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Why does China go scot-free for Uyghur genocide?

Beijing plays tricks from the same book the West used to justify the 'War On Terror' to crack down on Muslim minority
This undated handout image released by The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation on May 24, 2022, shows detainees guarded by police as they stand in line apparently reciting or singing at the Tekes County Detention Center in the Xinjiang Region of western China
This undated handout image released by The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation on May 24, 2022, shows detainees guarded by police as they stand in line apparently reciting or singing at the Tekes County Detention Center in the Xinjiang Region of western China. (Photo:AFP)
Published: August 24, 2022 11:00 AM GMT
Updated: August 24, 2022 11:35 AM GMT

The global outcry over the alleged genocide of the Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has failed to deter China and allowed the communist regime to proceed unharmed.

This is surprising as the allegations leveled against China are from several influential Western nations, including the US, UK, Canada, and the Netherlands, with leading human rights groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch joining the chorus. But China remains unmoved.

It seems the so-called global 'War On Terror,' a brainchild of the US-led West, holds the key to Chinese immunity.

The US and other Western nations assiduously tried to hold China accountable for alleged atrocities against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. However, China held its ground and repeatedly claimed its actions were necessary to ward off purported threats of terrorism and separatism.

This is just another example of China’s fabricated, self-serving propaganda to justify brutality against individuals and groups. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a long history of persecution of ethnic and religious minorities including Tibetans and Chinese Christians.

On their part, Uyghur rights groups have been leaving no stones unturned to corner China on human rights abuses in Xinjiang, where ethnic Muslim minorities are being held and abused in internment camps, which draws parallels to Nazi concentration camps and Soviet gulags.

"China initially denied the existence of the detention camps, but later admitted it had set up vocational training centers"

Since 2017, China has been arbitrarily detaining Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities in Xinjiang in these re-education camps where they are allegedly subjected to forced labor, sexual assault, torture, and forced sterilizations and abortions.

China has reportedly held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and others for harboring politically incorrect views. It is also accused of banning Muslim religious practices and destroying mosques and tombs.

China initially denied the existence of the detention camps, but later admitted it had set up vocational training centers to be used as facilities to prevent religious extremism and religious radicalism.

Rights groups, based outside China, are keen to charge the communist regime for genocide in a court in Argentina. The South American nation’s constitution allows the prosecution of crimes “committed outside the territory of the nation against public international law” under Section 118. It allows criminal courts to probe and prosecute international crimes, such as genocide, torture, and crimes against humanity, wherever they occur in the world.

Uyghur rights groups are probably taking their cue from the UK-based Burmese Rohingya Organization which filed a case against the Myanmar military in 2021 for crimes committed against the Rohingya minority.

On Aug 17, two Uyghur rights groups petitioned an Argentine court alleging that China was committing genocide and crimes against humanity by targeting ethnic Muslims in the Xinjiang region through its repressive policies.

"It is "reasonable to conclude" that human rights abuses are taking place against the Uyghurs"

The World Uyghur Congress and the US-based Uyghur Human Rights Project are banking on the universal jurisdiction provisions set out in Argentina’s constitution to bring China to book.

The United Nations Security Council has proven to be a toothless tiger in the case as vetoes from China and Russia bar it from establishing international tribunals to probe atrocities. Thus, Uyghur rights groups believe domestic courts on foreign soil will fill the void.

Dolkun Isa of the World Uyghur Congress said in a statement that the complaint in Argentina is “a crucial step towards long-overdue justice for the Uyghur people.”

The UN has also failed to make sufficient efforts to highlight atrocities against Uyghurs, and China remains unfazed. Though the UN sent its human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, to China, she returned empty-handed and even praised China after her fact-finding mission to Xinjiang in May 2022.

The UN's top expert on slavery said in a report this month that it is "reasonable to conclude" that human rights abuses are taking place against the Uyghurs.

The new UN findings were "based on an independent assessment," the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata, said in the report, released on Aug 16.

As usual, China's foreign ministry denied that there has ever been forced labor in Xinjiang, and defended China's record on protecting workers' rights.

Xinjiang is of paramount importance to China. There are about 12 million Uyghurs, mostly Muslim, living there.

Uyghurs are a Turkic minority with their own language and culture and are ethnically close to Central Asian nations. However, they make up about half of the population in Xinjiang, which is a major cotton producer and supplier of much of the world's materials for solar panels.

The region is rich in oil and natural gas and due to its proximity to Central Asia and Europe, it is seen by China as an important trade link.

"Years of effort to hold China accountable for the Uyghur situation have fallen flat"

In the early 20th century, Uyghurs briefly declared independence for the region but were brought under control by the communist government in 1949.

The Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan in 1996 made China nervous about a possible resurgence of the Uyghur independence movement. Thus, it started categorizing Muslim Uyghur activists as terrorists.

In 2013, China started the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Xinjiang region figures prominently in the mega infrastructure project, connecting East Asia and Europe. So, China did not want resistance to its development plans for Xinjiang.

China launched the Strike Hard Campaign Against Violent Terrorism in 2014, which culminated in mass surveillance tools, the hallmark of the War on Terror.

The Chinese regime has repeatedly claimed the crackdown in Xinjiang is necessary to prevent terrorism and root out Islamist extremism as Uyghurs want their own state.

Precisely, as a party to the War On Terror launched by former US president, George W. Bush,  China considers it has legitimate reasons to root out religious extremism.

This means China is playing tricks from the same book the West used to justify the War On Terror, and consequently, years of effort to hold China accountable for the Uyghur situation have fallen flat.

As long as this geo-political game continues, Uyghurs will neither have justice for brutalities committed against them nor a guarantee for a peaceful existence within China.

* The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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