Uyghur rights activist Nursimangul Abdureshid —pictured here in Istanbul, Turkey, in March — left China to study in Turkey in 2013, and lost contact with her parents and brothers in 2018. She has been struggling to find the whereabouts of her family members ever since. Yasin Akgul/AFP via Getty Images
Human rights organizations first raised the alarm five years ago that China was constructing internment camps to house Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority found in the northwest region of Xinjiang.
When courageous Uyghurs spoke out to Western media outlets four years ago, writers like myself began penning article after article to bring the problem to the public’s notice.
Leaked documents from the Chinese government three years ago supported Uyghur assertions regarding the government’s policy of mass imprisonment.
Expert evidence from two years ago revealed that China was also subjecting Uyghurs to coercive sterilization and forced labor.
President Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law one year ago after the United States designated the crisis as a genocide and placed the burden of proof on importers to show that a product’s supply chain is free of forced labor.
And last, a report from the UN has been released. A report that adds nothing new to what we already knew about the crisis, that omits to call the crisis what it is — genocide — and that some experts claim was watered down under intense pressure from Beijing, a report that says China’s policies “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
The true tragedy of all this is that the UN Human Rights Council has failed to respect its fundamental duty, which is to protect human rights, Timothy Grose, a China researcher at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, told me.
The Human Rights Council still has a chance to prove itself; it might vote on a resolution denouncing Beijing’s mistreatment of the Uyghurs while it is still deliberating in Geneva for close to a month. According to reports, a coalition of democracies wants to advance such a resolution. But they might not have enough support to get it through. China is a member of the council and has allies there.
Creating a system of responsibility for the persecution of Uyghurs is another opportunity presented by the UN General Assembly, which began this week in New York. However, China may exert strong pressure there as well, making it tough to accomplish.
Whether it’s challenging or not, the recent UN report may only help to highlight a terrible fact: There is now no credible plan for the international community to stop the genocide taking place in China. Some Uyghurs have reached the point where they wish that the world would accept that terrible reality without further lip service or false hopes.
Tahir Imin, a Uyghur academic based in the US who thinks many of his relatives are in the camps, said: “We had a delusion that the world would do its utmost to stop China from this genocide.” “However, there is no global strategy to stop this slaughter. It’s not taking place. The governments ought to make that plain. Either put an end to the genocide, or accept you won’t.
Is China too big to fail?
You might believe that it is difficult for international governments to halt genocide in a nation with China’s might and veto power over UN Security Council resolutions. But that’s not always the case. Experts and activists point out that governments have recently made unprecedented actions in relation to other strong nations, like Russia. Theoretically, they could apply the same strategy to China.
China might be stopped, according to Grose, if governments, multinational corporations, and private citizens all worked together. “If the international community truly wanted to, they could put adequate policies in place — like we saw right away after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where practically business with Russia halted,” said the author.
A similar comparison was made by Rushan Abbas, a Uyghur activist in the US whose sister has been imprisoned in Xinjiang for four years. The UN Human Rights Council should not include China. Eliminate them. She informed me, “I mean, there was a referendum and they got rid of Russia, so that is one quick thing we can perform (The UN suspended Russia from the body in April after the invasion of Ukraine.)
A reputational hit like that, coupled with severe sanctions from international alliances and widespread consumer and corporate boycotts, may persuade China to revise its Uyghur policy. Why then hasn’t the entire globe made a daring, organized, and strategic effort?
The problem, according to Grose, is not that China cannot be stopped, but rather that we are unwilling to shoulder the sacrifices involved.
The Chinese market is enormous. For multinational enterprises, it is crucial because of its capacity for inexpensive product manufacturing and availability of cheap labor. Grose continued, “These are all things that have made governments enormously wealthy over the world.” Now that violence can be stopped by having an impact on one’s own finances, liberal democracies are reaching their limitations.
Imin concurs. The world has the power to stop it, but they are unwilling to do so. They lack the guts and the will to carry that out, he informed me. The West has kept importing goods created by Uyghur forced labor and selling surveillance technology to China, far from being willing to accept economic losses.
Because the entire world is gaining from it, “it doesn’t seem like they have any plans to halt it,” added Abbas.
She wants Western nations to understand that, despite their short-term economic gains, continuing to disregard Beijing’s violations of human rights could harm the West in the long run if its authoritarian political system proliferates.
“We are voluntarily giving up the future of the free and democratic world,” Abbas said. “Freedom is not free. If we want freedom, we need to stop buying ‘Made in China.’”
What the world can still do to help the Uyghurs
There are still things that governments — and we as people — can do if they are not prepared to go above and beyond to stop the slaughter.
One is facilitating Uyghur asylum applications in nations like the US for those who have already left China. “There is nothing we can do to help the people in our country. But we can at least give the Uyghurs who are already here and have requested political asylum a somewhat steady existence,” Abbas said, adding that their applications and interviews should be accelerated.
Improved enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would also be beneficial. According to the Uyghur Human Rights Project, despite the fact that US law is supposed to ban this, goods polluted by Uyghur labor, like red dates, are nevertheless finding their way into stores. An promising development is that the European Union plans to start prohibiting goods produced using forced labor.
Supporting initiatives to keep Uyghur culture alive in the diaspora is another way that individuals may contribute. Uyghurs in the US work to ensure that their children will learn the Uyghur language, for instance at the Ana Care and Education school in Fairfax, Virginia, since China tries to eradicate their culture at home.
Youth Uyghurs in big population centers like Turkey are receiving assistance from other organizations like the Campaign for Uyghurs. Many of these young people were depending on their parents to help pay for their education or housing, but it’s difficult to make ends meet when so many of your parents are in internment camps.
Even if we might not be able to influence Beijing’s actions, Grose insisted that there are still practical, immediate methods that we can assist Uyghurs.
YOUTUBE VIDEO: Gravitas: China called out on Uighur genocide
By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
You can support my work directly on Patreon or Paypal
Contact by mail: email@example.com
Contact by mail: firstname.lastname@example.org