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.