Several new reports focusing on the invasive ways that the Chinese government is policing the bodies and lives of Uyghurs in the region have provided yet more evidence of ongoing crimes against humanity and genocide in Xinjiang. This week, the New York Times’ Amy Qin reported on the forced sterilization of women, part of a campaign to halt the growth of Xinjiang’s Muslim population:
When the government ordered women in her mostly Muslim community to be fitted with contraceptive devices, Qelbinur Sedik pleaded for an exemption. She was nearly 50 years old, she told officials in Xinjiang. She had obeyed the government’s birth limits and had only one child.
It was no use. The workers threatened to take her to the police if she continued resisting, she said. She gave in and went to a government clinic where a doctor, using metal forceps, inserted an intrauterine device to prevent pregnancy. She wept through the procedure.
[…] While the authorities have said the procedures are voluntary, interviews with more than a dozen Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim women and men from Xinjiang, as well as a review of official statistics, government notices and reports in the state-run media, depict a coercive effort by the Chinese Communist Party to control the community’s reproductive rights. The authorities pressured women to use IUDs or get sterilized. As they recuperated at home, government officials were sent to live with them to watch for signs of discontent; one woman described having to endure her minder’s groping.
If they had too many children or refused contraceptive procedures, they faced steep fines or, worse, detention in an internment camp. In the camps, the women were at risk of even more abuse. Some former detainees say they were made to take drugs that stopped their menstrual cycles. One woman said she had been raped in a camp. [Source]
3. Recently, China has waged a propaganda campaign to push back against the allegations.
— Amy Qin 秦颖 (@amyyqin) May 10, 2021
10. But despite the denials, the Chinese govt and its defenders have at times inadvertently confirmed darker aspects of the campaign. Like this Nov. 2020 lecture by PKU professor Li Jianxin, who admitted coercion could have been a factor in falling birthrates. (Later deleted.) pic.twitter.com/DSCtEWH27n
— Amy Qin 秦颖 (@amyyqin) May 10, 2021
Also this week, CNN’s Ivan Watson and Rebecca Wright reported on the “relatives policy” in Xinjiang that requires residents share their homes with government cadres. Introduced in 2016, the policy is part of the Chinese government’s “ethnic unity campaign” and has involved more than 1.1 million cadres and 1.6 million Xinjiang residents, according to Xinhua news agency:
Under the home stay policy, cadres are sent to live, work and sleep with families in Xinjiang for several days at a time, every one or two months, former residents said.
Because each person in Dawut’s house was assigned an official “relative,” including children, she said she had to host four officials in her home each visit. “Because my husband is a foreign national, they did not force him to pair up with a relative, but me and three of our children we all had one relative each,” she said.
Dawut said her assigned cadre followed her around the house, asking questions, and taking notes that she feared could see her re-imprisoned in China’s vast network of detention centers.
She was so scared her children might inadvertently say something wrong that she coached them to give the “right” answers. “If they ask you, ‘does your mother pray?’ Say no. ‘Does your father pray? Say no. ‘Do you believe in Islam? Do you have Quran? Do you have a praying rug?’ Say no to them,” she said. [Source]
The two reports are the latest accounts added to a body of evidence that has led several countries’ legislatures to formally declare the human rights atrocities in Xinjiang a “genocide”. Parliaments in the Netherlands, Canada, and the U.K., as well as the U.S. State Department, have made the genocide determination. In the U.K., lawyers with barristers’ chambers Essex Court Chambers issued a formal legal opinion in January finding an “arguable case that […] requirements for the following specific crimes of genocide have been fulfilled”:
a. Causing serious bodily or mental harm (Art. 6(b)) [of the Rome Statute] to Uyghurs in detention, including acts of torture and forced sterilisations.
b. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group (Art. 6(d)).
c. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group (Art. 6(e)). [Source]
That legal opinion has landed Essex Court Chambers in hot water after the Chinese government retaliated by imposing targeted sanctions on the entire barristers’ chambers in April of this year. The penalty was part of a salvo of retaliatory sanctions by China against the U.K., E.U., Canada, and the U.S. after the four jointly imposed sanctions on security officials in Xinjiang for their role in the human rights atrocities in the region. Since March, Beijing has launched an aggressive campaign to punish individuals, companies, and countries that recognize the human rights crisis in Xinjiang. It has condoned and elevated a boycott campaign against Western multinationals that have voiced concern about forced labor in Xinjiang, sued and harassed researchers who have uncovered atrocities in the region, and imposed sanctions on academics, think-tanks, diplomats, and politicians in Europe and North America.
Several of its targets have caved in the face of China’s aggressive retaliation. The Chinese arm of an international cotton auditing organization contradicted an earlier claim that it had found no evidence of forced labor in Xinjiang after a wave of negative public opinion. Essex Court Chambers removed the genocide opinion from its website as several of its members quit and moved to other barristers’ chambers. Multinational brands are caught in an untenable position of trying to satisfy both international and nationalist Chinese audiences. Meanwhile, shares of domestic Chinese competitors, such as sportswear fashion brand Li Ning, have soared amid rocketing domestic sales.
It is not only businesses that seem cowed by China’s angry retaliation. As growing public pressure mounts on other Western legislatures to recognize China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang as genocide, European parliaments have vacillated. For Nikkei Asia, Jens Kastner reported last week on indecision in Europe about whether to call out China’s actions as genocide:
[…] Lithuania’s parliament held special hearings on April 22 with international experts and relatives of people imprisoned in Xinjiang, following the submission of a draft resolution by lawmakers to call the atrocities a genocide. The German parliament’s committee for human rights and humanitarian aid will hold a hearing on May 17, with the involved caucuses’ speakers leaving little doubt that they, too, favor the use of the word genocide.
[…] In Belgium, the Greens submitted a resolution in February in the lower house of the parliament that included the word genocide. Pressure is also building at the regional level. The City Council of Liege on April 27 passed a text calling on the federal government to condemn the abuses in Xinjiang. The Socialist Party succeeded, however, in removing the word genocide from the draft.
[…] Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in January said that he was “worried about the ongoing genocide in China,” but his communication team quickly said the statement as afterward was a communication mistake, and that the designation as genocide should be decided by international courts. This mirrors the official stance of Britain’s Cabinet, as well as that of the Netherlands.
[…] According to Mareike Ohlberg, senior fellow in the Asia Program of the German Marshall Fund, it is more likely that parliaments will pass these resolutions than for governments to formally adopt them. Some of the governments in question, Ohlberg said, have been trying to downplay tensions with China in many areas, even though it is quite clear that relations are strained. [Source]