World Reactions

Crisis in Xinjiang, Featuring Dr. Adrian Zenz

Why the U.S. Should Issue an Atrocity Determination for Uighurs

REPORT Asia
September 17, 2020 19 min read Download Report
Olivia Enos
Senior Policy Analyst, Asian Studies Center
Olivia specializes in human rights and national security challenges in Asia.

 SUMMARY 

The U.S. government is contemplating issuing an atrocity determination for Uighur Muslims. Given the mounting evidence that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may be perpetrating genocide and crimes against humanity against Uighurs, earnest consideration is merited. An atrocity determination would reflect the realities of what the Uighur community in China is facing, highlight the growing severity of the human rights violations they face, and galvanize much-needed focus and attention on a situation that may amount to some of the worst human rights violations committed in the 21st century.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Given mounting evidence that China may be perpetrating genocide and crimes against humanity against Uighurs, consideration of an atrocity determination is merited.

An atrocity determination would highlight the severe human rights violations Uighurs are enduring, and galvanize much-needed global focus, attention, and action.

The U.S. should make an official, public atrocity determination, grant P-2 refugee status to Uighurs, and identify additional Chinese officials for sanctions.

 

The U.S. government is contemplating issuing an atrocity determination for Uighur Muslims.1

Daniel Lipmann and Nahal Toosi, “Trump Administration Weighs Accusing China of ‘Genocide’ Over Uighurs,” Politico, August 25, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/08/25/trump-administration-china-genocide-uighurs-401581 (accessed September 2, 2020).

 Given the mounting evidence that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may be perpetrating genocide and crimes against humanity against Uighurs, earnest consideration is merited.

Serious concerns about genocide were raised after Adrian Zenz, a researcher with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, released his report for the Jamestown Foundation on the CCP’s draconian family planning measures directed at Uighurs.2

Adrian Zenz, “Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang,” The Jamestown Foundation, June 2020, https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Zenz-Internment-Sterilizations-and-IUDs-UPDATED-July-21-Rev2.pdf?x41867 (accessed September 2, 2020).

 The report detailed the CCP’s coercive family planning policies—including forced sterilizations and implantation of intra-uterine devices (IUDs) in Uighur women and forced abortions of Uighur babies. The fact patterns Zenz documents demonstrate the CCP’s intent of significantly reducing, if not eliminating, the Uighur population.

Corroborating reports have since emerged detailing accounts of Uighur mothers subjected to forced late-term abortions—and even infanticide—for failure to comply with the CCP’s arbitrary birth-spacing requirements.3

“Xinjiang Hospitals Aborted, Killed Babies Outside Family Planning Limits: Uyghur Obstetrician,” Radio Free Asia, August 17, 2020, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/abortions-08172020144036.html (accessed September 2, 2020).

 The CCP’s birth control measures are a part of a broader strategy of collectivizing and interning Uighur Muslims: Zenz’s report, citing the “Karakax List,”4

Christian Shepherd and Laura Pitel, “The Karakax List: How China Targets Uighurs in Xinjiang,” Financial Times, February 17, 2020, https://www.ft.com/content/e0224416-4e77-11ea-95a0-43d18ec715f5 (accessed September 2, 2020).

 noted that failure to comply with family planning requirements was the number one reason given for internment in political reeducation camps.5

Zenz, “Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control.”

 These camps currently hold at least 1.8 million Uighurs.6

Joshua Lipes, “Expert Says 1.8 Million Uyghurs, Muslim Minorities in Xinjiang’s Internment Camps,” Radio Free Asia, November 24, 2019, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/detainees-11232019223242.html (accessed September 2, 2020).

Zenz’s report elicited a flood of condemnations for the CCP’s egregious actions, including from some of the highest levels of the U.S. government. Shortly after the report’s release, Members of Congress from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to issue a determination detailing atrocity crimes committed against Uighurs.7

Congressional-Executive Commission on China, “Xinjiang: Chairs Lead Bipartisan Letter Pressing the Administration to Address Forced Sterilizations,” July 2, 2020, https://www.cecc.gov/media-center/press-releases/xinjiang-chairs-seek-an-%E2%80%9Catrocity-crime%E2%80%9D-determination-sanctions-for (accessed September 2, 2020).

An atrocity determination would reflect the realities of what the Uighur community in China is facing, highlight the growing severity of the human rights violations they face, and galvanize much-needed focus and attention on a situation that may amount to some of the worst human rights violations committed in the 21st century.

Evidence for Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”8

    U.S. Code § 1091 (2009).

The U.S., as a signatory to the Convention, is required to have its own definition of genocide. The U.S. defines genocide as taking actions “whether in time of peace or in time of war and with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group as such,”9

U.S. Code § 1091 (2009).

 including:

  • Killing;
  • Causing bodily harm, including permanent mental impairment from torture, drugs, etc.;
  • Subjecting the group to conditions that would result in elimination of that group;
  • Preventing births; or
  • Transferring by force children of the persecuted group to another group.”10

    Ibid.

The critical components of both the U.N. and U.S. definitions of genocide relate to “genocidal intent.” Regardless of the outcome, if there is intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a particular group on the basis of any of the following—nationality, ethnicity, race, or religion—then it meets the definition of genocide. The CCP arguably intends to target Uighurs on both ethnic and religious grounds.11

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “China’s Systematic Persecution of Uyghurs,” March 5, 2020, https://www.ushmm.org/online-calendar/event/MACPGPPGDC0320 (accessed September 2, 2020).

 Their status as members of a minority Muslim religious group in China, as well as a marginalized ethnic group, qualifies under both definitions of genocide.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to deny the CCP’s genocidal intent against Uighurs. A cursory look at open-source data provides evidence that appears to meet several of the conditions for genocide. To be clear, only one of the elements needs to be met for it to be considered genocide, but it seems that the situation Uighurs face may meet more than one of the conditions.

Killing. There is no single, authoritative estimate on the number of deaths in the camps.12

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, 2019 Human Rights Report: China (Includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau), March 11, 2020, https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/CHINA-INCLUSIVE-2019-HUMAN-RIGHTS-REPORT.pdf (accessed September 2, 2020).

 However, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, a bipartisan congressional commission that tracks and documents human rights conditions in China, has chronicled some of the known instances of Uighurs who died in detention.13

Congressional-Executive Commission on China, 2019 Annual Report, January 8, 2020, https://www.cecc.gov/publications/annual-reports (accessed September 2, 2020).

 In October 2019, Radio Free Asia confirmed through testimony from a Chinese government official who worked in the camps that at least 150 people had died in the largest camp in Yengisher district.14

“At Least 150 Detainees Have Died in One Xinjiang Internment Camp: Police Officer,” Radio Free Asia, October 19, 2019, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/deaths-10292019181322.html (accessed September 2, 2020).

 Since estimates are piecemeal, it is hard to know the exact number of individuals who have died while in detention, but the number of deaths is not relevant to a genocide determination, although popular conceptions of genocide usually assume mass deaths and killings.

Subjecting the group to conditions that would result in elimination of that group and/or preventing births. There is strong evidence indicating the CCP’s intent to eliminate, in whole or in part, future generations of Uighurs. Succinctly, Zenz’s report finds several concerning trends that suggest an intent to prevent births, first through forced sterilizations and the forced implantation of IUDs, and second through forced abortions of Uyghur pre-born children.15

Zenz, “Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control.”

 Other studies even document the use of infanticide against Uighur post-born children.

According to Chinese government documents, the CCP has the intent of subjecting at least 80 percent of Uighur women of child-bearing age in four southern rural prefectures in Xinjiang to either forced sterilizations or mandatory IUD placement.16

16Ibid.

 Zenz further finds that the CCP has begun a policy of Han colonization—where persons of Han descent move into historically Uighur regions—to erode their cultural heritage and shift the make-up of the Xinjiang region.17

Ibid.

 Beyond this, women in the camps report being injected with unknown substances that cause them to lose their menstrual cycles. Some report being forced to take drugs that prematurely put them into menopause and had other deleterious health impacts, including memory loss.18

Olivia Enos and Yujin Kim, “China’s Forced Sterilization of Uighur Women is Cultural Genocide,” Heritage Foundation Commentary, August 29, 2019, https://www.heritage.org/asia/commentary/chinas-forced-sterilization-uighur-women-cultural-genocide.

 Some women who were eventually released from the camps later report their doctors informed them that they are now sterile.19

Peter Stubley, “Muslim Women ‘Sterilized’ in China Detention Camps, Say Former Detainees,” The Independent, August 12, 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/uighur-muslim-china-sterilisation-women-internment-camps-xinjiang-a9054641.html (accessed September 2, 2020).

One Associated Press report noted that official Chinese statistics for Hotan and Kashgar (Uighur-predominant regions) document a 60 percent decline in birth rates between 2015 and 2018.20

“China Cuts Uighur Births with IUDs, Abortion, Sterilization,” Associated Press, June 29, 2020, https://apnews.com/269b3de1af34e17c1941a514f78d764c (accessed September 2, 2020).

 This is unprecedented and unnatural—a testament to the great lengths the CCP will go to in order to reduce population size. The patterns illuminated by Zenz and other open-source materials seem to suggest that the CCP is undertaking a massive effort to either completely eradicate, or at least significantly reduce, the population size of the next generation of Uighurs.

Transferring by force children of the persecuted group to another group. There can be no question that children have been separated from their families during arbitrary detention. The CCP claims that while parents are being reeducated in political reeducation camps, children are being reeducated in other facilities; some are so-called kindergartens or preschools with boarding school–like live-in accommodations; others are called orphanages.21

John Sudworth, “China Muslims: Xinjiang Schools Used to Separate Children From Families,” BBC, July 4, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-48825090 (accessed September 2, 2020), and “Uyghur Children Separated from Parents; Held in ‘Little Angel Schools,’” Radio Free Asia, September 13, 2018, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/separated-09132018132251.html (accessed September 2, 2020).

 All are a form of “centralized care” whereby the CCP indoctrinates children in the ways of the Party, separated from their biological families.22

Adrian Zenz, “Break Their Roots: Evidence for China’s Parent-Child Separation Campaign in Xinjiang,” Journal of Political Risk, Vol 7, No. 7 (July 2019), http://www.jpolrisk.com/break-their-roots-evidence-for-chinas-parent-child-separation-campaign-in-xinjiang/ (accessed September 2, 2020), and Olivia Enos and Sarah Brown, “Chinese Government Targets Children to Further Control over Uighurs,” Providence: A Journal of Christianity and Foreign Policy, August 14, 2019, https://providencemag.com/2019/08/chinese-government-targets-children-to-further-control-uighurs/ (accessed September 2, 2020).

Conditions inside these facilities are not like schools, however. Many open-source reports indicate that these facilities are fortified with iron-clad surveillance systems and surrounded by barbed wire and electric fences.23

Zenz, “Break Their Roots.”

Crimes Against Humanity. In addition to genocide, others have suggested that Uighurs are enduring crimes against humanity. The concept of crimes against humanity has a long lineage in international law, being developed and applied through the Nuremburg trials, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The most recent and detailed definition is expressed in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which defined in a crime against humanity as “any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack,”24

United Nations, “Crimes Against Humanity,” Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/crimes-against-humanity.shtml (accessed September 2, 2020).

 including but not limited to: murder; extermination; enslavement; deportation or forcible transfer of population; imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; torture; rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law; and enforced disappearance of persons.25

Ibid.

Evidence for genocide (as outlined above) can be cross-applied to make the case that Uighurs are also facing crimes against humanity. Uighurs are unquestionably enduring widespread, systematic attack at the hands of the CCP. The sheer magnitude of their detentions (at least 1.8 million—possibly as many as 3 million in political reeducation camps)26

Joshua Lipes, “Expert Says 1.8 Million Uyghurs, Muslim Minorities in Xinjiang’s Internment Camps,” Radio Free Asia, November 24, 2019, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/detainees-11232019223242.html (accessed September 2, 2020), and U.S. Department of Defense, “Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Schriver Press Briefing on the 2019 Report on Military and Security Developments in China,” May 3, 2019, https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/1837011/assistant-secretary-of-defense-for-indo-pacific-security-affairs-schriver-press/ (accessed September 2, 2020).

 and the extensive network of camps (new reports identified more than 260 locations that bear the hallmarks of detention facilities, some of which can hold up to 10,000 persons per facility),27

Megha Rajagopalan, Alison Killing, and Christo Buschek, “Built to Last,” Buzzfeed, August 27, 2020, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/meghara/china-new-internment-camps-xinjiang-uighurs-muslims (accessed September 2, 2020).

 underscores the intentional persecution of this minority ethnic and religious group. There is no lack of documentation substantiating claims that Uighurs are subject to enslavement and forced labor, including forcible transfer of populations (collectivization);28

Vicky Xiuzhong Xu et al., “Uyghurs for Sale,” Australian Strategic Policy Institute, March 1, 2020, https://www.aspi.org.au/report/uyghurs-sale (accessed September 2, 2020).

 reports of torture abound;29

Congressional-Executive Commission on China, 2019 Annual Report: Xinjiang, 2020, https://www.cecc.gov/sites/chinacommission.house.gov/files/documents/2019AR_XINJIANG.pdf (accessed September 2, 2020).

 as well as reports of women facing sexual violence30

Elizabeth M. Lynch, “China’s Attacks on Uighur Women Are Crimes Against Humanity,” Washington Post, October 21, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/21/chinas-attacks-uighur-women-are-crimes-against-humanity/ (accessed September 2, 2020), and Brian Hiliker and Olivia Enos, “The Overlooked Human Rights Crisis Unfolding in China’s Xinjiang Province,” Heritage Foundation Commentary, July 26, 2018, https://www.heritage.org/asia/commentary/the-overlooked-human-rights-crisis-unfolding-chinas-xinjiang-province.

—just to name a few violations.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum announced in March 2020 that “there is reasonable basis to believe that…the Chinese government is…committing crimes against humanity of persecution and imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty.”31

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Simon–Skjodt Center Director Delivers Remarks on China’s Systematic Persecution of Uyghurs,” March 6, 2020, https://www.ushmm.org/genocide-prevention/blog/simon-skjodt-center-director-delivers-remarks-on-chinas-systematic-persecut (accessed September 2, 2020).

 This view was espoused earlier in 2020 in the Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s 2019 Annual Report.32

Congressional-Executive Commission on China, 2019 Annual Report: Xinjiang.

The evidence cataloged above is, in no way, an exhaustive list of the myriad evidence that Uighurs may be facing both genocide and crimes against humanity. Additional firsthand testimony from Uighurs, satellite imagery testifying to the existence of camps, and much more already exists, and further work can and should be done to systematically document their plight.

Furthermore, there is no hierarchy of atrocity crimes, meaning that it is not better or worse for the U.S. to determine that Uighurs only face either crimes against humanity or genocide. Neither is it impossible for the U.S. or the U.N. to determine that both genocide and crimes against humanity have been committed. What is more important is that a determination is made and publicly issued.

Responding to Atrocities Committed Against Uighurs

The Secretary of State has the authority to issue an atrocity determination at any point in time. There are no restrictions limiting the Secretary’s authority to do so.

Doing so builds on growing U.S. efforts to hold the CCP accountable for its severe human rights violations in Xinjiang. Sanctioning Chen Quanguo, the Xinjiang Party Secretary, and other known rights-violating CCP officials and entities sent a clear message to the Chinese government that the U.S. will not tolerate its abuses.33

News release, “Treasury Sanctions Chinese Entity and Officials Pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, July 9, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1055 (accessed September 2, 2020), and news release, “Treasury Sanctions Chinese Entity and Officials Pursuant to Global Magnitsky Human Rights Executive Order,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, July 31, 2020, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm1073 (accessed September 2, 2020).

 A determination also augments U.S. strategy to target forced labor in Xinjiang.34

Katy Stech Ferek, “U.S. Customs Officials Target Suspected Forced Labor from China’s Xinjiang Region,” Wall Street Journal, July 7, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-customs-officials-target-suspected-forced-labor-from-chinas-xinjiang-region-11594119600 (accessed September 2, 2020); Carol Morello, “State Department Accuses 10 Countries, Including China and North Korea, of Government-Sponsored Human Trafficking,” Washington Post, June 25, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/state-department-accuses-10-countries-including-china-and-north-korea-of-government-sponsored-human-trafficking/2020/06/25/fea79ba4-b716-11ea-9b0f-c797548c1154_story.html (accessed September 2, 2020); and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “CBP Detains Chinese Shipment of Suspected Forced Labor Products Made with Human Hair,” July 1, 2020, https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/national-media-release/cbp-detains-chinese-shipment-suspected-forced-labor-products-made (accessed September 2, 2020).

Given the gravity of human rights conditions in Xinjiang, the U.S. should take the following next steps:

  • Make an official, public atrocity determination on crimes committed against Uighurs. The Secretary of State can issue an atrocity determination at any point in time. However, if the Secretary refuses to do so, Congress can force the Administration’s hand, as it did in the case of the ISIS atrocity determination on March 15, 2016.35

    Olivia Enos, “What Happened to the Rohingya Was Genocide—And It’s Time for the U.S. to Say It,” Washington Post, August 21, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/08/21/what-happened-rohingya-was-genocide-its-time-us-say-it/ (accessed September 2, 2020), and A Resolution Expressing the Sense of the Senate That the Atrocities Perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) Against Religious and Ethnic Minorities in Iraq and Syria Include War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, and Genocide, S. 340, 114th Cong., 1st Sess., December 18, 2015, https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-resolution/340 (accessed April 4, 2016).

     The unanimously approved House resolution put pressure on the Obama Administration to say whether atrocities did or did not take place by a previously codified March 17, 2016, deadline. Then-Secretary of State John Kerry said that what took place was genocide.36

    John Kerry, “Remarks on Daesh and Genocide,” U.S. Department of State, March 17, 2016, https://2009-2017.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2016/03/254782.htm (accessed April 4, 2016).

    A determination can be as simple as the Secretary of State saying that it is genocide and/or crimes against humanity or it can involve a more rigorous internal legal deliberation at the State Department, even though a legal determination and all that that entails is not technically required. Either way, open-source evidence supports an atrocity determination for Uighurs, so it is best for the Administration to call a spade a spade. The follow-on impacts of the ISIS atrocity determination were significant, especially since Congress created additional aid provisions for survivors of ISIS genocide.37

    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “The United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) Consultation and Worldwide Priorities,” https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-and-asylum/refugees/the-united-states-refugee-admissions-program-usrap-consultation-and-worldwide-processing-priorities (accessed September 2, 2020).

     The Trump Administration took up the mantle, creating the Genocide Prevention and Persecution Response program that has so far administered $350 million in aid to communities getting back on their feet after enduring atrocities.38

    U.S. Agency for International Development, “Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response,” https://www.usaid.gov/iraq/genocide-recovery-and-persecution-response (accessed July 30, 2020).

  • Grant Priority-2 (P-2) refugee status to Uighur refugees. P-2 refugees are individuals the U.S. has identified as “groups of special humanitarian concern.”39

    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “The United States Refugee Admissions Program.”

     The special status enables would-be candidates to bypass referral from other entities (like the United Nations Refugee Agency, an embassy, or an non-governmental agency) and allows refugees to apply directly to U.S. authorities for resettlement whether they are inside or outside their country of origin.40

    U.S. Department of State, “The United State Refugee Admissions Program: Reforms for a New Era of Refugee Resettlement,” https://2001-2009.state.gov/g/prm/refadm/rls/rpts/36059.htm (accessed September 2, 2020).

    The same stringent vetting required by the U.S. for other refugee categories would still apply to Uighurs. Categories of persons already eligible for P-2 status include certain religious minorities, Burmese refugees in Thailand, and other vulnerable groups.41

    Andorra Bruno, “Refugee Admissions and Resettlement Policy,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, December 18, 2018, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL31269.pdf (accessed September 2, 2020).

     Uighurs have already faced challenges to resettlement, including extrajudicial imprisonment in Thailand42

    Uyghur Human Rights Project, “World Refugees Day 2019: Thailand Should Free Uyghur Refugees,” June 19, 2019, https://uhrp.org/press-release/world-refugee-day-2019-thailand-should-free-uyghur-refugees.html (accessed September 2, 2020).

     and the threat of deportation to China (at the behest of Beijing)—even after being granted asylum by the Turkish government.43

    Joanna Kakissis, “‘I Thought It Would be Safe’: Uighurs in Turkey Now Fear China’s Long Arm,” NPR, March 13, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/03/13/800118582/i-thought-it-would-be-safe-uighurs-in-turkey-now-fear-china-s-long-arm (accessed September 2, 2020), and Gareth Browne, “How Turkey Is Sending Uighurs Back to China Without Breaking Its Promise,” The Telegraph, July 26, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/07/26/turkey-sending-muslim-uighurs-back-china-without-breaking-promise/ (accessed September 2, 2020).

  • Identify additional government officials, other individuals, and entities in China eligible for sanctioning for their human rights violations committed against Uighurs. Global Magnitsky sanctions authorities enable the U.S. Treasury Department to target individuals and entities on human rights and corruption grounds.44

    Donald J. Trump, “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption,” Executive Order No. 13818, December 20, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-blocking-property-persons-involved-serious-human-rights-abuse-corruption/ (accessed May 21, 2019).

     Being sanctioned under Global Magnitsky lands individuals or entities on the Specially Designated Nationals list—resulting in the freezing of assets, as well as visa restrictions.

  • Create and appoint a Special Coordinator for Xinjiang at the State Department. Similar to the Special Coordinator for Tibet, the Special Coordinator for Xinjiang would be tasked with coordinating the policy and response of the U.S. government on a day-to-day basis and would signify the priority the U.S. places on responding to the crisis in Xinjiang. Job priorities could include identifying individuals to be sanctioned, determining how to respond to the CCP’s rapid exportation of surveillance technology, and ensuring that Xinjiang is raised at key diplomatic moments with China. This coordinator could also be responsible for pressing China for access to the political reeducation facilities, among other tasks.45

    Olivia Enos, “Reponding to the Crisis in Xinjiang,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 3415, June 7, 2019, https://www.heritage.org/asia/report/responding-the-crisis-xinjiang.

  • Reiterate in diplomatic negotiations with Chinese officials Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s request that all arbitrarily detained persons in China be released.80 These calls need not be limited to individuals interred in Xinjiang but can extend to other religious minorities, human rights advocates, lawyers, and activists—among others—who continue to be arbitrarily detained by Chinese authorities. In addition to this request, the U.S. should continue to press for the closure of all political reeducation facilities in China.

  • Faithfully implement the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act signed into law in 2020.46

    Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, Public Law No. 116–145.

  • Consider alternative legal and judicial mechanisms to the International Criminal Court to deliver justice for Uighurs.

  • Publicly request the International Olympic Committee review of China’s suitability to host the 2022 Olympics. China cares deeply about its image. Publicly calling into question the People’s Republic of China’s ability to host the Olympics sends a strong message that China cannot hold a position of preeminence for an international sporting event—a prized role that should only be given to countries that respect their citizens’ rights.

Conclusion

Given the gravity of the situation facing Uighurs in China, the U.S. should act swiftly to issue an atrocity determination. In addition to raising the profile of the human rights violations taking place, such a determination sends a clear message to the Uighur people that the U.S. government cares and will take action to preserve their fundamental rights even, and especially, when the Chinese government refuses to do so.

Olivia Enos is a Senior Policy Analyst in the Asian Studies Center, of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation.

Retailers under pressure to ban cotton from Uighur, China, after forced labor allegations

Retailers under pressure to ban cotton from Uighur, China, after forced labor allegations

Retailers under pressure to ban cotton from Uighur, China, after forced labour allegations

 
 
Sam Meadows
·4-min read
 
 
Protests against the treatment of China's Uighur Muslim community take place in India - Shutterstock
Protests against the treatment of China’s Uighur Muslim community take place in India – Shutterstock

British high street brands including John Lewis are under pressure by human rights campaigners to ban cotton picked in the part of China that is home to its oppressed Uighur population.

It came after reports revealed at least half a million Muslims are being forced to work in the fields of the Chinese region amid an ongoing anti-Muslim crackdown by Beijing that has seen people detained and put into so-called re-education camps. 

Campaigners said retailers’ existing policies do not go far enough to ensure that cotton from the region, known as Xinjiang, does not end up in the supply chain and that it seemed virtually impossible to ensure that raw materials from the region are not the product of forced labour.

Xinjiang is a major global hub for the cotton industry producing 85 per cent of China’s and 20 per cent of the world’s cotton, and relies heavily on manual labour to do so.

John Lewis would not say it would ban raw materials from the region, although its code of conduct does prohibit suppliers from using cotton gained through force labour, while Sainsbury’s said it will have moved to sustainable cotton by 2025.

Carry Somers, of Fashion Revolution, a not-for-profit organisation, said retailers should not shift responsibility onto their suppliers and that a ban on cotton from the Xinjiang region is necessary.

She said: “Whilst many brands have been quick to reassure their customers that they don’t sell clothing sewn in Xinjiang region, most of them have only a shadowy picture of where their cotton comes from.

“In order for brands and retailers to eliminate the use of forced labour such as the Uighurs and other minorities who are picking and processing the cotton for our clothes, they first must trace their entire supply chain.”

The perimeter fence of what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region - Thomas Peter/Reuters
The perimeter fence of what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region – Thomas Peter/Reuters

John Lewis said none of its products are made in the Xinjiang region. A spokesman said its production sites are independently audited and no signs of forced labour have been found to date.

She added: “We take human rights extremely seriously and regularly remind our suppliers about our Responsible Sourcing Code of Practice which states that employment must be freely chosen and this applies to the whole of our supply chain.” 

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “We do not source any own brand clothing or general merchandise products from the Xinjiang region.”

The firm said its suppliers must meet high ethical standards and are regularly required to demonstrate this and that it is working with campaigners to better understand the concerns.

Debenhams said it is investigating its supply chain and does not intend to use cotton from Xinjiang in the future. 

Other retailers including Asos and Boohoo said they require suppliers to refrain from using cotton sourced in the area.

Of 18 retailers contacted by the Telegraph, 10 did not respond to questions over their policy on raw cotton from the region.

Tamara Cincik, of Fashion Roundtable, a lobby group, said: “As someone from Muslim heritage, I take this issue very seriously and urge all brands to consider their supply chain options, moving to organic cotton manufactured by transparent and ethical farms and factories, with governmental legislation to support that business transition.”

A protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in London - Anadolu Agency
A protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in London – Anadolu Agency

Information from Chinese government documents and state media reports provide evidence that hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to pick cotton by hand in China under a Government scheme, the Center for Global Policy says. 

It alleges that in 2018, three majority-Uighur areas within Xinjiang alone mobilised at least 570,000 people to pick cotton through the scheme and recommends that companies be required to thoroughly investigate the role of Chinese cotton in their supply chains.

Cotton pickers are transferred in tightly supervised groups, and on site are watched by government officials and, at least sometimes, by police officers, the report says. 

Some areas put Uighur children and elderly people into “centralized care” while working-age adults are away picking cotton. Supervisors also administer “political indoctrination sessions” to the workers.  

Beijing denies that Uighurs’ rights are abused and says re-education centres provide vocational training to help people gain employment, and are necessary to curb extremism. 

Report on mystery illness that hit US diplomats in China and Cuba hints at man-made source, but can’t give conclusive answers

Report on mystery illness that hit US diplomats in China and Cuba hints at man-made source, but can't give conclusive answers

Report on mystery illness that hit US diplomats in China and Cuba hints at man-made source, but can’t give conclusive answers

 
 
William Langley
·4 min read
 
 

A report commissioned by the US State Department has concluded that “directed, pulse radio frequency energies” were the most likely cause of a mysterious illness that has plagued US diplomats in China and Cuba.

The condition, which was first reported by embassy staff in the Cuban capital in 2016, has prompted some US diplomats to accuse the US authorities of covering up the incident, while one of those affected in China has said he is convinced he was the victim of a targeted attack.

The report, released earlier this month by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, studied the cases of eight US and Canadian diplomatic staff suffering from the as-yet-unidentified “Havana Syndrome”.

 

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

Sufferers said symptoms started with the onset of a loud clicking noise which persisted even when they covered their ears. They then began to feel pain and pressure in the ears, dizziness and disorientation. Longer term symptoms included memory loss and anxiety.

The report found that the symptoms described by patients were “most consistent with a directed radio frequency energy attack”.

It noted that the symptoms were lessened when patients moved into separate rooms, or hid behind solid walls, suggesting that the bouts of illness “were caused by some physical force that could penetrate windows but not walls”.

It ruled out the possibility that the symptoms were the result of “mass hysteria”, chemical exposure or infectious diseases like the Zika virus, as had previously been suggested.

Although the report strongly suggests the syndrome was man-made, it does not offer any explanation as to who could be responsible.

“Havana Syndrome” has baffled sufferers and officials since reports of it first emerged in 2016.

The following year two dozen staff at the US Embassy in Cuba reported symptoms along with a number of Canadian diplomats. The same year an unknown number of staff at the US consulate in Guangzhou came down with a similar unexplained illness.

The onset of the illness in Guangzhou eventually led to the medical evacuation of several consulate staff back to the US.

Staff at the US consulate in Guangzhou fell ill in 2017. Photo: Reuters alt=Staff at the US consulate in Guangzhou fell ill in 2017. Photo: Reuters

Various former diplomatic staff members have accused the US authorities of being reluctant to investigate the cases in China. Some of them also said there was a deliberate cover-up to avoid political repercussions.

The new report, whose compilers said they did not have full access to information about the cases in China, offers few answers.

Mark Lenzi, a former diplomatic security officer and staffer at the Guangzhou consulate, told The New York Times in October that he was convinced that the US government had deliberately covered up the truth about the illness in China.

Lenzi and his wife started hearing loud noises in 2017 and suffering symptoms of concussion the following year. Convinced that he was the victim of a targeted attack, he wrote to his colleagues to warn them, for which he was officially reprimanded.

Months later, in June, Lenzi was evacuated with other consulate staff to Pennsylvania. According to the report, he later sued the Department of State for disability discrimination in their handling of his complaints.

However, the latest report said that although the immediate symptoms reported by staff in Guangzhou were similar to those of embassy staff in Cuba, “the information made available to the committee on DOS [Department of State] patients in China is too sparse and fragmentary to draw any substantive conclusions”.

A vintage car passes by the US embassy in Havana, Cuba, in 2015. Photo: Reuters alt=A vintage car passes by the US embassy in Havana, Cuba, in 2015. Photo: Reuters

The report also found that sluggishness in the initial US response to the mystery illness made it more difficult to unearth its cause.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in May 2018 that the Chinese government had investigated the cases, without discovering the cause of the illness.

“China has conducted a very careful investigation and has given preliminary findings to the US, and we haven’t found the reason or clues that led to the situation mentioned by the US,” Lu said at the time.

In recent months, speculation about China’s use of sonic weapons has been rife.

Last month, Renmin University professor Li Canrong, a specialist in US-China relations, said China had used a sonic weapon against Indian forces during their prolonged border stand-off – a claim the Indian government dismissed as “baseless” and “false”.

The US Department of State said in a statement on the latest report that certain information had been withheld for reasons of national security, but that it nonetheless welcomed the their findings. China has yet to comment since its publication.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

China urges EU to stop ‘irresponsible remarks’ after a statement on Bloomberg employee

China urges EU to stop 'irresponsible remarks' after a statement on Bloomberg employee

 
 
 

BEIJING (Reuters) -China said on Monday the European Union should stop making “irresponsible remarks” after it called for the release of all those arrested for reporting in China in a statement on a detained Chinese national working for Bloomberg News.

China’s foreign ministry said on Friday authorities had detained Haze Fan, who works for the Bloomberg bureau in Beijing, on suspicion of endangering national security.

The European Union called for authorities to grant Fan “medical assistance if needed, prompt access to a lawyer of her choice, and contacts with her family.” It also called for the immediate release of all those detained in China in connection with their reporting.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily news conference in Beijing that Fan’s legal rights and interests were guaranteed.

“China’s government protects citizens’ freedom of speech according to the law,” Wang said.

“We urge the EU side to earnestly respect China’s judicial sovereignty, and cease making irresponsible remarks.”

(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Writing by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

Trump targets ICC with sanctions after court opens war crimes investigation

Trump targets ICC with sanctions after court opens war crimes investigation

  • Administration officials to sanction court investigators
  • Barr attacks ‘long history of corruption and malfeasance’
Mike Pompeo and William Barr at a press conference Thursday.
Mike Pompeo and William Barr at a press conference on Thursday. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters
 
 in Washington
 

The Trump administration has launched an economic and legal offensive on the international criminal court in response to the court’s decision to open an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan carried out by all sides, including the US.

 

The US will not just sanction ICC officials involved in the investigation of alleged war crimes by the US and its allies, it will also impose visa restrictions on the families of those officials. Additionally, the administration declared on Thursday that it was launching a counter-investigation into the ICC, for alleged corruption.

The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, defence secretary, Mark Esper and attorney general, William Barr, gave a presentation on the decision at the state department, but then left without taking any questions.

Barr made clear that this was the beginning of a sustained campaign against the ICC, and that Thursday’s measures were just an “important first step in holding the ICC accountable for exceeding its mandate and violating the sovereignty of the United States”.

“The US government has reason to doubt the honesty of the ICC. The Department of Justice has received substantial credible information that raises serious concerns about a long history of financial corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels of the office of the prosecutor,” Barr said.

He referred to the ICC as “little more than a political tool employed by unaccountable international elites”.

The ICC responded on Thursday night with a statement expressing “profound regret at the announcement of further threats and coercive actions.”

“These attacks constitute an escalation and an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court’s judicial proceedings,” the statement said. “They are announced with the declared aim of influencing the actions of ICC officials in the context of the court’s independent and objective investigations and impartial judicial proceedings.”

“An attack on the ICC also represents an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the Court represents the last hope for justice.”

Judges at the ICC gave the green light in March to an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan, and began an investigation into crimes by Israeli and Palestinian forces in December. In his remarks, Pompeo made clear the US sanctions were also aimed at defending Israel.

“Given Israel’s robust civilian and military legal system and strong track record of investigating and prosecuting wrongdoing by military personnel, it’s clear the ICC is only putting Israel in his crosshairs for nakedly political purposes,” Pompeo said.

Human rights activists say that the Israel Defence Forces have operated with virtual impunity in the West Bank and Gaza.

The secretary of state urged other ICC members to join its campaign against the court.

“We cannot, we will not, stand by as our people are threatened by a kangaroo court,” Pompeo said, warning US allies: “Your people could be next, especially those from Nato countries who fought terrorism in Afghanistan right alongside of us.”

David Bosco, who wrote a book on the ICC, Rough Justice: The International Criminal Court in a World of Power Politics, said: “I think this is as much directed at the looming Palestine situation as it is at the Afghanistan investigation. The executive order clearly allows for sanctions against ICC personnel who investigate US allies who have not consented to the court’s jurisdiction.”

Bosco, an associate professor at Indiana University, added: “The actual effect on the court’s Afghanistan investigation will probably not be significant. That investigation faces many logistical and evidentiary obstacles already and will take years to complete.”

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, welcomed the move, describing the Hague-based court as “politicised and obsessed with carrying out a witch-hunt against Israel and the United States.”

But the Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said he was “very disturbed” by the news.

The American Civil Liberties Union condemned the decision, arguing that Trump was “playing directly into the hands of authoritarian regimes by intimidating judges and prosecutors committed to holding countries accountable for war crimes.

“Trump’s sanctions order against ICC personnel and their families – some of whom could be American citizens – is a dangerous display of his contempt for human rights and those working to uphold them. We are exploring all options in response,” the ACLU said.

The ICC was set up in 2002, as an attempt to extend the effort to impose international humanitarian law for war crimes and crimes against humanity begun by the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Over 120 countries, including Washington’s closest allies in Europe, are party to the Rome statute, the founding document of the ICC. Bill Clinton signed for the US in 2000, but said the statute would not be sent to the Senate for ratification until the US had assessed the court’s operations.

George W Bush informed the UN in 2002 that the US would not join the court.

Football star Griezmann severs ties with Huawei over Uighurs

Football star Griezmann severs ties with Huawei over Uighurs

France's Antoine Griezmann in action during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between France and Sweden in Paris, 17 November 2020IMAGE COPYRIGHTEPA

French football star Antoine Griezmann says he is ending his sponsorship deal with Huawei after claims that the Chinese telecoms firm was involved in the surveillance of Muslim Uighurs.

A recent report alleged Huawei had tested facial recognition software that could help police detect Uighurs.

Huawei has strongly denied the claims and told the BBC it was “saddened” by Griezmann’s decision.

China has faced a barrage of criticism over its treatment of the minority.

It is believed that the Chinese government has detained up to a million Uighurs in Xinjiang province in what the state defines as “re-education camps”. Beijing has consistently denied mistreatment and says the camps are designed to stamp out terrorism and improve employment opportunities.

Griezmann, 29, has been a brand ambassador for Huawei since 2017 and has featured prominently in the company’s advertising in France.

“Following strong suspicions that Huawei has contributed to the development of a ‘Uighurs alert’ through the use of facial recognition software, I am immediately ending my partnership with the company,” he said on Instagram.

In a report on Tuesday, US-based surveillance research firm IPVM said Huawei had been involved in testing facial recognition software in China that the authorities could use to detect Uighurs.

 
media caption“An electric baton to the back of the head” – a former inmate described conditions at a secret camp to the BBC

IPVM said it had obtained documents that allegedly showed Huawei tested software by Chinese firm Megvii in its video cloud system in 2018. Megvii is best known for its facial recognition algorithms.

A Huawei spokesperson told the BBC that “the language used in the document” referred to in the report was “completely unacceptable”.

“It is not compatible with the values of Huawei. Our technologies are not designed to identify ethnic groups. Non-discrimination is at the heart of our values as a company.”

On Griezmann’s post, the spokesperson said: “Huawei is obviously saddened by the decision of Mr Griezmann to end his relationship with the company.

“We would like to extend an invitation to speak to him personally, to explain the work that is currently being done at the highest level, inside the company, to address the issues of human rights, equality, and discrimination at all levels, and to reassure him, and all our customers and partners, that Huawei takes these concerns very seriously.”

China’s foreign ministry, in a statement to US business news channel CNBC, called the IPVM report “slander”.

Griezmann – a member of the France team that won the 2018 World Cup in Russia – is not the first international football star to make a stand over the treatment of Uighurs.

Earlier this year, Arsenal and ex-Germany player Mesut Özil called Uighurs “warriors who resist persecution” and criticised both China and those who remain silent in response to the alleged mistreatment.

China responded furiously, with state TV pulling an Arsenal fixture from TV schedules. Özil was also removed from a Chinese version of the Pro Evolution Soccer video game.

China is collecting the world’s DNA and the reason is sinister: Gordon Chang

China is collecting the world’s DNA and the reason is sinister: Gordon Chang

By Teny Sahakian | Fox News

Gordon Chang warns next disease could be far more deadly than COVID-19

The Peoples Republic of China (PRC) has been collecting people’s DNA for years, and according to Gordon Chang, author of ‘The Coming Collapse of China,’ the country’s sinister motivations should be of great concern to the United States.

 

With over 80 million health profiles, China has the largest DNA database in the world, and growing. In an interview with Fox News, Chang warned that China plans to use this information to create bioweapons designed to target specific ethnic groups.

“The coronavirus is not the last pathogen that will be generated from Chinese soil. And so we’ve got to be concerned that the next disease is more transmissible and more deadly than the novel coronavirus,” said Chang.

China reportedly collects the DNA of its own citizens for purposes of law enforcement, tracking down dissidents, and forming a tightly controlled surveillance state.

RATCLIFFE URGES BIDEN TO ‘BE HONEST’ ABOUT CHINA THREAT, WARNS AGAINST ‘POLITICIZING INTELLIGENCE’

They have also found ways to obtain the DNA of foreigners, including Americans.  

How exactly do they get this sensitive information?

“Buying American companies which have DNA profiles, subsidizing DNA analysis for ancestry companies, and hacking,” said Chang.

For example, in 2015 it was discovered that the PRC hacked Anthem, the second-largest insurance company in the U.S. Now the PRC is using the coronavirus to enlarge its DNA database by requiring internationally accepted QR codes for travel in and out of the country and using vaccine diplomacy.

 

“What they’re doing is they are saying: ‘We’ll get this vaccine to you but we need to complete our trials so we’re going to use your population as the test. If you don’t participate in these trials, you’re not getting the Chinese vaccines,’” said Chang.

He continued, “Beijing is trying to extend its influence by making its vaccine available.” While, at the same time, “collecting very sensitive information about people outside China.”

China currently has five coronavirus vaccine candidates that have reached phase 3 clinical trials.  The final phase of trials has been rolled out in at least 16 countries including BrazilTurkeyMorocco, and UAE.

China’s reasons for wanting this information involve dominating the biotechnology industry which “is very important to them,” said Chang.

“They included it in their ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative, he pointed out, “which is a decade long program to dominate certain industries.”

The second reason is something much more sinister, “China is probably trying to develop diseases that target not just everybody, but target only certain ethnic or racial groups.”

CHINA CONGRATULATES BIDEN, BUT FEW US POLICY CHANGES SEEN

According to Chang, genetic data gives China the ability to create bioweapons that can target certain groups of people. Furthermore, he said the country’s behavior of collecting the DNA of foreigners while prohibiting Chinese DNA to foreign researchers supports this theory.

 

“We’ve got to be extremely concerned because that is not consistent with a country that wants to cooperate with the rest of the world. That is consistent with a country developing biological weapons,” he warned.  

“People have said biological weapons don’t work. Well, we do know they work because we had the coronavirus, which may or may not have been a biological weapon,” Chang clarified, “but we do know that it crippled the United States and that’s what Beijing is really looking for.”

Now that China has had proof of concept, Chang urged the United States to act swiftly and prevent the superpower from obtaining any more American DNA.

“We should not allow any Chinese or Chinese affiliated organization to test DNA of Americans. And we’ve got to say to China, either you agree to an inspections regime or we’re pulling out of the biological weapons convention.”

China has denied allegations that the coronavirus pandemic, which some believe emerged from a government lab in Wuhan, was a biological weapon. In 1984 the PRC signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) treaty in 1984 which prohibits them from developing, producing or stockpiling biological or toxin weapons.

Biden’s incoming national security aide ‘deeply concerned’ about Hong Kong crackdown

Biden's incoming national security aide 'deeply concerned' about Hong Kong crackdown

 
 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday he was “deeply concerned” about the continuing arrests and the imprisonment of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong police arrested eight more activists on Tuesday over an anti-government protest in July, the latest move by authorities in a relentless crackdown on opposition forces in the Chinese-ruled, Asian financial hub.

“We stand united with our allies and partners against China’s assault on Hong Kong’s freedoms – and to help those persecuted find safe haven,” Sullivan said on Twitter.

 

Democracy activists say conditions have worsened in the former British colony since China imposed security legislation in June, making anything Beijing regards as subversion, secession, terrorism or colluding with foreign forces punishable by up to life in prison.

China’s new law have raised alarm in the West. The United States has imposed a series of sanctions on senior officials from Hong Kong and China deemed responsible for Beijing’s crackdown in the territory.

The latest such move was on Monday, when Washington imposed financial sanctions and a travel ban on 14 Chinese officials. In response, China summoned the acting top U.S. diplomat in Beijing on Tuesday and vowed to take “reciprocal” retaliation.

Hong Kong is expected to be one of Biden’s thorniest challenges with China, which will be high on his foreign policy agenda with relations between Washington and Beijing at the lowest point in decades over an array of disputes.

Biden has promised to take a tougher line than President Donald Trump over human rights in China and other countries, so his response to the clampdown in Hong Kong could be an early test of that resolve.

China, which promised Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy under its handover agreement with Britain in 1997, denies curbing rights and freedoms in the city, and has condemned U.S. sanctions as interference in China’s internal affairs.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Jonathan Landay; Editing by Leslie Adler and Mark Heinrich)

Big data ‘turbocharged’ repression in China’s Xinjiang: rights group

Big data 'turbocharged' repression in China's Xinjiang: rights group

 
 

Muslims in China’s Xinjiang were “arbitrarily” selected for arrest by a computer programme that flagged suspicious behaviour, activists said Wednesday, in a report detailing big data’s role in repression in the restive region.

The US-based NGO Human Rights Watch said leaked police data that listed over 2,000 detainees from the Aksu prefecture was further evidence of “how China’s brutal repression of Xinjiang’s Turkic Muslims is being turbocharged by technology.”

Beijing has come under intense international criticism over its policies in the resource-rich territory, where rights groups say as many as one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been held in internment camps.

 

China defends the facilities as vocational training centres aimed at stamping out terrorism and improving employment opportunities.

Surveillance spending in Xinjiang has ballooned in recent years, with facial recognition, iris scanners, DNA collection and artificial intelligence deployed across the province in the name of preventing terrorism.

HRW said it had obtained the list — which detailed detentions from mid-2016 to late 2018 — from an anonymous source that had previously provided audiovisual content taken from inside a facility in Aksu.

The group gave an example of a “Mrs T” — detained for “links with sensitive countries” who was listed as having received a number of calls from a foreign number which belonged to her sister.

Researchers at the NGO spoke to the woman and learned that police had interrogated her sister in Xinjiang, but she has had no direct contact with her family in the province since.

– ‘Uighur alarm’ –

The people were flagged using a programme called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform, which collected data from surveillance systems in Xinjiang, before officials decided whether to send them to camps, according to HRW.

The group said its research suggests the “vast majority” of people were flagged to authorities for legal behaviour, including phone calls to relatives abroad, having no fixed address or switching off their phone repeatedly.

Only around 10 percent of the people on the list were detained for terrorism or extremism.

The list, parts of which were shown to AFP, described the reason for detention of many of the people as simply being “flagged” by the integrated platform.

The rights group has not published the full contents of the list, citing safety concerns for the person who had leaked it.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Wednesday accused Human Rights Watch of “stirring up trouble”, saying the report was “not worth refuting.”

The local Aksu government, as well as Xinjiang’s regional authorities, did not immediately respond to AFP’s requests for comment.

Separately, US-based surveillance research firm IPVM said in a report Tuesday that Chinese telecoms giant Huawei had been involved in testing facial recognition software that could send alerts to police when it recognised Uighur minorities’ faces.

An internal Huawei report cited by IPVM — which has been removed from the company’s website but is still visible in Google searches — showed the software as passing tests for “Uighur alerts” and “recognition based on age, sex, ethnicity, angle of facial images.”

Huawei said Wednesday that the programme “has not seen real-world application,” and that the company “only supplies general-purpose products for this kind of testing.”

Police list gives insight into the detention system in China’s Xinjiang – group

Police list gives insight into detention system in China's Xinjiang - group

 
 

BEIJING (Reuters) – A leaked list of more than 2,000 ethnic Uighur detainees in China’s Xinjiang suggests the government used an expansive data collection project to arbitrarily detain Uighurs in the region, according to U.S. rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The list from Xinjiang’s Aksu prefecture, obtained by HRW, is of detainees flagged by a Chinese predictive policing programme, called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP), which collects data and identifies candidates for detention.

The list from 2018 includes the names of Xinjiang Uighurs, phone numbers and reasons for detention in China’s camp system, including studying the Koran, wearing religious clothing or travelling internationally.

 

“The Aksu list is the first time we have seen the IJOP in action in detaining people,” said HRW’s Maya Wang.

It “provides further insights into how China’s brutal repression of Xinjiang’s Turkic Muslims is being turbocharged by technology”, she said.

Human Rights Watch did not identify the source of the list, citing the person’s safety. Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the list.

Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.N. experts and advocates say at least a million ethnic Uighurs, who are mostly Muslim and speak a Turkic language, have been detained at some point in Xinjiang camps.

China maintains that the heavily guarded centres are educational and vocational institutes, and that all the people who attended have “graduated” and gone home. Access to the camps is restricted and it is not possible to independently verify whether all the camps have closed.

Human Rights Watch said it was able to confirm the identities of people on the list with Uighurs now living abroad, including the identification of 18 members of the same family.

The rights group said the list is further evidence that the government selected Xinjiang Uighurs for detention based on religion, personal relationships, contact with overseas relatives and even age.

Other reasons for detention listed include activities like repeatedly switching off a smartphone, having “unstable thoughts” or “being generally untrustworthy”.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Robert Birsel)