China committing genocide against Uighurs in Xinjiang: US-based think tank

Rights activists have said Xinjiang is home to a vast network of extrajudicial internment camps. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP, REUTERS, XINHUA) - The Chinese government's treatment of Uighurs has violated "each and every act" prohibited by the United Nations' Genocide Convention, a report by dozens of international experts alleged on Tuesday (March 9).

The report from Washington-based think tank Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy offers an independent analysis of what legal responsibility Beijing could bear over its actions in the north-western Xinjiang region.

Rights activists have said Xinjiang is home to a vast network of extrajudicial internment camps that have imprisoned at least one million people, which China has defended as vocational training centres to counter extremism.

"Uighurs are suffering serious bodily and mental harm from systematic torture and cruel treatment, including rape, sexual abuse, exploitation, and public humiliation, at the hands of camp officials," the report said.

The administration of president Donald Trump declared in January that China is carrying out genocide against the Uighurs and other mostly Muslim people.

For their part, Canadian Members of Parliament voted in February to label Beijing's treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang as genocide, and ministers called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to officially label it as such.

'Intent to destroy the Uighurs'

Newlines identified more than 30 experts in fields ranging from international law to Chinese ethnic policies it said had examined the available evidence regarding Beijing's treatment of Uighur people and the Genocide Convention.

The convention was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1948, with signatories that include China and 151 other countries.

It offers a handful of specific definitions of genocide, such as deliberately imposing conditions "calculated to bring about (a group's) physical destruction in whole or in part".

While violating just part of the convention can qualify as genocide, the report alleges Chinese authorities are in "breach of each and every act prohibited" by the definitions.

"The persons and entities perpetrating the...acts of genocide are all state agents or organs - acting under the effective control of the State - manifesting an intent to destroy the Uighurs as a group," the report alleges.

Newlines, which was previously known as Centre for Global Policy, released a report in December that alleged ethnic minority labourers in Xinjiang were being forced to pick cotton through a coercive state-run programme.

The report - which referenced online government documents - said the total number involved in three majority-Uighur regions exceeds a 2018 estimate of 517,000 people forced to pick cotton as part of the scheme by hundreds of thousands.

Strong rejection from China

China has strongly denied allegations of forced labour involving Uighurs in Xinjiang and says training programmes, work schemes and better education have helped stamp out extremism in the region.

Separately, in a published article, German anthropologist Adrian Zenz claimed that there is forced labour at a number of textile and clothing companies in Xinjiang, causing some countries and enterprises to decrease or even stop importing cotton and cotton products from Xinjiang. Some cotton farmers and processing enterprises there have suffered resulting economic losses.

A number of Xinjiang enterprises and locals are now suing Dr Zenz for economic losses and damage to their reputations.

Referring to Dr Zenz's article, Mr Elijian Anayit, spokesman for the information office of the Xinjiang regional government, said that there is no forced labour at enterprises in Xinjiang.

Based on the principles of equality and voluntariness, workers of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang sign labour contracts with employers and receive legal payments in accordance with China's labour law and regulations, said Mr Anayit.

There is no discrimination against workers on the basis of ethnicity, gender, or religious belief, he said.

Meanwhile, Washington said it has not seen any developments that would change its determination that China committed genocide and crimes against humanity in its treatment of Uighur Muslims Xinjiang.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday: "We have seen nothing that would change our assessment."

The Biden administration has endorsed a last-minute determination by the Trump administration that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang. Beijing denies the charges.

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