More Than Half a Million Uighurs Forced to Pick Cotton in China, Report Alleges

More Than Half a Million Uighurs Forced to Pick Cotton in China, Report Alleges


Over half a million Uighur laborers in the Northwestern region of Xinjiang, China, have been forced into hand picking cotton through a government run work scheme, according to new report.

The Center for Global Policy (CGP), a Washington-based think tank, published a report on Monday stating that 570,000 people from Uighur regions in 2018 were forcibly sent to pick cotton under a labor program meant to target minority groups.

“New evidence from Chinese government documents and media reports shows that hundreds of thousands of ethnic minority laborers in Xinjiang are being forced to pick cotton by hand through a coercive state-mandated labor transfer and ‘poverty alleviation’ scheme, with potentially drastic consequences for global supply chains,” the report states.

Xinjiang is home to roughly 11 million Uighors, a predominantly Muslim-Turkic ethnic minority, and produces 85 percent of China’s cotton and 20 percent of the global supply.NEWSWEEK SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS >

According to the CGP findings, the total number of forced laborers picking cotton throughout the region exceeds the reported number “by several hundred thousand.”

The report detailed “grueling” work conditions, and said that workers are heavily surveilled by government officials and police with “military-style management” and political indoctrination.

Adrian Zenz, the author of the research, said it was clear that the work program, which the government initiated to “boost rural incomes,” involved “a very high risk of forced labor.”

“Some minorities may exhibit a degree of consent in relation to this process, and they may benefit financially. However, in a system where the transition between securitization and poverty alleviation is seamless, and where the threat of extralegal internment looms large, it is impossible to define where coercion ends and where local consent may begin,” he wrote.

The report follows a long-standing international and human rights concern alleging that China has placed over 1 million Uighors and other Muslim minorities into detainment camps, and forces people to work against their will.

In 2018, the United Nations said they had credible evidence to suggest China had transformed Uigur regions into “something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone.'”

In October of this year, the U.S. Department of Labor said that Uighur laborers are forced to “endure dreadful conditions” and “receive little pay, are not allowed to leave, and have limited or no communication with family members. If family communication and visits are allowed, they are heavily monitored or cut short.”

But the Chinese government has pushed back against these claims, stating that the camps are vocational training centers meant to fight extremism, and denied all allegations of forced labor.

During a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that there is no “forced labour alleged by certain people with ulterior motives.”

“Helping people of all ethnic groups achieve stable employment is completely different from forced labour,” he added.

Wang said that workers of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are not discriminated against based on ethnicity, gender or religious beliefs.

But the U.S. government has pushed back against the Xinjiang region for allegations of forced labor.

Earlier this month, the U.S. banned cotton imports from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a powerful cotton company that manages nearly one-third of the cotton sourced in the region.

An additional bill proposing to ban all imports from Xinjiang has yet to pass the U.S. Senate.

Major international clothing brands, including Adidas, Gap and Nike, were accused of using Uighur forced labour in their textile supply chains earlier this year, according to a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Newsweek reached out the Center for Global Policy for an additional comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

CNN:EU Parliament condemns China over Uyghur ‘exploitation’

EU Parliament condemns China over Uyghur 'exploitation'

By James Frater and Zamira Rahim, CNN

Updated 1:31 PM ET, Thu December 17, 2020

(CNN)The European Parliament has adopted a resolution which strongly condemns China over allegations of forced labor by minority groups.”Parliament strongly condemns the Chinese government-led system of forced labour — in particular the exploitation of Uyghur, ethnic Kazakh and Kyrgyz, and other Muslim minority groups — in factories within and outside internment camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,” the EU body said in a statement Friday.The statement went on to denounce “the continued transfer of forced labourers to other Chinese administrative divisions, and the fact that well-known European brands and companies have been benefiting from forced Chinese labour.”China has consistently denied allegations of forced labor and other claims of human rights abuses in the area, which is home to about 11 million Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that speak a language closely related to Turkish and have their own distinct culture.

Earlier this month, the US blocked cotton imports from Xinjiang over forced labor concerns. US President-Elect Joe Biden has also condemned the treatment of minorities in the region.

She tweeted from Sweden about the plight of her Uyghur cousin. In Xinjiang, the authorities were watching

She tweeted from Sweden about the plight of her Uyghur cousin. In Xinjiang, the authorities were watchingThe US State Department estimates that more than one million Uyghurs, as well as members from other Muslim minority groups, have been detained in a sprawling network of internment camps in Xinjiang, where they are reportedly “subjected to torture, cruel and inhumane treatment such as physical and sexual abuse, forced labor, and death.” Former detainees have told CNN they experienced political indoctrination and abuse inside the camps, such as food and sleep deprivation and forced injections.Initially, Beijing flatly denied the existence of the camps. But it later claimed the facilities are voluntary “vocational training centers” where people learn job skills, Chinese language and laws. The government now insists that the camps are necessary for preventing religious extremism and terrorism.On Thursday, EU parliament members expressed their concerns about what they described as the “increasingly oppressive regime” in Beijing. The body’s statement urges China to “put an immediate end to the practice of arbitrary detention without charge, trial or conviction for criminal offenses of members of the Uyghur and other Muslim minorities.””A vote that will be heard around Europe, and in Beijing, too,” EU parliament member Reinhard Bütikofer tweeted Thursday.

BBC: China’s ‘tainted’ cotton

By John Sudworth

China is forcing hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other minorities into hard, manual labour in the vast cotton fields of its western region of Xinjiang, according to new research seen by the BBC.  

Based on newly discovered online documents, it provides the first clear picture of the potential scale of forced labour in the picking of a crop that accounts for a fifth of the world’s cotton supply and is used widely throughout the global fashion industry.

NPR:China Suppression Of Uighur Minorities Meets U.N. Definition Of Genocide, Report Says

NPR's Scott Simon speaks with China expert Adrian Zenz

July 4, 20207:58 AM ETHeard on Weekend Edition Saturday

  • NPR’s Scott Simon speaks with China expert Adrian Zenz about his research uncovering evidence of birth prevention and mass female sterilization of Uighur Muslims in China.


A new report in Foreign Policy says that China’s suppression of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other chiefly Muslim ethnic minorities in northwest China now meets the United Nations definition of genocide, mass sterilization, forced abortions and mandatory birth control part of a campaign that has swept up more than 1.5 million people and what researcher Adrian Zenz calls probably the largest incarceration of an ethnoreligious minority since the Holocaust. Adrian Zenz joins us from Minneapolis. Mr. Zenz, thanks so much for being with us.

ADRIAN ZENZ: Thank you.

SIMON: Those words are stunning. Outline for us, if you can, what you found.

ZENZ: I was able to uncover dedicated policies by Beijing in the region to systematically suppress birthrates and depress population growth. I uncovered evidence that the Uighurs are subject to internment in camps if they violate birth control policies, have too many children. I also uncovered that there’s tools to implement intrauterine contraceptive devices and other intrusive surgical birth prevention mechanisms in at least 80% of the targeted women.

SIMON: Eighty percent.

ZENZ: That’s the minimum goal for 2019, but I personally believe that the actual was closer probably to 90%.

SIMON: It is notoriously difficult to do research on the Chinese government, and specifically their policies on the Uighur population. How did you conduct the research? Do you trust the data?

ZENZ: I do trust the data, which, as before, comes from different types of Chinese government documents, firstly from the Xinjiang National Health Commission, whose website has subsequently gone offline since the publication of my report, from local prefecture government websites and from county websites. We’re talking budgets with very detailed target indicator figures, reports, policy documents.

SIMON: People need to be careful using the word genocide. Why do you think it’s justified and important to use it now?

ZENZ: I have long argued that the atrocity in the region is a cultural genocide, not a literal genocide. I do continue to believe that, generally speaking, the Chinese government does not intend to physically eradicate the Uighurs and Kazakhs, just to integrate, subjugate, dominate and assimilate them. However, this is coupled with a policy of ethnoracial domination, as the government has brought millions of Han Chinese settler in the regions with promises of high salaries, jobs and free housing.

The reason why now this has changed – we do need to probably call it a genocide – is quite simply because the evidence now, for the first time, very specifically meets one of the five criteria set forth by the United Nations Convention for the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide from 1948, which specifically says the suppression of birth.

SIMON: The U.N. has said that up to 1.5 million Uighurs are in internment camps in China. China says this is to contain the threat of terrorism and to reeducate people in the camps to become better Chinese citizens. Behind those statistics are real human lives that have been upended. I wonder what some of the stories you’ve been able to discover have reached into you the most.

ZENZ: Stories that are among the most harrowing, of course, are stories of abuse, stories of women being caught up by the police and, as they’re being brought to the internment camp, the first thing is that they’re told, you’re going to go on the surgery table, and we’re going to put an intrauterine contraceptive device into your body, because that’s standard policy for women who are put into a camp. Other women report of forced sterilization, of abuse, even accounts of rape.

SIMON: A word like genocide is also supposed to provoke the world to act. What do you believe should or can be done, Mr. Zenz?

ZENZ: I think China needs to face consequences by exclusion or sanctioning from multilateral institutions, either political or possibly economic sanctions, given that we also have a situation of forced labor. I think the international community got to start to think real hard how, with what kind of actions it’s going to back up its professed and supposed moral values.

SIMON: Adrian Zenz is a senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Mr. Zenz, thanks so much for being with us.

ZENZ: Thank you.


China’s treatment of Uighurs amounts to ‘genocide,’ parliamentary subcommittee concludes

China’s treatment of Uighurs amounts to ‘genocide,’ Canadian parliamentary subcommittee concludes

By Jeremy NuttallVancouver BureauWed., Oct. 21, 2020timer3 min. readupdateArticle was updated Oct. 23, 2020

Actions by the Chinese Communist Party in the country’s far western Xinjiang autonomous region constitute genocide and Ottawa must take action, a Canadian parliamentary subcommittee said Wednesday.

The House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights said it came to its conclusion after hearing two days of testimony from witnesses that include “survivors of the government of China’s atrocities” in the region.

“Nearly two million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims are being detained, including men, women, and children as young as 13 years old,” the subcommittee said in a news release. “Witnesses noted that this is the largest mass detention of a minority community since the Holocaust.”

The subcommittee called on the federal government to recognize China’s actions in the region as genocide and to implement so-called Magnitsky legislation against officials responsible.

The news release stressed that the blame for the human rights abuses in Xinjiang, a largely Muslim region of the country, lies with the Chinese government and not the people of China.

International concern about the treatment of Uighurs and other Turkic people in Xinjiang has grown in recent years, particularly after the discovery of what the subcommittee called “concentration camps” holding an estimated two million people.

The Chinese government insists the camps are “vocational training centres.” But those who have been in them describe deplorable conditions, including sexual abuse and violence against women and girls. Forced labour has also been reported.

“The subcommittee heard that detainees are abused psychologically, physically and sexually. They are forbidden from speaking the Uighur language or practising their religion,” the news release said.

“In an effort to assimilate and indoctrinate them, they are forced to learn Mandarin Chinese, Chinese culture and traditions, as well as sing praises to the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese President, Xi Jinping.”

The statement said Uighur activists, including those living in Canada, have been subject to intimidation and harassment by China’s government.

For those reasons and more, the subcommittee said it was persuaded the “actions of the Communist Party of China constitute genocide as laid out in the Genocide Convention.”

Human rights advocate and former attorney general Irwin Cotler told the Star that if Canada declares China’s actions in Xinjiang a genocide, it would be the first Parliament to do so.

Cotler said the subcommittee’s conclusion is important not just to the Uighur community, but also to international justice, hearkening back to past genocides in Rwanda and Myanmar. In 2018 Canada was the first to declare the genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar, Cotler said.

“What made these genocides so horrific was not only the horror of the genocides themselves but that they were preventable,” he said. “Nobody could say we did not know. We knew, but we did not act.”

Cotler has been vocal in the plight of the Uighur people, including via the new Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, an international organization made up of legislators from across the political spectrum that aims to counter Beijing’s influence worldwide.

The Uighur Rights Advocacy Project, which works to raise awareness of the plight of the Uighurs in Canada, applauded the decision by the subcommittee in its own statement.

Project executive director Mehmet Tohti said Canada must now act on the recommendation of the subcommittee.

Tohti said labelling the treatment of Uighurs a genocide will mean a great deal to the community in Canada.

Last week, China’s ambassador to Canada denied genocide was happening in the region, and said Western countries should “be careful” about using the term.

Cotler said if the Canadian government declares the actions a genocide it would be reflecting the will of the public in Canada who elected it.

The House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights is part of the standing committee on foreign affairs and international development.

How the U.S. Has Reacted to China’s Treatment of Uyghurs

How the U.S. Has Reacted to China’s Treatment of Uyghurs

NOVEMBER 10, 2020byPriyanka Boghani

Over the last three years, China’s mass incarceration of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the region of Xinjiang has gradually come into sharper relief — with mounting evidence of a vast network of detention camps, testimony from survivors and allegations of forced labor.

As FRONTLINE reported in China Undercover, a documentary that first aired in April 2020, the government has also been using artificial intelligence surveillance technology to track and monitor Muslim minorities going about their daily lives in Xinjiang. An engineer who worked on the system told FRONTLINE that facial recognition could label someone as “normal,” “of concern” or “dangerous,” potentially leading to their arrest.

New reports suggest China is expanding and entrenching a system for mass detention, even as government officials have publicly said almost all people were released from the camps.  Recent investigations also indicate the government has forced birth control, sterilization and abortions on women in Xinjiang, with the threat of detention if they don’t comply. Birth rates in Xinjiang fell 24% last year, according to government statistics, and the Associated Press noted that birth rates in Hotan and Kashgar — areas with a Uyghur-majority population — plunged more than 60% from 2015 to 2018.

Read more: A Minutes-Long Call After Two and a Half Years of Silence — Update from a Uyghur Family Featured in ‘China Undercover’

China maintains that the camps provide “vocational education and training” and are part of an effort to combat extremism and terrorism. It dismisses reporting of its treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as “farce” or “fake news.”

Earlier this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping defended his government’s policy toward Xinjiang as “totally correct,” saying, “it must be held to for the long term,” according to a summary issued by the state-run news agency Xinhua, as quoted by The New York Times. “Viewed overall, Xinjiang is enjoying a favorable setting of social stability with the people living in peace and contentment,” Xi said.

Still, as reports of the deteriorating conditions in Xinjiang have accumulated, U.S. lawmakers have responded this year with growing criticism, legislation and sanctions targeting China.

Labeling China’s Actions as ‘Genocide’

Most recently, in October, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a resolution stating that the “atrocities” committed by China against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang constitute genocide. It calls on the Chinese government to release people from detention camps and forced labor programs, and urges other countries to join the U.S. in compelling China to take those actions.

Previously, in July, lawmakers from both parties had written a letter calling on the Trump administration to “make an official determination” whether the Chinese government was perpetrating genocide.

Politico, which reported in August that the White House was weighing whether to accuse China of genocide, noted that such a declaration might “compel some sort of American intervention — though not necessarily the military kind.”

President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign labeled China’s actions in Xinjiang “genocide,” and a campaign spokesman said in a statement in August that Biden “stands against it in the strongest terms.”

Legislation on Forced Labor

The U.S. House of Representatives passed two pieces of legislation this fall taking aim at the alleged use of forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region.

The first, which passed on Sept. 22 with an overwhelming majority, aims to prevent items produced using forced labor in Xinjiang from entering the U.S. Examples of products that were reportedly made with forced labor ranged from tea and handicrafts to electronics and textiles, according to a 2019 report by the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China. The bill also calls on the president to compile lists of and impose sanctions on entities and people — including Chinese government officials — who knowingly facilitate forced labor in Xinjiang or try to get around the ban on imports made by forced labor. After its passage in the House, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, where it remains.

The second bill, which passed on Sept. 30 — roughly along party lines, with more Democrats voting in favor — would require public companies listed in the U.S. to disclose to the Securities and Exchange Commission any goods or materials that originated from Xinjiang, as well as any links to forced labor camps and profits related to the items. Republicans who opposed the bill said that while they agreed on the premise of making sure American companies are not complicit in forced labor, the bill might harm U.S. businesses. The bill was sent to the Senate and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, where it remains.

The Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 & Sanctions

In June, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump, after being passed by both the House and the Senate. The law lays out a process through which the president would compile a list of people and entities connected to human rights abuses, such as torture and detention without charges, in Xinjiang and impose financial and travel sanctions on them. The law also calls for the U.S. secretary of state to submit reports on human rights abuses in Xinjiang to Congressional committees.

Less than a month after the act became law, the U.S. State Departmentand Treasury announced sanctions on Chinese officials — including Chen Quanguo, party secretary of Xinjiang, and Zhu Hailun, a former deputy secretary of the region, who were described in the text of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act as bearing “direct responsibility for gross human rights violations.”

While the sanctions were largely symbolic, they were welcomed by Uyghur rights groups.

For the full story, stream China Undercover any time in the PBS Video App, on YouTube, in FRONTLINE’s online collection of documentaries or below.

Nikkei: Japan eyes US-style law to sanction Uighur human rights abuses

Japanese businesses face pressure to examine China supply chain

TOKYO — As China faces growing criticism for its treatment of Uighur Muslims, Japan has begun weighing a legal foundation for sanctions like those imposed by the U.S. and Europe, with implications for Japanese companies that might be unknowingly contributing to the problem.

Eleven Japanese companies were among the 82 well-known global brands named in a report in March by the Australian Global Policy Institute as those relying on factories that use forced Uighur laborers. 

The report indicated that more than 80,000 Uighur workers were transferred out of the Xinjiang region, where China’s Uighur population is concentrated, to around 30 factories across the country.

Companies in the report, including Fast Retailing, maker of the Uniqlo casualwear brand, as well as Sharp and Nintendo, have denied any connection to forced Uighur labor.

“We do not have any business relationships with” the factories Uniqlo was linked to in the report, Fast Retailing asserted in a statement. Sharp has said it “disapproves of any forms of human rights violations” and would take action to curb any such abuses found at its suppliers, including cutting ties.

There has been a growing push, particularly in Western countries, to closely watch for human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

As awareness of the issue grows, the Japanese government has been fielding questions from domestic companies that operate in China about Tokyo’s official policy and whether doing business in Xinjiang could run afoul of it. 

The U.S. in June passed the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, which opens the door to sanctions against Chinese authorities involved in Uighur repression. Four people, including senior Xinjiang officials, and one organization had their assets frozen in July under this legislation.

The legal basis for the law stems from the Magnitsky Act, which the U.S. passed in 2012 to impose sanctions on corrupt Russian officials. The legislation is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was arrested after investigating the fraud, and who later died in a Moscow prison.

The Magnitsky Act was amended in 2016 to apply to other countries besides Russia. In the European Union, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen revealed in September plans for the EU to design its own Magnitsky Act.

There have been moves toward creating a Japanese version of the Magnitsky Act. The Japan Parliamentary Alliance on China, a group of lawmakers from across party lines, are now discussing submitting a bill to parliament.

Some within Japan’s National Security Secretariat, as well as the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, also agree on the need for new legislation.

“Japan is too slow to act compared to the U.S. and Europe,” one ministry official said.

Japan’s current legal framework does not easily allow for economic sanctions based on human rights concerns alone. The government can freeze assets of foreign players or ban them from entering the country, but only under specific circumstances like abiding by United Nations resolutions.

For example, Japan imposed investment and trade restrictions on South Africa during its apartheid era, in response to U.N. resolutions and other factors.

Japanese government insiders think that without a U.N. resolution, sanctions on China over its treatment of Uighurs are unlikely. And China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, would never allow a vote on such a resolution.

“Japan must create its own version of the Magnitsky Act that allows comprehensive sanctions in response to human rights issues, and update all other relevant legislation like the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act,” Akira Igata, a national security expert and professor at the Tama Graduate School of Business, told lawmakers working on the legislation in October.

There are hurdles to passing such a bill, starting with Chinese pushback against such legislation. Even if the bill is put into law, it remains to be seen how to verify human rights violations in another country. Designing such a framework will be a challenging task.

This problem also affects Japanese multinationals. If the corporations are perceived as lacking awareness of the human rights issue, their reputations could suffer.

Disney’s live-action film “Mulan” is a case in point. The credits included a message of thanks to the publicity department of the Chinese Communist Party Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Committee. A viral social media campaign ensued, urging people to boycott the movie.

International concerns over China’s human rights record mounted after Beijing imposed its national security legislation on Hong Kong this summer. If the U.S. and Europe further harden their stances, corporate Japan has no choice but to deal with the issue.

That said, the global supply chain is made up of multiple layers of subcontractors, making for a complex web of business relationships. Corporations will face the complicated task of uncovering exactly how far removed they are from human rights abuses.

HRW: Saudi Arabia: Clarify Status of Uyghur Detainees

Saudi Arabia: Clarify Status of Uyghur Detainees

Risk of Forced Return to Persecution in China

(Beirut) – Saudi authorities should immediately clarify the status of two Chinese Muslim Uyghur men arrested in Saudi Arabia on November 20, 2020, and disclose the basis for their detentions, Human Rights Watch said today. The Saudi authorities should not forcibly return the men to China, where they are at serious risk of arbitrary detention and torture.

The arrests occurred on the eve of the G20 leaders’ summit, hosted virtually by Saudi Arabia on November 21 and 22. Human Rights Watch has previously called on G20 member countries to press Saudi Arabia to end its unrelenting assault on fundamental freedoms, including jailing and harassingpublic dissidents and human rights activists, unlawful attacks on civilians in Yemen, and flouting international calls for accountability for the murder by state agents of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“Saudi Arabia’s attempts to seek positive publicity through hosting the G20 would be severely undercut if it detains and forcibly returns fellow Muslims back to unbridled persecution in China,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Saudi authorities should immediately disclose the status of the Uyghur detainees and clarify why they arrested them.”

Abduweli Ayup, a Uyghur activist in touch with the Uyghur community in Saudi Arabia, told Human Rights Watch that Saudi authorities detained Hemdullah Abduweli (or Aimidoula Waili in pinyin on his Chinese passport), 52, a Uyghur Muslim religious scholar, on the evening of November 20 in Mecca along with his friend Nurmemet Rozi (or Nuermaimaiti on his Chinese passport). Ayup said that Rozi managed to contact a family member to say that they are being held in Jeddah’s Bureiman prison and are “in danger.” Both men are residents of Turkey.

Abduweli arrived in Saudi Arabia in February to perform a religious pilgrimage. He had been in hiding since he gave a speech to the Uyghur community there in which he encouraged Uyghurs and Muslims to pray about conditions in Xinjiang and to “fight back the Chinese invaders…using weapons,” said another source who spoke to Abduweli.

In early November, Abduweli spoke to Middle East Eye, saying he feared that Chinese authorities had sent a request to Saudi Arabia to detain and deport him. Middle East Eye posted photos of Abduweli’s Chinese passport, Turkish residency card, and Saudi visa information.

The Uyghur activist Ayub said that he had previously documented five cases of Uyghurs forcibly deported by Saudi Arabia back to China between 2017 and 2018.

Uyghurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims, most of whom live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China’s northwest. The Chinese government has long been hostile to many expressions of Uyghur identity, and imposed wide-ranging controls – including religious restrictions – over daily life in Xinjiang. Since late 2016, the Chinese government has dramatically escalated repression in Xinjiang as part of ostensible counterterrorism efforts, subjecting the region’s 13 million Turkic Muslims to forced political indoctrination, mass surveillance, and severe movement restrictions. An estimated one million of them have been held in “political education” camps.

Much of this repression targets Uyghurs’ religious practices. Uyghurs are imprisoned and detained for studying the Quran, going on pilgrimages without state approval, wearing religious clothing, and other “abnormal” thoughts or behavior that express “excessive religious fervor.” An estimated 16,000 mosques in Xinjiang, or 65 percent of the total, have been destroyed or damaged as a result of government policies since 2017.

On a visit to China in February 2019, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, appeared to endorse Chinese government policies in Xinjiang. China’s Xinhua official news agency quoted Mohammed bin Salman stating, “We respect and support China’s rights to take counter-terrorism and de-extremism measures to safeguard national security…” Saudi Arabia endorsed joint letters in support of China’s policies in Xinjiang at the United Nations in 2019 and again in 2020.

China’s record of arbitrary detention, torture, and enforced disappearance of Uyghurs, as well as the absence of judicial independence, raises serious concerns that if deported, Hemdullah Abduweli and Nurmemet Rozi will be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Under customary international law and as a party to the Convention against Torture, Saudi Arabia is obliged to ensure that no one in its custody is forcibly sent to a place where they would risk being subjected to persecution, torture, or other serious human rights violations.

In recent years, there have been multiple incidents of Uyghurs being forcibly returned to China in violation of international law. In July 2017, Egypt detained 62 Uyghurs and deported at least 12 to China. In August 2015, Thailand forcibly returned 220 Uyghurs to China. In December 2012, Malaysia deported six Uyghurs to China. In all cases, Human Rights Watch has been unable to obtain any further information from Thai, Malaysian, or Chinese governments as to the deportees’ whereabouts or well-being.

“Mohammed bin Salman’s apparent endorsement of China’s persecution of the Muslim Uyghur community is bad enough, but his government should not play a direct role in it by deporting Uyghur men back to possible arbitrary detention and torture,” Stork said.