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By John Sudworth
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.