What is the Uyghur Genocide?

WHO ARE THE UYGHURS?

The Uyghurs are a Turkic, majority Muslim people (like Kazakhs & Uzbeks), native to the Uyghur Region in Northwest China. Uyghurs have their own distinct culture and language. They are famous for their scholarship, poetry, music, singing, dancing, hospitality and warm family life. There are around 14 million Uyghurs, and they have lived in the Uyghur region for over 1000 years. The Uyghur region is called East Turkistan by some, whilst the Chinese Government calls it the “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” 

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO UYGHURS?

Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the Uyghur Region are suffering a grave persecution that meets the legal definition of Genocide under the Genocide Convention.

Millions of Uyghurs are imprisoned in a vast network of camps. Uyghur prisoners are used as slave labour in their millions, both in factories attached to the camps and in cotton fields which supply clothing manufacturers around the world. 

Women are sterilised to prevent a new generation of Uyghurs from ever being born. Rape and torture are common in the camps. Outside the camps, Uyghur women and girls are forced to marry Han Chinese men. Nearly 1 million children have been removed from families and sent to state “boarding schools.”

Mosques, ancient Islamic shrines and Muslim graveyards are bulldozed. Muslims are forced to drink alcohol, eat pork or break their fast during Ramadan. The Uyghur language is banned. 

Daily life is an Orwellian nightmare of constant surveillance. The Chinese Government uses advanced digital surveillance and racial profiling software to track every move Uyghurs make. 

The Chinese Government’s self-declared policy towards Uyghurs is to “break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections and break their origins.” This is an attempt to destroy a people: it is a genocide. 

WHAT IS A GENOCIDE?

Genocide is a crime, so it isn’t a word we throw around casually. After the Second World War the nations of the World came together to set out the crimes against humanity and how they should be punished.

Under the treaty that recognises Genocide, it is defined as a crime where acts are committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. It gives examples of what this means in five categories:

  1. Killing members of the group
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

Increasingly parliaments, legal experts and human rights groups are recognising that what is happening to Uyghurs meets the threshold of genocide. For example, the mass sterilisation of Uyghur women; the use of torture and rape; and the transfer of children away from their parents. 

The problem is that those who set up the international institutions that oversee genocide never thought about what would happen if a country that holds a veto over action at the United Nations, in this case, China’s government, was committing a genocide. That is why our campaign and Uyghur activists around the world have looked for alternative avenues to recognise the attempt to destroy them as a people.