Commission calls for State Department investigation into possible Uighur genocide by China

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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called for the State Department to investigate whether China’s campaign of forced birth control and abortion against the Uighur population constitutes genocide.

The commission, an independent and bipartisan federal government entity established by Congress, said that recent reports about the Chinese government’s actions raised serious concerns and warned that its “repressive population control measures against Uyghur and other Muslims — including forced sterilization — might meet the legal criteria for genocide under international law.”

The Chinese Communist Party has reportedly imposed forced birth control, sterilizations, and even abortions on the Uighur population in a race-based effort to reduce the minority Muslim population in the country, with a Monday bombshell analysis by the Associated Press that found that Beijing is imposing “draconian measures to slash birth rates” among Uighur Muslims and other minorities “as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population” while the Chinese government “encourages some of the country’s Han majority to have more children.”

The commission’s Nury Turkel said, “We urge the State Department to investigate whether the Chinese authorities’ deliberate and systematic attempt to genetically reducing the Turkic Muslim population in Xinjiang meets the legal definition for genocide as contemplated in the Genocide Convention.” He added, “We also call on the U.S. government to introduce a resolution at the U.N. on these crimes that the Chinese Communist Party has committed against the Uyghurs and other Muslims in China.”

Turkel said that “it’s evident from the Chinese government’s own data that the Communist Party’s policies are clearly designed to prevent population growth for the Uyghur, Kazakh, and other Turkic Muslim peoples.”

China scholar Adrian Zenz of the Jamestown Foundation released a 32-page report on Monday that described the Chinese government’s extensive efforts under Xi Jinping to use population controls to change the fast-growing Uighur regions forcibly into among the slowest in China. Zenz argued that “these findings provide the strongest evidence yet that Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang meet one of the genocide criteria cited in the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.” He pointed specifically to Section D of Article II of the United Nations agreement, which states that genocide “means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such,” including “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”

Since 2017, as many as 2 million Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities have been moved into reeducation and detention camps, often referred to as concentration camps, in the western Xinjiang province of China. There, Uighurs are allegedly put through rigorous “deradicalization” programs and are mocked and tortured by Chinese guards. But the camps are just one part of wide-scale surveillance and oppression inflicted on China’s Uighur population.

“The state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands, the interviews and data show. Even while the use of IUDs and sterilization has fallen nationwide, it is rising sharply in Xinjiang,” the Associated Press said on Monday. “The population control measures are backed by mass detention both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply.”

The report described a “climate of terror around having children” due to the Chinese government’s authoritarian birth control and abortion campaign. The analysis pointed to Uighur region birth rates dropping over 60% between 2015 and 2018 and said that birth rates fell 24% in the Xinjiang region in 2019 — far different than the 4.2% drop across China as a whole, the vast majority of whom are Han Chinese.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded to the revelations by calling on China to “end these horrific practices.”

The commission’s Gary Bauer said, “It is absolutely horrifying that the Communist Chinese government is targeting a religious community for forced sterilization in the 21st century.” He added, “We urge President Trump and the U.S. government to swiftly impose targeted sanctions under the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act against the officials responsible for this heinous policy.”

Earlier in June, President Trump signed a law that enshrines human rights for Uighurs in U.S. policies toward China and requires the president to levy sanctions against Chinese party leaders in Xinjiang.

The commission’s press release said that its 2020 annual report called on the Trump administration to use the powers granted under both the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and the International Religious Freedom Act to “impose targeted sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for severe religious freedom violations” with a specific focus on Chen Quanguo, the current Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang.

The commission also pointed to hundreds of pages of leaked Chinese Communist Party documents, dubbed the “Karakax List,” which the Journal of Political Risk said “presents the strongest evidence to date that Beijing is actively persecuting and punishing normal practices of traditional religious beliefs.” And the commission linked to a New York Times article that found that “nearly a half million children have been separated from their families and placed in boarding schools so far.”

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