Human rights organizations signed an open letter Tuesday declaring China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang province a genocide. The letter cited a November 2019 UN report that raised concerns over “increasing practices of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, absence of judicial oversight and procedural safeguards … within an increasingly securitized environment, particularly for designated minorities, notably Uyghurs.”
The open letter further described the practices of the Chinese government:
Under the guise of curbing religious and political extremism, the Chinese government has intensified widespread and systematic policies to repress Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples on the basis of their religious and ethnic identities. The atrocities include arbitrary detention of between 1 and 1.8 million people in internment camps, a widespread program of political indoctrination, enforced disappearances, destruction of cultural sites, forced labour, disproportionate rates of prison incarceration, and coercive birth prevention campaigns and policies. … Observers have referred to ““a notable trend of enforced disappearances of Uyghurs,” the widespread destruction of Uyghur mosques, graveyards and other cultural sites, and the subjection of at least 80,000 Uyghurs to conditions that strongly indicate forced labour since 2017. Most recently, reports have documented Chinese government policies intending to reduce birth rates among Uyghurs including involuntary abortions and sterilizations. In 2018, 80 percent of all IUD placements in China were performed on women in the Uyghur Region, despite the region making up only about 1.8 percent of China’s total population. The forced separation of an unknown number of Uyghur children from their parents has also been documented by human rights groups since 2018.
The letter states that this conduct violates both the Genocide Convention and the Rome Statute, which prohibit measures intended to curb birthrate, persecution of a group based on race, religion, or ethnicity, and enforced disappearances.
The authors of the letter urge states to call on the UN Human Rights Council to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to investigate these human rights violations and implement solutions, use bilateral and multilateral diplomatic efforts to implement commitments on atrocity and genocide prevention, and to independently investigate the treatment of the Uighur Muslims and other Muslim communities in China.
Twenty-three human rights organizations and 16 practitioners from the international human rights community signed the letter.