited from engaging in religious activities, such as reciting daily prayers, distributing religious materials, observing Ramadan, and wearing head coverings; they are reportedly subject to fines if they attempt to do so. These standards are enforced more strictly in southern Xinjiang and other areas where Uighurs account for a higher percentage of the population. The State Department estimated that over 1,300 people were arrested in the XUAR on charges related to state security during 2008, a large increase from the previous year. Such charges have been used to detain religious adherents and other dissidents in the past.
Human rights organizations have accused China of using counterterrorism as a pretext to suppress Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group which makes up the majority of the population within the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of western China. In the lead up to the august 2008 Olympics, China tightened security in Xinjiang, instituting road checkpoints and arresting people it suspected of being linked to terrorism. In July 2008, the Urumqi, XUAR Public Security Bureau in Urumqi declared that it detained 82 terrorists during the first six months of 2008 while police in Kashgar claimed to have rounded up 12 terrorist groups.
Security forces maintained a high-level of vigilance both in Xinjiang and throughout the country during the Olympics. In spite of this, a series of violent incidents did occur in Xinjiang during the Olympics which the Chinese government has blamed on terrorist organizations. In the most violent reported incident, 17 People's Armed Police Border Guards were killed on 04 August 2008 when assailants attacked them with a vehicle, homemade bombs, and knives.
Although minority separatists are not well-armed and seem to be largely disorganized, the violence posed a very real threat to China's ability to develop Xinjiang. The Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) behavior toward its Muslims has received renewed Western attention in the aftermath of 9/11. China's Uighurs have responded to CCP policies with violence and separatist activity, but the Hui (ethnic Chinese who are Muslim) have reacted with relatively high levels of accommodation. Uighurs and Hui have faced different social and economic realities that have led to different perceptions of inequality and thus, different reactions to CCP policy. Also, unlike Uighur ethnic identity, Hui identity stems from and is compatible with the PRC and Chinese society. The Hui who have blended fairly well into Chinese society, tend to regard some Uyghurs as unpatriotic separatists who give other Chinese Muslims a bad name.
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