In their annual report assessing human rights conditions in China in 2019, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China called the detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang a “crime against humanity,” while also presenting findings and recommendations on a host of other human rights issues including freedom of expression, workers’ rights, women’s rights, the ongoing protest movement in Hong Kong, civil society, Tibet, and more. From their Executive Summary:
During its 2019 reporting year, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (Commission) found that the human rights situation has worsened and the rule of law continued to deteriorate, as the Chinese government and Party increasingly used regulations and laws to assert social and political control. The Chinese government continued its crackdown on ‘‘citizen journalists’’ who report on human rights violations, with mainstream Chinese journalists calling conditions in China an ‘‘era of total censorship.’’ The abuse of criminal law and police power to target rights advocates, religious believers, and ethnic minority groups also continued unabated, and reporting on such abuses became increasingly restricted.
Further, the Chinese government has become more efficient in the use of advanced technology and information to control and suppress the people of China. Nowhere is this more of a concern than in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where the Commission believes Chinese authorities may be committing crimes against humanity against the Uyghur people and other Turkic Muslims. Over the past year, Chinese authorities have expanded a system of extrajudicial mass internment camps in the XUAR. Although the true number of detainees has not been publicly reported, experts estimate one million or more Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Hui, and others currently are or have been detained and subjected to abuse and forced labor in mass internment camps. [Source]
Gerry Shih from the Washington Post reports on recommendations made in the report to help restrain Chinese government influence campaigns in the U.S. and other countries, a topic that Jamil Anderlini recently wrote about for the Financial Times. From Shih’s report:
While the commission’s previous reports focused on China’s domestic situation, Wednesday’s document contained stark new warnings about the threat of what it called China’s “intensified use of disinformation, propaganda, economic intimidation and political influence operations.”
Congress should require U.S. universities, think tanks and nongovernmental organizations to disclose major gifts from foreign sources and expand scrutiny of Chinese government influence in American classrooms via student groups and on-campus organizations such as China’s state-funded Confucius Institutes, the commission said.
It warned, however, that the U.S. government’s statements and policies should “clearly differentiate between the Chinese people and culture and the Chinese government and Communist Party” to prevent the targeting of Chinese Americans or the Chinese diaspora. [Source]
At Radio Free Asia, Joshua Lipes summarizes the report’s findings on repression in Xinjiang, where up to 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims have been detained in a network on internment camps as part of a coordinated campaign to force cultural, linguistic, and religious assimilation. In recent months, the Chinese government has claimed the camps are vocational training facilities and that many of the inmates have “graduated,” but journalists and researchers have found evidence of continued forced labor and other abuses in the camps. Up to half a million children have been separated from their parents in boarding schools where they are indoctrinated and forced to undergo cultural assimilation with the Han majority, according to a recent report in The New York Times. Government efforts to eradicate Uyghur culture continue even after death with more than 100 traditional cemeteries destroyed in Xinjiang in recent years, according to CNN. From the RFA report on CECC’s findings:
“Security personnel at the camps subjected detainees to torture, including beatings; electric shocks; waterboarding; medical neglect; forced ingestion of medication; sleep deprivation; extended solitary confinement; and handcuffing or shackling for prolonged periods,” the report said.
Other forms of mistreatment in the camps included restricted access to toilet facilities, punishment for behavior deemed religious, forced labor, overcrowding, deprivation of food, and political indoctrination, the report said, while noting that some detainees reportedly died in the camps due to poor conditions, medical neglect, or other reasons.
“Scholars and rights groups provided a strong argument, based on available evidence, that the ‘crimes against humanity’ framework may apply to the case of mass internment camps in the XUAR,” the report said.
The report said that China’s arbitrary detention of Uyghur, Kazakh, and other ethnic minorities in mass internment camps; the torture of detainees in the camps; the targeting of specific minority groups; and forced disappearances of hundreds of intellectuals meet definitions laid out in Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which lists acts that may constitute “crimes against humanity.” [Source]
Patricia Zengerle of Reuters reports on the CECC’s recommendations for the U.S. government:
Some lawmakers at the news briefing called China’s treatment of the Uighurs a “crime against humanity.”
To address the abuses, the study recommended tightening access to U.S. capital markets for Chinese companies that provide support or technical capabilities for repression.
It recommended rights sanctions against businesses and officials involved in the mass internment and surveillance of Uighurs. The report said the Chinese government has used facial-recognition cameras and mobile telephone-monitoring systems to create an “open-air prison,” the report said.
It backed controlling the sale of facial-recognition systems, machine learning and biometric technology by placing agencies on the Department of Commerce’s “Entity List,” preventing purchases from U.S. suppliers. [Source]
In the past year, both the U.S. House and Senate have passed Uyghur human rights bills. For more on the current situation in Xinjiang and the U.S. response, listen to a recent Deconstructed podcast with Uyghur activist Nury Turkel. China’s Foreign Ministry called the CECC report “neither objective nor credible.”