China’s Uyghur genocide must be condemned

“Never again” seems to be happening again

Following the tragedies of the Holocaust, the international community proclaimed, “never again!” in what was a promise to never again allow the kind of human suffering that took the lives of over 6 million Jews. In 1948, the push to articulate a global standard for genocide culminated in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide or known simply as the Genocide Convention. It was supposed to set a legal standard and set forth a framework to ensure that atrocities like genocide are not permitted without impunity. Despite that, “Never Again” has happened again and is indeed happening again today. While human cruelty and genocide are not new phenomena, the 20th and 21st centuries have already presented us with several cases in their developmental stages of genocide. One such case of genocide and other crimes against humanity today is the horrific situation facing the Uyghur people of East Turkestan in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

On his last day in office, former president Trump appointed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who stated on behalf of the United States government, that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is perpetuating “genocide and crimes against humanity” against the Uyghurs and other, largely Muslim and Turkic, minority groups in East Turkestan (wrongfully known as the Xinjiang region by Beijing authorities). The Biden administration subsequently reviewed and affirmed the decision. Last month, in an annual human rights report, the State Department formalized its assessment that the dehumanizing campaign of mass detention, sterilization, and persecution of Uyghurs and other minority groups fit the legal definition of genocide in direct violation of international law.

International law defines genocide as committing any one of five outlined acts with “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part,” a particular class of people (i.e., a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group). Therefore, as defined, genocide requires two mental elements — the general intent and the specific intent. It is because of this that accusations of genocide often accompany serious debate; a debate that unfortunately can have the adverse effect of prolonging the tragedies in question. So, for China’s ruthless persecution of its Muslim population to be legally considered genocide it must be proven that the Chinese government is committing its industrialized campaign of brainwashing, torture, sterilization, and dehumanization with both general intention and the specific intention “to destroy in whole or in part” the Uyghur people. The latter of which is what distinguishes genocide from all other international crimes, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

There is a growing international consensus around the mounting evidence of genocide against China’s Uyghur population. Since April 2017, the Chinese government has been detaining and concentrating more than a million Uyghurs, the largely Muslim Turkic ethnic group, in what they call “vocational education and employment training centers,” “re-education” camps, and “training schools.” The CCP initially denied their existence until acknowledging the internment program in August 2018 while denying any human rights abuses. They affirm that their behavior is based on a belief that they are “rooting out extremism” from the Uyghur community which to them poses a supposed “separatist” and “terrorist threat.” In truth, it is a false and exaggerated justification to disguise the communist regime’s real desire to ensure its global ambitions and stranglehold on power.

Up to this point, all that could be argued, because of the internment program alone, is ethnic cleansing, the removal of an ethnic population from a specific area by way of force or intimidation. However, unfortunately, the cruelty of the Chinese government hasn’t stopped there. In these concentration camps, leaked government files reveal that detainees are forced to eat pork, drink alcohol, and denounce their Muslim faith in forced conversions to atheism. Detainees are forced to take pills and injections and are subjected to rape, abortion, sterilization procedures, medical experiments, and organ harvesting. The Chinese government further subjects the detained Uyghur population to political and cultural brainwashing, including education in Mandarin Chinese, Confucian philosophy, and Communist Party dogma. All of which are having the effect of erasing the Uyghur cultural identity in China and restricting and controlling the Uyghur population’s means of reproduction. The latter of which is one of the five outlined acts within which constitute genocide when coupled with intention. Those acts being:

(a) Killing members of the [victimized] group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the [victimized] group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the [victimized] 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 [victimized] group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Of these acts, there is discernible proof that the actions of the Chinese government meet nearly each of these acts, only one of which is needed to be legally considered genocide. Hence why 39 and counting countries condemn China’s actions in East Turkestan as being not only crimes against humanity but also a state-sponsored genocide. Despite the veil of secrecy China seeks to keep its illicit behavior under, the prevention of Uyghur births and the forcible separation of Uyghur children from their families are the two most easily measurable and documented genocidal acts. Uyghur children are routinely removed from the care of their families as a result of their parents being sent to detention camps and are in turn sent to Han-dominated boarding schools and orphanages.

CCP statistics reflect in quantifiable proof the heartbreaking consequences of China’s genocidal campaign against the Uyghur population. According to the China Statistical Yearbook 2020, compiled by the National Bureau of Statistics, the 2020 birthrate in East Turkestan (Xinjiang) was only 8.14 births per 1,000 people. This marks a decrease of more than half from the 2017 figure when the birthrate was 15.88 births per 1,000 people. Xinjiang’s population growth rate — which accounts for deaths and births — dropped by more than 67% over the same period, from 11.4 per 1,000 in 2017 to 3.69 per 1,000 in 2019. These statistical patterns are a direct by-product of the CCP’s program of coercive sterilization, prohibitions on marriages between Uyghurs, and government preference for interethnic marriages.

The evidence is clear that there are acts of genocide being committed against the Uyghurs by the Chinese government. The intentions behind their policies are made clear by their proven impact and by the leaked party documents that showcase, at the very least, the explicit intention of some like paramount leader, Xi Jinping, to show “absolutely no mercy.” So, when the East Asian Studies at Trinity (EAST) program chose to invite pseudo-academic Chinese apologists like David Lampton and Daniel Bell, I was naturally disappointed. Bell and Lampton’s genocide denial and ignorant dismissal of the ongoing atrocity as a “so-called” genocide should not go unchallenged. We should all recognize the plight of the Uyghur people in East Turkestan and justly condemn the Chinese Communist Party.