What will the world do now, in the face of irrefutable evidence of human rights atrocities in Xinjiang?
by Ruth Ingram
Will the UN nail its colours to the mast and back its own findings on Xinjiang, or will it go down in history as reneging on its mandate to protect the human rights of its most vulnerable members?
China must account for the crimes against humanity meted out against its Turkic peoples, say representatives of democratic nations and rights groups as the 2022 UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly gather in Geneva. Not to summon China before the members to answer for its crimes, would risk making a mockery of everything the UN stands for, and fail the victims of Beijing’s latest purge on its North Westernmost frontier.
Citing damning evidence unveiled by the UN itself in a report released one month ago, Western diplomats are pressing for a resolution on China that would launch an investigation concerning the abuses that have seen millions surveilled 24/7 in a province that has become little more than an open prison, with up to three million illegally incarcerated for indefinite periods, the destruction of language, culture, and heritage, and the mass, forcible sterilization of swathes of the population.
Beijing on the other hand, propelled by Xi Jinping’s view that the world should “abandon ideological prejudice” and move on from its “outdated Cold War mentality,” has garnered support from around the world from an army of indebted “friends” promising that all efforts to counter China would be “doomed to failure.” Already since the publication of the UN report, Beijing, having denied every allegation against it, has pushed back further, claiming that China and its allies would “work together to defend true multilateralism and resist US hegemony which is under the guise of human rights.”
Attacking the “small group” of Western countries urging a special debate over human rights in Xinjiang, Beijing, according to CCP mouthpiece Global Times, has presented its host of backers, with Pakistan leading the way. Boasting an entourage of seventy countries, united in their calls to “stop interference in China’s internal affairs,” and a further twenty countries, opposing the “politicisation of human rights and double standards,” numbers on China’s “side” are mounting.
Over its 16 year history, many have tried but none to date succeeded in calling out China over its human rights record.
But now is the time, claim Uyghur rights groups, fearing that continued inaction gives Beijing a licence to continue unopposed. Citing the UN report as a “game changer,” Uyghur Human Rights Project Executive Director Omer Kanat said, “Despite the Chinese government’s strenuous denials, the UN has now officially recognized that horrific crimes are occurring.”
“The report offers the most definitive assessment of the issues faced by Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples from the world’s leading human rights body,” he said invoking the damning verdict that China’s actions in Xinjiang “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
The myriad recommendations to address the wide reaching impact of CCP actions against his people, should not be buried, urged Kanat.
The Campaign For Uyghurs advocacy group welcomed the call by the US and other like-minded countries to organise a debate. Former camp survivors hope to add weight to the pressure on the Council by holding a hunger strike in front of the White House and calling for an end to the continued persecution of their people.
Executive Director Rushan Abbas hoped that freedom-loving nations would stand up to the superpower. “Each and every state must stand up against China’s ongoing campaign of genocide against Uyghur Muslims and other Turkic groups,” she said, warning that failure to make a stand might backfire. One day the oppression might reach their own shores, she said.
Failure to act, according to Western diplomats interviewed by Reuters, would diminish the West’s moral authority. “There’s a cost of inaction, a cost of action and a cost of a failed attempt to act,” said one speaking on condition of anonymity. But failure to do anything would risk “missing the biggest opportunity to bring accountability in years.”