33 Experts Outline How China Has Violated the Genocide Convention

In March 2021, Newlines Institute released a groundbreaking report The Uyghur Genocide: An Examination of China’s Breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention, in which 33 independent experts on China, genocide prevention, Uyghurs, human rights, and ethnic policy come to the same conclusion:

“The People’s Republic of China bears State responsibility for committing genocide against Uyghurs in breach of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide… based on an extensive review of the available evidence and application of international law to the evidence of the facts on the ground.”

According to the Genocide Convention,

“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group’ (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

As is par for the course in determining whether a genocide is taking place, evidence of the “intent to destroy” is difficult to establish, as there is no physical method of measuring or quantifying intention. This is in contrast to the other standards of genocide which are easy to prove with physical evidence; actions such as killing, injuring, preventing births, and forcibly transferring children can be proven with scientific research, personal testimonies, and observable statistics. Regardless, the experts clarify that “the intent to destroy the protected group [in this case, Uyghur and Turkic Muslims] does not require an inquiry into subjective mental states…. Rather, intent is measured by objective standards” such as “pattern[s] of conduct” and “repeated destructive acts”, both of which are evident in China’s persecution of Uyghurs.

The report outlines multiple ways in which intent is established, via explicit statements by high-ranking officials and detention camp guards that the Uyghur internment program must continue to “wipe them out completely” and “eradicate tumors” “until the whole nation, Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and other Muslim nationalities, would disappear”. Additionally, the report outlines Campaigns of Destruction – such as mass internment, generational separation of Uyghur families, and demolition of religious sites.

The “killing members of the group” criterium is unfortunately much easier to prove. Statistics and reports confirmed large numbers of deaths within detention centers – either due to death sentences or demise due to harsh treatments and punishments. , Moreover, satellite imagery of crematoriums present an even more shocking insight into how the Chinese government is “concealing the overall number of deaths and torture within the camps” by burning Uyghur bodies to dispose of evidence.

Similarly, the standard of “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group” has similarly been confirmed by eyewitnesses and survivors themselves. Mental and emotional torture takes form in days-long interrogations, and physical torture includes forcing prisoners to sit in stress positions, chaining them to beds, placing them on tiger chairs, hanging them from the ceiling, whipping them, harming them with electrically charged batons, forcing them to ingest rugs, conducting invasive body searches, removing fingernails, and more. “Eyewitnesses have testified to seeing blood covering the floors and walls.” Uyghur and Turkic detained women have reported being subjected to gang rape, vaginal penetration with electric rods, forced nudity, and insertion of pepper paste into the genitalia.

A report by Dr. Adrian Zenz released in June 2020 confirms that the CCP’s actions meet the standard of “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”. Leaked government documents reveal plans for sterilizing 14-34% of women of birthing age in predominantly Uyghur regions, and “between 2017 and 2018, in one XUAR , the percentage of women who were infertile increased by 124 percent.” In the year of 2018, 80 percent of all IUD (intrauterine device placements) placements were conducted in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and it was revealed that the IUDs can only be removed by pre-authorized, government-approved surgical procedures. These sterilizations and forced IUD placements not only occur outside of detention centers on Uyghur women, but they also take place within the internment camps, with the addition of forced abortions being performed on unwilling Uyghur and Turkic women prisoners.

Lastly, “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” is also taking place in Xinjiang. Since early 2017, the Chinese government has authorized and sanctioned the construction of massive, state-run orphanages and boardings schools where Uyghur children are sent to against their will. “A Ministry of Education planning document reveals that between 2017 and 2019, the number of children separated from their families and placed into state-run boarding schools in the region increased by 76.9 percent, from 497,800 to 880,500.” In these facilities, Uyghur children are forced to abandon their religious and spiritual beliefs and are instead indoctrinated with atheist, nationalist, patriotic ideals, thus forcibly disenfranchising them from their own culture.

The report concludes the following:

“Upon application of the said provisions of the Genocide Convention to the mass of evidence presented herein, this report concludes, based on a clear and convincing standard of proof, that China is responsible for breaches of each provision of Article II of the Convention…. While commission of any one of the enumerated acts [aforementioned] will sustain a finding of genocide, the evidence presented here supports a finding that genocide is being committed against the Uyghurs, an ethnic group with protected status…. The persons and entities perpetrating these acts of genocide are all State organs or agents under Chinese law, acting in their official capacities, or under the effective control of the State. The nature of these interconnected and composite acts inescapably demonstrates the clear, effective, and firm control of the State, which cannot be reasonably attributed to others beyond the effective control of the State, to accident, or to chance.”

Cover image by Paul Keller on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)