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Why is China being accused of Uyghur genocide? Here’s what you need to know, and what you can do to help


Stories about China’s supposed surveillance and oppression of the approximately 12 million Uyghur Muslims living in the Xinjiang region of the country have been surfacing for some time, and in the last few weeks the country is facing increasing worldwide criticism.

Human rights groups have reported cases of camps where Uyghurs are believed to be imprisoned, tortured, raped and used as forced labour, with women reportedly being forcibly sterilised – something remnant of the Nazi concentration camps. Understandably, the world wants to know the truth about these allegations which many believe to be serious violations of human rights.

The US is among one of the many countries to have accused China of committing genocide and crimes against humanity through its repression of the Uyghurs, something China has fiercely denied. So, what should we know about this issue and what can you do to help? Here’s everything you need to know…


Who are the Uyghurs and where is Xinjiang?

According to the BBC, there are around 12 million Muslim Uyghurs living in China’s north-western region of Xinjiang, an area known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). It’s a mostly desert region, producing about a fifth of the world’s cotton, with some powers of self-governance but mostly facing rule and restrictions by the central government.

The Uyghurs speak their own language and see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations, with many believing their culture is under threat through displacement as many Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) have moved to Xinjiang in large numbers.

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What are the allegations against China?

The US, Canada and the Netherlands are among the countries that have accused China of committing genocide.

In the UN’s Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide bill, genocide means “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” This includes “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 and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Back in June 2020, China was accused of forcing women to be sterilised or fitted with contraceptive devices in Xinjiang in an apparent attempt to limit the population of Muslim Uyghurs, according to a report by China scholar Adrian Zenz which prompted international outcry with calls for the UN to investigate. There was also news of Uyghurs being placed into camps and the separation of Uighur children from their families.

In March this year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China was committing “genocide and crimes against humanity” and the European Union, UK, US and Canada imposed sanctions on officials in China over the rights abuses.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the allegations “appalling violations of the most basic human rights”.

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A UN human rights committee in 2018 said it had reliable reports the Chinese were holding up to a million people in “counter-extremism centres” in Xinjiang.

A BBC investigation in February this year contained one woman’s first-hand account of the rape, sexual abuse and torture of detainees. The BBC stated, “Tursunay Ziawudun, who fled Xinjiang after her release and is now in the US, said women were removed from the cells “every night” and raped by one or more masked Chinese men. She said she was tortured and later gang-raped on three occasions, each time by two or three men.”

China at first denied the camps existed and later claimed they were “re-education” facilities used to combat terrorism. The country has denied allegations of all human rights abuses. China has also banned many news outlets including BBC World News television over coverage of the Uighur issue.

What can you do to help?

It’s hard to ignore the evidence against China or turn a blind eye to some of the horrific allegations made about its human rights abuses. If you’re looking for ways to show your support and help Uyghur Muslims, here are some ways you can help…

Sign a petition to make change

There are many petitions circulating that hope to reach government including this one on Change.org and another which is calling for a boycott of the 2022 Olympics in China

Write to your local MP

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Your local MP is there to listen to YOU so use that voice of yours – bring the issue to their attention and ask them if they can bring it to the House of Commons. Amnesty International has helpfully put together a sample letter to help Uyghur Muslims that you can send to your MP.

Donate

While getting aid to China is impossible with the sanctions in place, you can donate to Uyghur refugees who have managed to flee to places such a Turkey – this Launchgood campaign is a worthwhile cause.

Raise awareness and start your own fundraiser

While the reports against China have been reportedly internationally, there’s always opportunities to do more, particularly among your own social groups by raising awareness. Why not combine the two and ask for donations – whether that’s through a quiz, bake sale or 5k.



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