UN alleges possible ‘crime against humanity’ in China

Un report published on 1 September 2022 suggests that China may be committing genocide in Xinxiang province

The BBC today discussed the UN report which describes in great detail, the use of torture, sexual violence and arbitrary detention of the Uyghur population in China. This abuse, which they believe is a possible crime against humanity, has been widely reported around the world and is a huge stain on the Chinese state. Around a million Uyghurs are held in so-called re-education centres and are forced to work picking cotton for example, some of which is believed to used in garments in the UK. Photographs show these establishments surrounded by barbed wire with watchtowers. The release of files last year revealed instructions to the guards should a Uyghur try to escape: if the warning shots did not work then the instructions were shoot to kill.

The Chinese government refutes the allegations and a lengthy report is attached to the UN report. It is described as ‘disinformation’ and a ‘farce’. The BBC interviewed someone representing the Chinese point of view. It was not very enlightening and consisted of a flat denial of the allegations. He also claimed, falsely, that delegations have visited the area and this was not picked up by the interviewer. Allow unfettered access could do a great deal to answer the allegations if they were untrue. The main claim for the actions the government is taking is that it is to tackle ‘terrorism, extremism and radicalisation’. These claims are extremely exaggerated and do not justify the scale of abuse foisted on the Uyghur people.

The World Uyghur Congress welcomed the report but claims it does not go far enough. They urge western governments to do more to challenge the Chinese for their activities in Xinjiang. Amnesty described the report as a ‘game changer’.

One interesting aspect to the BBC interview was the fact that several countries sought to stop the report being published. The Chinese interviewee was vague about this matter and the interviewer wondered if the UK government was one of them. The question was left hanging.

Attitudes towards China have changed in recent years. In the UK, the desperate desire by the then prime minister David Cameron and the Chancellor, George Osborne to forge close relationships with the country now look a little forlorn. Predictions that China was imminently due to overtake the USA economically also look rather silly. The country’s banks and property market are in a parlous state and the economy does not look as strong as it once was. Politically, the crushing of dissent in Hong Kong, their actions in the South China Sea and bullying actions around Taiwan have forced countries to reappraise their approach. The mass abuse of almost an entire nation and the destruction of religious buildings hardly adds to their reputation.

UN visit to China criticised

Michelle Bachelet’s visit to China and the Uyghurs severely criticised

June 2022

The treatment of the Uyghurs in China has been the subject of criticism for some time and in September 2021, the UN were said to be finalising its report into the matter. Eight months later it still has not appeared and human rights organisations including Amnesty International have urged it to be published immediately.

Bachelet visited China recently and this itself has been severely criticised. She was not given unfettered access to the area nor able to interview individual Uyghurs in private. The World Uyghur Conference has voiced its serious dissatisfaction with the UN visit claiming it was a ‘propaganda victory for the Chinese enabling them to whitewash its activities’.

A previous post detailing some of the treatment the Chinese are meting out to Uyghurs was described. We add our voices to those calling for the report to be published.

Let us not forget the Uyghurs

The focus on Ukraine risks us forgetting other abuses around the world

One of the problems with crises such as that in Ukraine following the Russian invasion, is that other terrible events can risk being forgotten. It is as though we can only cope with one crisis at a time which may well be true enough. As we watch the horrific events unfold in Ukraine, we must not forget that millions suffer in Syria, Myanmar, Yemen and in China.

In a recent edition of the New Statesman magazine (18 – 24 February 2022), there were several articles under the general heading of The Silencing focusing on the plight of the Uyghurs in China. There were pieces by Katie Stallard, John Simpson, Elif Shafak, Rian Thum and Musapir. Some of the points made are repeated below.

The opening ceremony of the recent Winter Olympics which was described as ‘jarring and banal’. A Uyghur skier stood on a podium with a member of the Han community (the dominant one in China) in an attempt to show harmony and to send the message ‘genocide, what genocide?’ Unfortunately she could not be interviewed as she failed to appear in the media zone. It was denounced by the Uyghur Human Rights Project as a ‘political stunt meant to deflect international criticism as though parading a Uyghur athlete around somehow disproves the party state’s well document atrocity crimes’.

The state has implemented a ‘devastating system of collective punishment that targets the Muslim population of Xinjiang’. Attending a mosque or growing a beard is considered suspect. Hundreds of internment camps and a suffocating network of surveillance technology have been built and between 10% and 20% of the adult population has been detained.

John Simpson notes that ‘the 12 million Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China are suffering one of the most intense policies of collective punishment since the end of the Second World War: a campaign designed to change them as a people, remould their beliefs and limit their numbers.’

Satellite images examined by the Australian Strategic Policy Unit (ASPI) have identified at least 380 detention centres ranging from low-security installations to fortified prisons complete with watch towers, high walls and barbed wire. Some of these were seen in a recent Channel 4 documentary.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation is that they estimate 83 Chinese and foreign brands have allegedly benefitted from the forced labour of Uyghur prisoners and they name Apple, Amazon, Marks and Spencer, Nike and Adidas among others. There have been repeated claims that much of China’s cotton, which is grown in Xinjiang, is produced by slave labour.

Elif Shafak bemoans the shear number of crises around the world and the difficulty we have in coping with it all. She quotes the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, attacks on abortion rights in USA and the ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans in Ethiopia as well as Myanmar. She says one thing that dictators and demagogues know is that numbness is transmissible – that is our indifference and detachment as global citizens.

Every time we fail to investigate a gross human right violation, every time we turn a blind eye to atrocities because we have trade deals or financial engagements, we are closely observed not only by that particular country’s government but also be the authoritarian regimes across the world. for they know that when one of them is met with numbness it will benefit them all. This is how democracy loses. Not only “there” but here and everywhere.

New Statesman 18 – 24 February 2022

As we are learning with Russia and Ukraine, financial interests have dominated our policy and there is now, belatedly, an attempt to control the flow of Oligarch money following the invasion.

UPDATE 8 March 2022: The full ASPI report on Uyghur oppression. Other reports can be found on the ASPI site. More companies listed in the appendix include: Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Electrolux, Gap, Diesel, Zara, Rover, Mercedes-Benz, VW, Nintendo, Nokia, Levi’s, Victoria’s Secret, Gap, Calvin Klein, Adidas and many more [accessed 10 March 2022]. NB: the appendix has been updated to include denials by some of the companies named (not included in this list) and other less well-known companies in the UK have not been included.

Monthly Death Penalty report

DP report for Mid January – February 2022

We are pleased to attach this month’s death penalty report with thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling what is quite a lengthy item. There is a lot on USA and some good news from Saudi. Note as usual there is nothing about China which is believed to execute more of its citizens than the rest of the world combined but whose activities on this front are a state secret.

Genocide in China

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.

Death penalty report

Latest report from mid November to mid December

We are pleased to attach the latest death penalty report for the month thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it. The report features events in Egypt which is executing large numbers of people, USA, India and other countries. Note that China, which probably executes more of its citizens than the rest of the world combined, does not feature because it keeps details a state secret.

Write for Rights

Write for Rights. Now finished.

A reminder that we will be holding our Write for Rights tomorrow in the Cathedral cloisters starting at 11am today and finishing at 1pm.

We shall be asking people to sign for the following:

  • Mikita Zalatarou of Belarus. He is a teenager who has been sent to a penal colony following protests at the recent elections.
  • Zhang Zhan of China. She is one of the journalists who tried to get the truth out about the Covid virus in Wuhan. She was sentenced to 4 years in prison.
  • Ciham ali Ahmed of Eritrea. She was arrested on the Sudan border and nine years later her family do not know her whereabouts. Many prisoners are held in underground containers.
  • Bernardo Caal Xol in Guatamala. He was caught up in the protests against the construction of hydroelectric dams which would have seriously harmed the indigenous peoples. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison with no evidence provided.

These are of course only four examples of the hundreds of thousands who are arrested, tortured, disappeared or imprisoned for speaking out against their regimes. We hope you can spare a few moments to sign a card at the Cathedral.

We shall be at St Thomas’s Church in Salisbury on Saturday 11th starting at 10 am.

China: Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Circulate Open Letter to Shanghai Authorities Appealing for Citizen Journalist Zhang Zhan to Receive a Full Physical Examination and Emergency Medical Treatment — IAPL Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers

15/11/21 To the directors of the Shanghai Municipal Justice Bureau and Shanghai Women’s Prison: We, as citizens, as friends of Zhang Zhan (张展), and as people who admire her sense of conscience, have been concerned about the deteriorating state of her health. We are deeply concerned to have learned that Zhang Zhan’s older brother recently […]

China: Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Circulate Open Letter to Shanghai Authorities Appealing for Citizen Journalist Zhang Zhan to Receive a Full Physical Examination and Emergency Medical Treatment — IAPL Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers

People in the Park

Group to participate in the People in the Park event on 18 September

We shall be at the People in the Park event all day on 18 September 2021 which takes place in Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury. Anyone interested in human rights issues is welcome to come and meet us and it would be a good opportunity if you are considering joining us.

Human rights are high on the political scale at present. Afghanistan is in the news following the Taliban’s victory in that country. Women’s rights will be severely affected: their freedom to go out without a male escort, reduced rights to education and a requirement to be covered from head to toe.

We must not forget Yemen where a war is still raging and the role of the UK and other western governments in supporting the bombing campaign is causing considerable stress and hardship.

Here at home in the UK, the government is keen to introduce laws restricting the right to protest and limiting the power of the judiciary to moderate government behaviour.

In China, the treatment of Uyghurs has been appalling with around a million being forced into so-called re-education.

All told, there is a lot to be concerned about around the world and in the UK. We look forward to seeing you on 18th.

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