Leading Parliamentary action against Genocide & Crimes Against Humanity in Xinjiang

Xinjiang fact sheet

  • Organ Harvesting Report from Geoffrey Nice QC, which found “unanimously, and sure beyond reasonable doubt – that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practiced for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims.” (Report)
  • Newlines Institute report by more than 50 global experts in international law, genocide and the China region found the CCP’s alleged actions in Xinjiang have violated every single provision in the United Nations' Genocide Convention. (Report)
  • Conservative Party Human Rights Report which examines four years of human rights deterioration in China between 2016-2020 (The Darkness Deepens)
  • BEIS Select Committee Report identifying Uyghur slave labour in UK supply chains (BEIS Committee Report)
  • TWO million Uyghurs detained in camps throughout the region, often forced to pick cotton (US State Department.)
  • 84% drop in birth rates as Uyghur women are violated with forced sterilisation & forced abortions (Associated Press, Chinese Embassy tweet)
  • 500,000 Uyghur children removed from parents and institutionalised to break family bonds (Amnesty) (New York Times)
  • BBC journalist covering mass rape & Uyghur abuse driven out of China (BBC)
  • The Better Cotton Initiative withdrew from the region in October 2020, citing “sustained allegations of forced labour and other human rights abuses” leading to “an increasingly untenable operating environment”. (SCMP)

On 26th March this year, five MPs including myself were sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It can be argued that these sanctions were an attempt to silence and intimidate us, to prevent us from raising the growing evidence of the abuse faced by the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. It will not work. My sanction followed my work on the Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill, aimed at stopping the Government pursuing preferential trade agreements with countries committing genocide, and a Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee Report that aimed to stop products tainted by slave labour and genocide appearing on our shelves. A senior academic was also sanctioned for sharing what she witnessed in Xinjiang, as was a legal chambers, a research group and two peers.

These sanctions have unmasked the CCP and are not only an attack on us as individuals but an attempt to stifle the free and open debate that is at the heart of our parliamentary democracy.

On the 27th of March, the Prime Minister said we are: 

performing a vital role shining a light on the gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims. Freedom to speak out in opposition to abuse is fundamental and I stand firmly with them.’

The Foreign Secretary added that:

it speaks volumes that, while the UK joins the international community in sanctioning those responsible for human rights abuses, the Chinese government sanctions its critics.”

On Thursday 22nd April 2021, I will be leading a Backbench Business Debate to present the evidence of gross human rights abuses against the Uyghur. Given the mounting evidence of the situation in Xinjiang, China, I’m calling on Parliament to agree that the Uyghur and other ethnic minorities are facing genocide in the region, joining three of our allies who have done the same.

For decades, the CCP has waged war on the Uyghurs, an ethnic majority in the Xinjiang province. Under the banner of fighting terrorism, President Xi Jinping has dramatically accelerated this campaign, telling officials that they must “be harsh” and calling on the party to unleash the tools of “dictatorship”. China’s Foreign Ministry has painted the atrocities being committed against the Uyghur as “in essence about countering violent terrorism, radicalization and separatism.” [Spokesperson’s comments]

China has refuted claims that it is committing genocide in Xinjiang, although it has not yet allowed the UN Human Rights Commissioner unfettered access the region.

 

WHAT IS GENOCIDE?

Genocide has been called the crime of all crimes. It has an internationally agreed definition, set out in Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which can be read in full here.

Article II states that genocide is: any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group; (deaths inside camps, US Department of State, Essex Court Chambers Legal Opinion)
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (torture inside the camps, Foreign Policy)
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (First hand accounts, Dr Smith Finley, ‘Why Scholars and Activists Increasingly Fear a Uyghur Genocide in Xinjiang’.)
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (deliberate forced use of sterilisation and IUDs for birthrate control, Adrian Zenz, Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang)
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. (half a million Uyghur children placed into CCP-state run boarding schools, New York Times)

 

WHO DECLARES GENOCIDE?

The UK position has always been that the government can only define an incident as a genocide if this has been determined in the International Criminal Court (ICC). The only way anything gets to the ICC is if the UN Security Council sends it there, and China and Russia have the power to veto anything the UN Security Council does. This means that, despite the Foreign Secretary stating in the House of Commons that “the scale and the severity of the human rights violations being perpetrated in Xinjiang against the Uyghur Muslims is now far-reaching, and it paints a truly harrowing picture”, the British Government is unable to declare genocide.

Fifty-one years ago the UK signed up to the UN Genocide Convention, designed to ensure that atrocities like those that happened during the Second World War could “never again” take place.

Yet since then at least half a million people were killed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, 1.7 million people lost their lives in the Cambodian genocide and we have witnessed appalling atrocities by Daesh [Islamic State] against Christians, Yazidis and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.

 

WHAT HAVE OTHER COUNTRIES DONE?

Over recent years, we have seen near incontrovertible evidence that there are mass atrocities taking place in the region. Three other countries have in some form declared the situation in Xinjiang to be that of genocide, while 30 countries have placed sanctions on CCP officials and organisations involved in Xinjiang. It is time we worked with our international colleagues on this issue.

United States

On the 19th January 2021, then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared the situation in Xinjiang to be genocide. Pompeo stated that:

“I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state. The governing authorities of the second most economically, militarily, and politically powerful country on earth have made clear that they are engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group, even as they simultaneously assert their country as a global leader and attempt to remold the international system in their image”

This position was then confirmed by the new Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who told reporters:

"But – my judgment remains that genocide was committed against – the Uyghurs and that – that hasn’t changed.”

Canada

On the 22nd February 2021, Canada’s Parliament voted by a motion to declare the situation in Xinjiang as genocide. The motion passed with 266 Yeas to 0 Nays.

Netherlands

The Dutch Parliament (called the States General) on the 25th February 2021 passed a non-binding motion declaring the treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang amounts to genocide.

 

WHAT EVIDENCE DO WE HAVE TO DECLARE GENOCIDE IN XINJIANG?

Significant reports, witness testament, satellite imagery and Chinese local government data point to various markers from the UN’s Genocide definition being met in Xinjiang. This is the largest incarceration of a minority since the Second World War. As the Foreign Secretary noted in his statement on Xinjiang in January this year, we have:

  • First hand reports from diplomats who visit Xinjiang, the first hand testimony from victims who have fled the region
  • There is satellite imagery showing the scale of the internment camps, the presence of factories inside them, and the destruction of mosques
  • And there are also extensive and credible third party reports from NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, with the UN and other international experts also expressing their very serious concerns

 

Act One: Killing members of the group

Uyghurs have been killed in significant numbers in Xinjiang for over a decade as part of the CCP’s heavy-handed ‘counterterrorism’ efforts. There have been reports of killings from within the camps across Xinjiang.

  • As Dr Jo Smith Finley notes, “One-off, small-scale mass killings had also occurred, as part of the disproportionate armed state responses to the 1997 and 2009 demonstrations in Ghulja and Ürümchi, respectively, and during what exiles have called the Yarkand Massacre of 2014, in which between 1000 and 3000 Uyghurs were allegedly killed by security forces.” [Dr Smith Finley, ‘Why Scholars and Activists Increasingly Fear a Uyghur Genocide in Xinjiang’.]
  • The US Department of State added in its 2018 assessment: “In Xinjiang there were reports of custodial deaths related to detentions in the expanding internment camps. Some of these deaths occurred before 2018 and were reported only after detainees escaped to other countries. Abdulreshit Seley Hajim, a Uighur businessperson, died in May or June while being held in an internment camp. According to those interviewed by Radio Free Asia, he died from strikes to the head with a blunt object.” [US Department of State]

 

Act Two: Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group

Reports began emerging from Xinjiang survivors of grievous bodily and mental harm a couple of years ago. Torture is reportedly widespread.

  • Tursunay Ziawudun, who fled Xinjiang after her release and is now in the US, told the BBC 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. [BBC]
  • In 2018, a Uyghur woman, Mihrigul Tursun, appeared before a US Congressional hearing, and described the torture she faced in the camps. [South China Morning Post]
  • Foreign Policy notes: “Members of the security forces are committing torture and extrajudicial killings with impunity.” [Foreign Policy]
  • Dr Smith Finley notes in her research that: “It was also clear that the state was “causing serious bodily or mental harm” to members of the group (b), in the form of physical and psychological torture exacted within its network of detention centres and re-education camps, and by terrorizing the broader population (including Uyghur relatives in exile) into fear and self-censorship by means of pervasive high-tech surveillance.” [Dr Smith Finley, ‘Why Scholars and Activists Increasingly Fear a Uyghur Genocide in Xinjiang’.]

 

Act three: Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part

The culmination of activity against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang is a deliberate and calculated attempt to bring about its physical destruction.

  • In 2014, President Xi Jinping told party officials that they must show “absolutely no mercy” in suppressing Uyghur terrorism in the region. The crime of terrorism is loosely defined by the CCP and has been used to justify the widespread atrocities against the Uyghur. [New York Times]
  • As Dr Smith Finley notes: “It’s genocide, full stop. It’s not immediate, shocking, mass-killing on the spot type genocide, but it’s slow, painful, creeping genocide. These are direct means of genetically reducing the Uighur population.” [Dr Smith Finley, ‘Why Scholars and Activists Increasingly Fear a Uyghur Genocide in Xinjiang’.]

 

Act four: Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group

There have been significant and widespread reports of forced sterilisation in the Xinjiang region, supported by the Chinese Government’s own data.

 

Act five: Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

Human rights groups, journalists and survivors have produced first-hand reports of the separation of Uyghur children from their parents at the hand of the CCP.

  • In March 2021, Amnesty stated: “China’s ruthless mass detention campaign in Xinjiang has put separated families in an impossible situation: children are not allowed to leave, but their parents face persecution and arbitrary detention if they attempt to return home to care for them,” interviewing six Uyghur families. [Amnesty]
  • In the same month, CNN interviewed Uyghur two children separated from their families by the CCP. [CNN]
  • In December 2019, the New York Times reported on public local Government documents from Xinjiang that “nearly a half million children have been separated from their families and placed in boarding schools so far … and the ruling Communist Party has set a goal of operating one to two such schools in each of Xinjiang’s 800-plus townships by the end of next year.” [New York Times]

 

Useful background documents

 

  • Determination of the Secretary of State on Atrocities in Xinjiang. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s justification for declaring genocide in Xinjiang.
  • Vote No.56. The text of the motion that passed in Canada’s Parliament declaring genocide in Xinjiang.
  • Two letters from the Board of Deputies of British Jews; the first to former Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming, and the second to the Prime Minister. Both concern the situation in Xinjiang, which note the similarities between what is “alleged to be happening in the People’s Republic of China today and what happened in Nazi Germany 75 years ago: people being forcibly loaded on to trains; beards of religious men being trimmed; women being sterilised; and the grim spectre of concentration camps”.
  • The Darkness Deepens, a detailed report from the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission which examines four years of human rights deterioration in China between 2016-2020.
  • The Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), in partnership with the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) obtained an authoritative legal opinion on the treatment of Uyghurs by Chinese authorities from the Essex Court Chambers. (Legal Opinion)
  • Newlines Institute report by more than 50 global experts in international law, genocide and the China region found the CCP’s alleged actions in Xinjiang have violated every single provision in the United Nations' Genocide Convention. (Report)
  • Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee Report; Uyghur forced labour in Xinjiang and UK value chains. The BEIS Committee heard evidence from a wide range of companies, organisations and groups operating around Xinjiang. This report includes their findings and recommendations, specifically the creation of a black and white list for companies unable to show transparency in their supply chains in the region.
  • Geoffrey Nice QC’s report on organ trafficking in China. This found “unanimously, and sure beyond reasonable doubt – that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practiced for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims.”

News

Nusrat Ghani speaks at Cambridge University Union

Nusrat Ghani, MP for Wealden, spoke at Cambridge University Union. Nusrat was in conversation with Rahima Mahmut, an Uyghur singer, U.K. Project Director for the World Uyghur Congress, human rights activist, and advisor to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.