This article is written by Varchaswa Dubey, from JECRC University, Jaipur. This article reflects the contemporary conditions of the Uyghur Muslims in China.
The government of China is often associated with the suppression of human rights and the legal rights of its citizens. In the past, China has often been concerned with its sovereignty. Despite having the legal provisions and signing international documents concerning the human rights of its people, the People’s Republic of China is practicing genocide against Uyghurs, who are the group of minority Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China which leads to the violation of human rights of the minority group in its country.
The reason for the increasing number of cases of genocide in China is that the Chinese government thinks Uyghurs are a group of Islamic extremists and that Uyghurs shall be re-educated to eradicate terrorism in the country and to safeguard its citizens, the sovereignty, and integrity of the country.
Despite having legal provisions and being a signatory member of numerous international documents, the Chinese government is still associated with the suppression of human rights of activists and lawyers. Those who raise their voices against the actions of the government are often subject to sexual and mental harassment, intimidation, sudden disappearance, arbitrary arrests, and illegal confinements.
The violation of human rights is a major concern in the territorial jurisdiction of China and despite having inalienable human rights international conventions, the world is witnessing an assault on the human rights of Uyghurs in China. There is an urgent need to safeguard the rights of the concerned minority Muslims in China.
Origin of the Uyghur minority
The Uyghurs are the Turkic group and one of the oldest speakers of the Altaic language and belong to Central Asia. The traces of Uyghurs can be found in the records from 3rd century CE but they transformed into prominence in the 8th century, when they formed a kingdom but they were eventually defeated by the expansion of the Mongolians in the 13th century.
The Uyghurs later migrated to the Celestial mountains (China) where they undertook other works and their community expanded. Their main region was called East Turkestan which was included in Chinese territory during the mid 18th century.
From 1759-1911, the Qing dynasty ruled the Chinese region and was named ‘Xinjiang’ where Turkic-speaking Muslims were being ruled until 1911. After this, the Qing dynasty collapsed and the Republic of China was formed, which was later proclaimed by the Chinese Communist Party in the year 1949. In 1955, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region was created where the demand for a Uyghurs independent nation originated.
What is happening to Uyghurs in China
The Uyghurs are the most vulnerable group, present in the territorial jurisdiction of China, who are not only victims of illegal detention but also of genocide. The Uyghurs are being placed in detention camps to suppress the population of Uyghur Muslims in China.
Decreasing the population of Uyghur Muslims
The Chinese government is associated with decreasing its population by targeting the Uyghurs group and to pursue this, it has been practicing illegal detention, forced sterilization, forced abortion, compulsory family planning, etc.
According to the China Statistical Yearbook 2020, the birth rate in Xinjiang in the year 2020 is merely 8.14 births per 1000 people. The 2017 stats reflected 15.88 births per 1,000 which are considered the largest drop in the birth rate in the history of China.
Forced sterilization on Uyghur women
Female sterilization is the permanent process of preventing pregnancy of a woman. It works by the operation when the fallopian tubes of a woman are blocked. According to a report, the Chinese government is eliminating the population of Uyghur Muslims by exercising forced sterilization, inserting the intrauterine device, and conducting abortions. The population of Xinjiang is reported to have decreased drastically from 2017 to the present by 84%. The reason for such a decrease in the population of Uyghurs is due to the extrajudicial punishment that the Chinese officials impose on those who are found guilty of violating birth control norms.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its Article 7 has explicitly declared forced sterilization as a “crime against humanity”, yet, the Chinese government is still associated with such practices and violating international law.
Illegal detention of Uyghur Muslims
According to the United Nations, China has placed at least 1 million Uyghur Muslims in secret camps under the pretext of “re-education camps”. The location of most of the camps is still kept a secret. Most of these ‘re-education camps’ are surrounded by wire fences and consist of watchtowers.
According to another report, more than 2 million Muslims have been detained in these camps since 2017 and most of these people are not charged with crimes and their families lack knowledge of their whereabouts. China initially denied the existence of such detention camps, however, later on, 85 of such ‘educational camps’ were discovered.
Some detained Muslims said they were detained, beaten and interrogated, and not educated. Some of the victims have reported being subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment, forced labour, including sexual abuse by the officials present in such camps.
Suppression of the religious rights of Uyghur Muslims
The Chinese government has a long history of suppressing religious practices of all religions, however, the suppression of religious practice of Uyghur Muslims is practiced with more intense actions.
According to a report the Chinese government has initiated a campaign of religious repression against China’s Muslim Uyghurs, in the name of anti-separatism and counter-terrorism. Uyghurs in China are not only victims of harassment at workplaces due to their religious background but are also subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture, and execution of religious prisoners. The Chinese government does not even allow religious appearances and long beards on school premises. Even the Uyghur schools are not allowed to talk about their religion in school or at home, as such teachings are considered illegal in China.
Forced labour of Uyghur Muslims
The Communist Party of China has not only arbitrarily detained more than 1 million people in special camps under the disguise of “re-education camps” but also pushes these illegally detained individuals into forced and rigorous labour.
According to a report, numerous Chinese companies are directly and indirectly earning profits from the Uyghur labourers. It is estimated that around 80,000 Uyghurs are being deported out of Xinjiang and are employed in industries of textiles, electronics, etc. Around 27 of these companies, in nine Chinese provinces, have been using Uyghur Muslims since 2017.
Genocide of Uyghur Muslims
According to Article 6 of the Rome Statute, genocide refers to:
- 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.
Since the Chinese government is engaged in targeting the Uyghur Muslims in their country, the Chinese government can be easily tagged as a country that practices genocide, by going against the well-developed international legal jurisprudence.
Why are Uyghur Muslims being targeted in China
The Chinese government claims that Uyghurs are extremists and are a threat to the security of the nation. The objective behind imposing such measures is to eliminate terrorism and Islamic extremism from the country, and this can be achieved by re-educating the minority.
The dispute arose in the year 1997 in Ghulja city when a peaceful protest against the suppression of religious practice took a violent face within minutes, leading to the illegal and arbitrary detention of a large number of Uyghur Muslims, torture in detention, and execution.
Over the years, the tension between the Chinese officials and the Uyghurs has increased over many disputes, most of which are concerned with the elimination of the suppression of religious and human rights of the Uyghur Muslims.
Later in 2013 and 2014, the Chinese government witnessed attacks by the Uyghur Muslims. While the 2013 attack claimed the lives of 5 people and injured dozens of others, the 2014 attack resulted in the death of 29 people and 100 others being wounded.
Since 2017, the Chinese government has built around 400 internment camps in the Xinjiang region to educate the Uyghur Muslims.
What human rights are being violated
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in its Article 1 reserves the term discrimination and states that no women shall be subjected to any discrimination based on sex, and be treated equally for human rights, political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other area. The convention also bestows other laws like policy regarding women, special measures, the guarantee of basic human rights and fundamental rights, right against prostitution, nationality, education, employment, health, etc. China has violated the rights of women by not only withdrawing the necessities of life of the Uyghur Muslim women but also by conducting a forceful abortion, sterilization, etc.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the primary advocate of human rights. According to Article 1 of UDHR, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The Convention also places human rights like right against discrimination, right to life and personal liberty, right against slavery, right against torture, cruel and degrading punishment, right against arbitrary arrest and detention, right to freedom of movement, etc and China has been violating all these rights of the Uyghur Muslims for years now.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, bestows the right to self-determination, including political-economic, social, and cultural development, right to work, right to proper working conditions including the right to remuneration and equal wages, and the Chinese government has been violating these rights of the Uyghur Muslims in the country by exercising forced labour and no pay for the work of the minority.
How China is violating the international Convention to which it is a party
The People’s Republic of China has not only violated the human rights of the Uyghur Muslims in its territorial jurisdiction but also has been violating its own signed convention, i.e. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, (ICCPR) signed by the Chinese government on 5 October 1998.
The ICCPR is one of the most significant documents concerning human rights, however, the Chinese government is still abusing the Uyghur Muslims. The ICCPR places a responsibility on the state to ensure no discrimination of any kind including race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth, or another status.
The ICCPR also places a right to life on the citizens of member states, to the contrary of which, China has been associated with genocide and crimes against humanity, including racial and ethnic cleansing. The Convention also places a right against torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and any arbitrary punishment, yet numerous crimes are witnessed by the Uyghur Muslims routinely.
The condition of Uyghur Muslims in China is not only very concerning but also disturbing in nature. The Chinese government has been associated with the violation of the rights of the minority in the country on the pretext of eliminating terrorism and religious extremism, however, to pursue this, the government has always practiced violence against Muslims, including Muslim women and children.
The Chinese government lacks proper workings on how to tackle terrorism and the Acknowledgment of the international laws which govern the nations in contemporary times. It is vital to protect the rights of the Uyghur Muslims in the territory of China, and this can only be achieved by the Chinese government changing its approach towards minorities in the country and allow them to be entitled to their fundamental rights.
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