China’s Continued Abuses in Xinjiang Demand Global Action


In a troubling turn of events, Chinese President Xi Jinping has reaffirmed China’s controversial counterterrorism policies in the Xinjiang region, raising serious concerns about the ongoing human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims. This announcement comes precisely a year after the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a damning report suggesting that China’s actions in Xinjiang may constitute crimes against humanity. The world cannot afford to remain silent in the face of these atrocities.

Since 2017, China has conducted a systematic campaign of oppression in Xinjiang, which includes mass arbitrary detention, torture, forced disappearances, mass surveillance, cultural and religious persecution, separation of families, forced labor, sexual violence, and violations of reproductive rights. These egregious violations have been unequivocally labeled as crimes against humanity by Human Rights Watch.

Shockingly, despite widespread international condemnation and targeted sanctions imposed by certain foreign governments, China has demonstrated minimal change in its Xinjiang policies. While some “political re-education” camps may have ostensibly closed, hundreds of thousands of Turkic Muslims continue to languish in prisons without any prospect of release. Uyghurs living abroad remain cut off from their detained or vanished family members, many living in perpetual agony not knowing the fate of their loved ones.

Foreign governments have attempted to address the Xinjiang crisis at the United Nations Human Rights Council. However, their efforts have been narrowly defeated. Nevertheless, the razor-thin margin revealed that the international community can and must scrutinize China’s actions in Xinjiang.

Human Rights Watch has called for immediate, coordinated action by concerned governments to pursue accountability for these grave abuses. The following steps must be taken to address this dire situation:

1. UN Resolution for an Investigative Mechanism: The United Nations should adopt a comprehensive resolution establishing an investigative mechanism with a mandate to probe alleged violations in Xinjiang, identify those responsible, and recommend actions to ensure accountability.

2. Documenting the Disappeared: Efforts should be redoubled to document the numbers and identities of individuals who remain detained, imprisoned, or forcibly disappeared in Xinjiang. Reuniting families separated by this tragedy must be a top priority.

3. Targeted Sanctions: Chinese officials and entities implicated in serious abuses in Xinjiang should face targeted sanctions to hold them accountable for their actions.

4. Universal Jurisdiction: Consideration should be given to pursuing criminal cases under the principle of “universal jurisdiction,” enabling countries to investigate and prosecute grave crimes, such as torture, regardless of where they occurred.

Furthermore, UN rights chief Volker Türk must take immediate action to update the UN Human Rights Council on the Xinjiang situation. He should present an action plan that includes recommendations for advancing accountability and lead efforts to help victims and family members trace those who have gone missing in Xinjiang.

As the anniversary of the Xinjiang report approaches, the global community has a moral obligation to deliver a clear message: the Chinese government’s grave international crimes will not go unpunished. It is imperative that measures are taken to hold China accountable and improve the lives of those who have endured unimaginable suffering in Xinjiang. The time for action is now, and silence is not an option.

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