Human Rights

US senators declare China's campaign against Muslims in Xinjiang 'genocide'

Pakistan Forward and AFP

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This 2019 photo shows the Chinese flag behind razor wire at a housing compound in Xinjiang, where authorities are committing 'genocide' against Muslims. [Greg Baker/AFP]

WASHINGTON -- US senators brought forth a resolution Tuesday (October 27) declaring that the Chinese regime is committing genocide against Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims, a step that could ramp up pressure on behalf of the estimated one million-plus people in camps.

The resolution was introduced by senators across the political spectrum.

The Chinese campaign "against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and members of other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region constitutes genocide", according to the text.

"This resolution recognises these crimes for what they are and is the first step toward holding China accountable for their monstrous actions," said Senator John Cornyn, a Republican who sponsored it.

The resolution will show that the United States "can't stay silent", said Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat.

"China's assault on Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups -- escalating surveillance, imprisonment, torture and forced 're-education camps' -- is genocide, pure and simple," Merkley said.

More than 1 million locked up

More than one million Muslims languish in camps in the Xinjiang region as Beijing attempts to forcibly integrate the community and root out its Islamic heritage.

Beijing has denied the numbers and describes the camps as vocational centres that teach skills to prevent the allure of Islamic radicalism.

Chinese actions "remind us of what happened in the 1930s in Germany", said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in an interview October 17 with news site The Print on a visit to India.

"This would be a very strong, bipartisan message that the US government cares about the state of the Uighur people, even and especially when the Chinese Communist Party does not," said Olivia Enos, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington.

Fitting the definition of genocide

The United Nations convention on genocide, drafted in the aftermath of the Holocaust, obligates states to prevent and punish the "odious scourge".

It defines genocide to include actions such as killing as well as preventing births "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group."

Beijing has forcibly sterilised large numbers of Uighur women and pressured them to abort pregnancies that exceed birth quotas, a data-driven study by German researcher Adrian Zenz found.

In September, an investigative report detailed how Chinese authorities have destroyed almost 16,000 mosques in Xinjiang in recent years as part of their efforts to root out Islamic culture from the Communist Party-run nation.

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