A report released by the US Holocaust Museum adds more weight to accusations of genocide against the Chinese government. The report comes as a growing number of countries and independent organizations are claiming that the Chinese government may be committing genocide against the Uyghurs
When the rest of the world discovered that the Nazis were detaining and slaughtering millions in concentration camps, they were shocked. Even as inside reports described what was going on in places like Auschwitz, the world just couldn’t believe it. How could an authoritarian regime kill millions and attempt to wipe out entire populations like jews or gypsies without the rest of the world knowing or acting?
Well, another genocide may be happening once again, in front of our very eyes.
For decades, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has sought to forcibly assimilate the Uyghur Muslim community in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang) of northwest China, the new Holocaust Museum report reads. The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic group originating from the general region of Central and East Asia.
In theory, Uyghurs are recognized by the Chinese government as a regional minority and the titular people of Xinjiang. But in practice, the CCP has been trying to “integrate” them into Chinese society — this “integration” is seen as a genocide by not just the Holocaust museum, but by officials in the US, the European Union, and the UK.
Initially, this started by prohibiting the expression of any Uyghur religion and culture, as well as the destruction of sites that were important for Uyghur cultural heritage. But since 2014, things took a much darker turn. The Chinese government’s intrusive mass surveillance of the community has intensified, and comprehensive analyses have shown that the CCP built concentration camps for Uyghurs.
Initially, Chinese officials vehemently denied this and engaged in a propaganda campaign to sow disinformation and disprove the existence of concentration camps. They also attempted to block journalists from reporting from Xinjiang. However, after widespread reporting proved beyond a doubt that internment camps exist, the Chinese government tried to portray the camps as humane, denying that there are any human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
The campaign is still ongoing. In April 2021, the Chinese government released 5 propaganda videos titled, “Xinjiang is a Wonderful Land”, and released a musical titled “The Wings of Songs” which portrayed Xinjiang as harmonious and peaceful.
But increasingly, reports are claiming that Xinjiang is anything but peaceful, and the internment camps are far from harmless.
The Holocaust museum documents large-scale forced sterilization, mass incarceration, forced labor, abduction of Uyghur children away from their families, and Uyghur sites.
In 2020, the museum published a separate report in which it assessed that the Chinese government was committing “crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang. Now, the museum’s assessment has escalated, noting that “the Chinese government’s conduct has escalated beyond a policy of forced assimilation”.
“This includes, in particular, a deepening assault on Uyghur female reproductive capacity through forced sterilization and forced intrauterine device (IUD) placement as well as the separation of the sexes through mass detention and forcible transfer,” the report reads.
The report also mentions that the CCP is intentionally hiding evidence from the public.
“The Chinese government continues to intentionally impede the flow of information concerning its assault on the Uyghurs of Xinjiang. The information that has made its way into the public domain gives rise to grave concerns about crimes committed by the Chinese government.”
Essentially, the report concludes, the Chinese government is out to “biologically destroy the group of Uyghurs” — which clearly classifies as genocide under the United Nations definition.
According to the UN definition, genocide means “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
It’s estimated that already, over 1.5 million Uyghurs are forcefully detained, although some estimates put the figure at 3 million. In 2017 alone, over half a million children were forcefully separated from their families and placed in pre-school camps with prison-style surveillance systems and 10,000-volt electric fences.
This is only from what information could be indirectly obtained, through remote investigations and a few witnesses that managed to escape.
For instance, in 2021, a former Xinjiang police officer told reporters that the police would sometimes arrest an entire village, arranging a gathering with all the population so they could arrest everyone. Other times, they would go door-to-door with rifles and arrest residents overnight. According to the same witness, the police would interrogate and beat every man, woman, and child over age 14 “until they kneel on the floor crying.”
The evidence, while still incomplete, paints a compelling picture: a genocide is probably happening before our very eyes.
“The impunity with which the Chinese government has been able to commit these crimes thus far cannot persist. The future of a people may depend on swift, coordinated action by global actors. This report should serve as a clarion call for action to protect the Uyghur community,” the report concludes.
While this is not a governmental report, once a government has made a legal determination of genocide, international law mandates that they have an obligation to take action, Axios concludes.