A 105-page letter was released by a London Queen Counsel, an expert in law, on the “very credible case” proving there is an ongoing Chinese genocide. The letter, also known as a legal opinion, outlines the human rights violations and abusive activities being inflicted onto the Uighurs, a Muslim group mainly situated in the Chinese region of Xinjiang. The legal opinion’s content consists of evidence collected from satellite imagery showing detained Uighurs doing forced labor in “re-education camps”, along with Chinese government documents, testimonies given by escaped Uighurs, and multiple inside sources. The criminal events happening in these camps are not exclusive to penal servitude – women are forced to undergo sterilization and abortion procedures, many are being raped, physically and mentally abused, and children are separated from their families. According to the Daily Mail, it is estimated over 1 million Uighurs face this pervasive containment and torture. Now the question is – what will the rest of us do about it?
Last year, the Chinese ambassador, Liu Xiaoming, spoke in a BBC interview in response to footage released of captured Uighurs being transferred in Xinjiang. The video shows dozens in the hands of authorities, handcuffed and blindfolded. His words echo the avoidant responses many Chinese officials have previously given, when asked about the camps. “There is no such concentration camp in Xinjiang … [China] is strongly opposed to any torture, any prosecution, and discrimination of any ethnic group … that is the success story of national Chinese policy.” Yet, despite the denial, international responses to the crisis have not been ignorant regarding the atrocities taking place today. During a recent U.K. House of Lords debate, a peer said, “We failed to predict genocide … we failed to protect victims of genocide … The genocide amendment is a modest attempt to begin to address some of those failings.” The amendment mentioned in the peer’s statement would permit the courts the ability to investigate the genocide occurring, and is currently up for discussion amongst parliamentary. With the legal opinion’s recent release, there was hope for the amendment to move forward. However, the current outcomes are not fulfilling these wishes.
Although this amendment could trigger the desperately needed global response to China’s genocide, wealthier nations, including the U.K., have not taken that step forward. There are speculations of the U.K. genocide amendment being withheld because of the trade deals between the European country and China. Economic interests are presenting a barricade when it comes to addressing the crisis, and this must be addressed. The opinion presents practical interventions, such as imposing Magnitsky sanctions on China, which are bans specific to nations that violate human rights. Many other interventions are outlined in the opinion that could create modest solutions for this full-blown catastrophe.
For many years, Uighurs have fought to establish independence for Xinjiang. Conflict has stirred between the Uighurs and Han Chinese for a long time, and the country’s current leader, Xi Jinping, has expressed his own contempt regarding the Uighurs. As the opinion mentions, “Xi Jinping controls the overall direction of State policy and has made a range of speeches exhorting the punitive treatment of Uyghurs.” This “exhortation” is very visible when looking over the past few years. In 2017, President Xi made it mandatory for all religions to be “Chinese-oriented”. Uighur survivors who’ve escaped the camps have told their stories that attest to the persisting Islamophobia, such as how they are forced to eat pork on Fridays, the Islamic holy day. It can be argued that events such as these are not linked. But it is no coincidence that consistently evident behaviors of high leaders are being reflected in these camps. President Xi may not be the immediate figure hidden behind the scenes, but plenty of powerful figures are, and this is the issue.
On January 19, 2020, the former U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, posted on Twitter, “I have determined that the People’s Republic of China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China.” Additionally, during August 2020, Biden’s campaign voiced their agreement to this statement. However, as of late, the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Legal Advisor concluded that China was carrying out “crimes against humanity”, but no genocide is occurring. A variety of reasons explains this interpretation. There are multiple definitions of genocide, and the Uighur genocide does not fully meet one of those definitions as not enough evidence exists to prove a mass killing of the Uighurs is occurring. There is also speculation of the U.S. being unwilling to disturb its economic relationship with China. It is possible the Biden administration will not address the issue whatsoever. When turning to the U.S., U.K., and any other nation who has the power to bring attention to the Uighur genocide, their final conclusions and future responses to the crisis are yet to be set in stone.
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