The Uyghur Genocide: An Examination of China’s Breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention

Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights | Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy


Prof. Irwin Cotler of the Raoul Wallenburg Centre for Human Rights interviewed on the Report | CTVNews

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This report is the first independent expert application of the 1948 Genocide Convention to the ongoing treatment of the Uyghurs in China. It was undertaken by the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, in cooperation with the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, in response to emerging accounts of serious and systematic atrocities in Xinjiang province, particularly directed against the Uyghurs, an ethnic minority, to ascertain whether the People’s Republic of China is in breach of the Genocide Convention under international law. For this purpose, dozens of experts in international law, genocide studies, Chinese ethnic policies, and the region were invited to examine pro-bono all available evidence that could be collected and verified from public Chinese State communications, leaked Chinese State communications, eye-witness testimony, and open-source research methods such as public satellite-image analysis, analysis of information circulating on the Chinese internet, and any other available source. The resulting report is a presentation of the facts that could be established together with careful analysis of whether China bears State responsibility for breaches of the Genocide Convention. We believe the conclusions are clear and convincing. We do not make any recommendations for action, but we do stand prepared to share our information and analysis with relevant institutions or actors interested in these findings.

Executive Summary

  1. This report concludes that the People’s Republic of China (China) bears State responsibility for committing genocide against the Uyghurs in breach of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention) based on an extensive review of the available evidence and application of international law to the evidence of the facts on the ground.

  2. The examination was conducted by recognized independent experts on international law, genocide, China’s ethnic policies, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

  3. Intent to Destroy. Under Article II of the Genocide Convention, the commission of genocide requires the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, [a protected group], as such.” The “intent to destroy” does not require explicit statements. Intent can be inferred from a collection of objective facts that are attributable to the State, including official statements, a general plan, State policy and law, a pattern of conduct, and repeated destructive acts, which have a logical sequence and result — destruction of the group as such, in whole or in substantial part.

  4. High-level statements of intent and general plan. In 2014, China’s Head of State, President Xi Jinping, launched the “People’s War on Terror” in XUAR, making the areas where Uyghurs constitute nearly 90 percent of the population the front line. High-level officials followed up with orders to “round up everyone who should be rounded up,” “wipe them out completely ... destroy them root and branch,” and “break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins.” Officials described Uyghurs with dehumanizing terms and repeatedly likened the mass internment of Uyghurs to “eradicating tumors.”

  5. Comprehensive State policy, pattern of conduct and repeated destructive acts. a. Government-Mandated Homestays. Since 2014, the Government of China (Government) has deployed Han cadres to reside in Uyghur homes as monitors, resulting in the rupturing of family bonds. County governments further coerce, incentivize, and actively promote Han-Uyghur marriages. b. Mass Internment. In 2017, the XUAR legislature formally legalized the mass internment of Uyghurs under “De-Extremification” regulations. The top security official and entities dispatched a manual and set of documents across the region with orders to police Uyghurs, “speed up the construction” and expansion of the mass internment camps, “increase the discipline and punishment” within the camps and maintain “strict secrecy” over all information, which is not to “be disseminated,” nor “open to the public.” The manual outlines the complex hierarchy of officials, entities, and the centralized digital surveillance system overseeing the entire campaign. c. Mass Birth-Prevention Strategy. China has simultaneously pursued a dual systematic strategy of forcibly sterilizing Uyghur women of childbearing age and interning Uyghur men of child-bearing years, preventing the regenerative capacity of the group and evincing an intent to biologically destroy the group as such. According to Government statistics and directives, including to “carry out family planning sterilization,” “lower fertility levels,” and ”leave no blind spots,” China is carrying out a well-documented, State-funded birth-prevention campaign targeting women of childbearing age in Uyghur-concentrated areas with mass forced sterilization, abortions, and IUD placements. China explicitly admits the purpose of these campaigns is to ensure that Uyghur women are “no longer baby-making machines.” d. Forcible Transfer of Uyghur Children to State-run Facilities. Pursuant to new Government policy in 2017, China began building a vast network of massive State- run, highly securitized boarding schools and orphanages to confine Uyghur children, including infants, full time. XUAR counties receive specific quotas from higher authorities to institutionalize such “orphans,” who often lose both parents to internment or forced labor. e. Eradication of Uyghur identity, community, and domestic life. Pursuant to Government campaigns, local authorities have eliminated Uyghur education, destroyed Uyghur architecture and household features, and damaged, altered, or completely demolished the vast majority of mosques and sacred sites in the region, while closing off other sites or converting them into commercial spaces. f. Selective Targeting of Intellectuals and Community Leaders. The intent to destroy the Uyghurs as a group is further demonstrated by the Government’s deliberate targeting of the guardians and transmitters of Uyghur identity for prolonged detention or death, including household heads, intellectuals, and cultural leaders, regardless of Party affiliation or educational status. The deliberate targeting of Uyghur leaders and sacred sites evinces an intent to destroy the essential elements of Uyghur identity and communal bonds, which define the group as such.

  6. China’s policies and practices targeting Uyghurs in the region must be viewed in their totality, which amounts to an intent to destroy the Uyghurs as a group, in whole or in substantial part, as such.

  7. Acts of Genocide. While commission of any one of the Genocide Convention’s enumerated acts with the requisite intent can sustain a finding of genocide, the evidence presented in this report supports a finding of genocide against the Uyghurs in breach of each and every act prohibited in Article II (a) through (e).

  8. “(a) Killing members of the group.” There are reports of mass death and deaths of prominent Uyghur leaders selectively sentenced to death by execution or, for elders in particular, by long-term imprisonment.

  9. “(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.” Uyghurs 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 and Han cadres assigned to Uyghur homes under Government-mandated programs. Internment camps contain designated “interrogation rooms,” where Uyghur detainees are subjected to consistent and brutal torture methods, including beatings with metal prods, electric shocks, and whips. The mass internment and related Government programs are designed to indoctrinate and “wash clean” brains, driving Uyghurs to commit or attempt suicide from the threat of internment or the daily extreme forms of physical and psychological torture within the camps, including mock executions, public “self-criticisms,” and solitary confinement.

  10. "(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” The authorities systematically target Uyghurs of childbearing years, household heads, and community leaders for detention in unliveable conditions, impose birth-prevention measures on Uyghur women, separate Uyghur children from their parents, and transfer Uyghurs on a mass scale into forced hard labor schemes in a manner that parallels the mass internment. In sum, China is deliberately inflicting collective conditions calculated to terminate the survival of the Uyghurs as a group.

  11. “(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.” The systematic birth prevention campaign in Uyghur-concentrated areas is reinforced by the mass internment drive. In the camps, Uyghur women are subjected to forced IUD insertions, abortions, and injections or medication halting their menstrual cycles, while Uyghur men of childbearing age are targeted for internment, depriving the Uyghur population of the ability to reproduce. As a result of these interconnected policies, growth rates in Uyghur-concentrated areas are increasingly approaching zero.

  12. “(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” Where detentions and forced labor schemes are leaving Uyghur children bereft of both parents, they are being sent to State-run orphanages and raised in Chinese-language environments with standard Han child-rearing methods.

  13. China’s Responsibility for Genocide under the Genocide Convention. China is a highly centralized State in full control of its territory and population, including XUAR, and is a State party to the Genocide Convention. The persons and entities perpetrating the above-indicated acts of genocide are all State agents or organs — acting under the effective control of the State — manifesting an intent to destroy the Uyghurs as a group within the meaning of Article II of the Genocide Convention. This report therefore concludes that China bears State responsibility for an ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs, in breach of the Genocide Convention.

Full Report


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