Uyghur detainees in a camp in Xinjiang, China.
The Uyghurs are a Turkic-speaking Muslim ethnic minority group who primarily live in China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), also known as East Turkestan (the name preferred by the Ugyhurs for the region commonly known as Xinjiang). The region’s name suggests the Uyghurs have autonomy and self-governance, but this is very far from the case. Since April 2017, the regime of Chinese President Xi Jinping has unleashed a multi-tiered crackdown against the Uyghurs.
The Chinese government’s draconian and systematic policies against the ethnic Uyghurs, including mass detention in internment camps and use of technology and information to control and suppress its own citizens, constitute crimes against humanity. Specifically, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the Chinese government is perpetrating the crimes against humanity of persecution and imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty. Many accounts of a multitude of gross human rights violations have been revealed: forced indoctrination, deprivation, torture, and sanctioned rape inside a vast network of internment camps; children forcibly separated from their parents and placed in orphanages where their Uyghur identifies are completely wiped away; Uyghurs being used for organ harvesting and forced labor; busloads of Uyghurs leaving the camps in the dead of night, never to be seen again – suggesting there may be extrajudicial killings.
The government has installed sophisticated surveillance technology across the region and markedly increased the police and security presence, creating an Orwellian surveillance state. Beijing’s control measures include forcing Uyghurs to submit biometric information including iris scans, blood samples, DNA and voice samples and facial scans to authorities. Millions of cameras and state-of-the-art facial recognition technology are deployed to track residents’ every move. Uyghurs live in constant terror—so much so that they have cut off all communication with family and friends located outside of China.
In addition to this overall rights-effacing climate, anywhere between 1 and 3 million Uyghurs have been detained in “re-education camps”—purpose-driven detention centers often compared to concentration camps. These internment camps have rapidly expanded across Xinjiang as part of China’s program of mass subjugation. Reporting by media outlets and nongovernmental organizations indicate that those in the camps are detained against their will and subjected to political indoctrination, routinely face rough treatment and rights abuses at the hands of their overseers, and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the overcrowded facilities. The most innocuous and harmless behaviors are grounds for detention. The list includes praying, getting married in a traditional ceremony, growing a beard, having WhatApp on your phone, keeping Islamic books in the house, calling people abroad, or wearing a hijab.
While Beijing initially denied the existence of the camps, it now claims the detention centers are “boarding schools” or “re-education centers” that provide vocational training to Uyghurs, discourage radicalization, and help protect the country from terrorism. Mounting evidence has shown these prison-like facilities are actually political mass internment camps designed to strip Uyghurs of their identity. Their “education” involves daily indoctrination into Communist ideology and attempts at eradicating their culture, language, and religion. Reports have identified more than 100 Uyghur intellectuals, including writers, poets, journalists and university professors among the detained. The targeting of cultural and religious leaders is a telltale sign that cultural genocide is underway. Other practices, including the razing of mosques and cemeteries, reinforce this grim reality.
Beyond efforts to wipe out the Uyghur culture, egregious human rights violations allegedly occur inside the camps, including torture, sanctioned rape, organ harvesting, deaths in custody, extrajudicial killings, and forced labor. There are mounting reports that China is gradually moving detainees out of the internment camps and into factories where they are made to work for little to no wages. Global retailers such as Apple, BMW, The Gap, Nike, Samsung, Sony, Patagonia, and Volkswagen source goods from these factories.
Multiple leaks of hundreds of pages of official Chinese government documents have corroborated what activists, rights groups and journalists have been alleging for years—that Beijing is perpetrating systematic and widespread cultural genocide against the Uyghurs, which likely rises to the level of crimes against humanity. The Xinjiang Papers, revealed the underpinnings of the Chinese government’s crackdown on the Uyghurs in over 400 pages. The China Cables detailed the operations manual for running the mass detention camps in East Turkestan and exposed the mechanics of the region’s complex surveillance system. The Qaraqash List confirmed that detainees are swept into China’s coercive re-education system for innocuous offenses related to common religious practices such as growing a beard or wearing a veil.
The classified documents confirm what Jewish World Watch and our partners have feared for too long, that engineered cultural genocide is undeniably underway and that Beijing’s systematic and widespread policies rise to the level of mass atrocity crimes. The documents lay bare the Chinese government’s deliberate strategy to lock up ethnic minorities as a preventative measure – even before a crime is committed – to rewire their thoughts through forced ideological and behavioral re-education facilities run in secret. The papers also demonstrate how Beijing is pioneering a terrifying new form of social control drawn on data collected by mass-surveillance technology.
Mounting evidence reveals a vast system that uses the “organs of dictatorship” to target, surveil, and grade an entire ethnic group in order to forcibly assimilate and control its members. In the words of Xi Jinping, the documents instruct Chinese officials to “show no mercy” in wiping the human slate clean of the Uyghur culture and, potentially, the Uyghur people altogether. It is now clear that China is guilty of gross and systematic human rights violations, with culpability beginning at the highest level of government and permeating all other levels. The inhumane detention camps of East Turkestan and the depravities occurring inside them constitute crimes against humanity.
What Jewish World Watch is doing
Jewish World Watch has joined with the California Uyghur diaspora community to shed light on the atrocities being perpetrated against their people and give voice to their disappeared relatives. Together, Jewish World Watch supporters and numerous Uyghurs have met with multiple members of Congress and rallied at the U.S. Federal Building to raise awareness of the horrific atrocities inflicted on those Uyghurs remaining in China.
“Jewish World Watch, you have been our guard, our support and our family. We will continue to stand together and fight for justice, not only for the Uyghurs, but for all victims of genocide, and vow ‘Never Again.’ ” – Nurnisa Kurban
Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (H.R. 6210 and S. 3471)
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (H.R. 6210 and S. 3471) is designed to prohibit imports from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in northwest China to the United States, based on reports that China is not only forcing detainees in its vast network of internment camps to produce goods, but moving detainees out of the camps and into factories where they are forced to work under dire conditions for little to no wages.
The legislation would require importers to obtain certification from the U.S. government that goods were not produced using forced labor by the Uyghur ethnic and Muslim minority group in Xinjiang. It would also allow for sanctions, under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, against officials deemed responsible for orchestrating this systematic forced labor on such a massive scale.
Uyghurs living in China — mainly in Xinjiang
Uyghurs currently detained in Chinese detention camps
by Ann Strimov Durbin, Jewish World Watch
In March 2017, China’s government launched a mass crackdown against the Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic minority group who live primarily in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, as well as other Turkic Muslim minorities in the region.
by Sarah Parvini, Los Angeles Times
Eyes cast toward the tile floor of his Uighur restaurant in Alhambra, Bughra Arkin sighed and rubbed his temples. His thoughts shifted to his family in Xinjiang, China, to the father he knew had been arrested by authorities and possibly placed in a “reeducation” camp nearly 7,000 miles away.
by Ellen J. Kennedy, Minn Post
The Holocaust was a 1940s high-tech genocide. Nazi leadership mobilized German scientists, doctors, engineers, and business experts to research and implement the most efficient strategies to prevent and destroy life. It took great ingenuity to exterminate 6 million Jews and 5 million other innocent people from across 11 European countries in the space of just a few years.