Report finds that China’s treatment of the Uyghurs is genocide
The word ‘genocide’ has entered the language and we use it today to describe attacks by governments on entire communities usually for reasons of race or religion. It is sometimes surprising to some to discover that it is in fact quite a new word invented in 1944 by Rafael Lemkin. He used it to describe the Nazi’s programme of seeking to exterminate the Jews. Further background to the tussles to get the word accepted is described in Phillippe Sands’ book East West Street (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2016). The victors after the war were keen to set up a system to try and prevent those terrible events from happening again including the Genocide Convention of 1948 agreed only four years after Lemkin first coined the word.
Genocide has not disappeared in the world today and the worst example currently is the programme being carried out by the Chinese against the Uyghur people. A report has recently been published which – although having no official standing – has looked thoroughly into the treatment of the Uyghurs and concludes that ‘efforts to prevent births amounted to genocidal intent.’ Uyghur women are having their wombs removed and babies are often killed after being born.
The Chinese treatment of the has been horrific and that it should be taking place in the modern age is deeply depressing. China can use its veto power to prevent action by the International Criminal Court. In addition to the suppression of births the report describes ‘unconscionable crimes’ against the Uyghur people. These include physical violence, sexual abuse including penetration by electric shock rods or iron bars, holding people up to their necks in cold water for prolonged periods of time and the use of heavy shackles sometimes for months at a time. Face recognition technology is used on an extensive scale making communities effectively open prisons.
As many as a million are in held re-education establishments where they are forced to learn Chinese. If caught speaking their own language they are severely beaten. Hundreds of thousands of Uyghur children have been removed from their families and placed in Han speaking homes. Mosques have been destroyed and graves bulldozed. Travel to the region is tightly restricted.
It is a catalogue of depravity of truly shocking extent. The Chinese deny any of this is taking place but the weight of evidence is too great to dismiss. The scale and extent of the persecution must have received authority at the highest level. Although, unlike the Nazis, there is no programme of mass killing, the programme does represent a deliberate programme to eliminate the culture, history and language of these people.
The UK government has so far declined to call the programme genocide.