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A Present-Day Genocide: The Uyghur People

On March 9th, 2021, a report released from the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy think tank in Washington DC further exposed the ongoing genocide of the Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group originating from and culturally affiliated within regions of Central and East Asia. According to the CNN article discussing the Newlines Institute’s report, approximately two million Uyghurs and Muslim minorities have been placed in detention centers across the Xinjiang region by the Chinese government. The report, written by more than 50 global experts in international law, genocide, and the china region, declared that the Chinese government bears state responsibility for the ongoing genocide against the Uyghur. The actions by the Chinese government are a direct violation of the United Nations’ Genocide Convention which was adopted by the UN to prevent and punish the crime of genocide. While reports of indoctrination, sexual abuse, and even forcible sterilization of detainees surfaced, the Chinese governement has denied human rights abuses claiming the centers' creations were necessary to prevent extremism and terrorism.

The accumulation of these recent reports and discussions on the actions of the Chinese government against the Uyghurs is only just scraping the surface of all that has been done against this group of people. The beginnings of this ethnic genocide stirred to attention years ago, in 2016, with significant mass incarceration of Uyghur individuals which evolved into imprisonment in detention centers, revealed through testimony from survivors first reporting alleged forced labor. In April 2020, a documentary titled China Undercover revealed many of the actions and methods levied against the Uyghurs. The film provided evidence that the government was using artificial intelligence surveillance technology to target Uyghur and Muslim minorities within Xinjiang--the facial recognition software can be used to ‘determine’ and that term is used loosely here, whether someone is ‘normal,’ ‘of concern,’ and ‘dangerous’ leading to vast arrests among the minority population. Investigations since the month of the documentary’s release also surfaced government tactics centered on forced birth control, sterilization, and abortions on women in Xinjiang with the threat of detention should they not comply. Such tactics are continued even through to recent March reports as mentioned above. Government statistics show that the birth rate in Xinjiang fell 24% last year though other reports state the rate is down 33% as of 2018 specifically in the regions of Hotan and Kashgar, regions with an Uyghur-majority population.

In response to these mass incarcerations, detention centers, and vile treatment of the Uyghurs, protests swept across Washington and New York City in August 2020 calling for the US government, the UN, and countries around the world to do more than merely condemn the violence and policies by China. These institutions of authority, our countries government, the UN, and other countries still had yet to declare the actions of the Chinese government as genocide when these protests took place. Only on January 19th, 2021, the day before the Trump administration left office, was it said that China’s government was committing genocide and crimes against humanity in its treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. A month after the incredibly belated declaration of genocide by the US government, the Dutch and Canadian parliaments passed similar motions.

Even with the declaration by the US government, the Dutch and Canadian parliaments, the question centered around the Uyghur genocide is whether there is enough evidence of a genocide to incite an international response. The lack of action enables the continued persecution of an entire ethnic group, the continued acts of aggression spanning from calling Uyghur people ‘weeds’ or ‘tumors’, to the Uyghur language, literature, and culture removed from Xinjiang classrooms and textbooks; within the detention centers, reports center on psychological torture, cultural brainwashing, alongside the atrocities already cited above. The United Nations’ Genocide Convention defines all of what the Chinese government is doing to the Uyghurs as genocide though there are no punishments or penalties laid out for states or governments determined to have committed genocide--an extreme and disappointing oversight in my opinion; for how can we hold people accountable if no guidelines have been determined--regardless of that fact, under the convention, the 151 signatories all have a responsibility to act.

Regardless of politics and definitions, the Chinese government is perpetuating major human rights violations. Actions need to be taken, there cannot be a declaration of genocide and nothing come from it. That sends the wrong message and it certainly implies that even in the face of recognition as genocide, nations can still get away with it and that is a dangerous notion for everyone, worldwide.

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