The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), a U.S. congressional advisory panel, said in its annual report released on Wednesday, January 08, China’s system of extrajudicial internment camps for Uyghurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) last year may meet the definition of “crimes against humanity.”
In its 2019 reporting year, covering the period from August 2018 to August 2019, the CECC detailed severe rights abuses in the XUAR’s camp system, where authorities are believed to have held some 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities since April 2017.
“Security personnel at the camps subjected detainees to torture, including beatings; electric shocks; waterboarding; medical neglect; forced ingestion of medication; sleep deprivation; extended solitary confinement; and handcuffing or shackling for prolonged periods,” the report said.
It also detailed China’s increasingly heavy handed policy in Hong Kong which encroaches on the city’s promised autonomy.
The report said that China’s arbitrary detention of Uyghur, Kazakh, and other ethnic minorities in mass internment camps; the torture of detainees in the camps; the targeting of specific minority groups; and forced disappearances of hundreds of intellectuals meet definitions laid out in Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which lists acts that may constitute “crimes against humanity.”
“Scholars and rights groups provided a strong argument, based on available evidence, that the ‘crimes against humanity’ framework may apply to the case of mass internment camps in the XUAR,” the report said.
While Beijing initially denied the existence of the camps, China last year changed tack and began describing the facilities as “boarding schools” that provide vocational training for Uyghurs, discourage radicalization, and help protect the country from terrorism.
In Hong Kong, CECC said it had observed a rollback on freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” framework as the local government sought to advance changes to the territory’s extradition law to allow the surrender of individuals to mainland China without a vetting process in the legislature.
“Chinese government influence over the territory, and Hong Kong officials’ willingness to conform to the interests of the Chinese government, continued a trend of decreased autonomy observed over the past several years,” the report said.
“This trend has implications for both the protection of the rights and freedom of the people of Hong Kong and for the future of U.S. policy towards Hong Kong, which is based on the territory’s continuing autonomy.”
The CECC also noted the deterioration of human rights and rule of law in mainland China in 2019, including the aggressive targeting of unregistered Christian churches, an expanded crackdown on labor advocates and citizen journalists, and a general trend of rising authoritarianism in the country under President Xi Jinping.
Wednesday’s report was released days after U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the CECC’s co-chair, urged Congress to pass the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act which he introduced last year, saying that human rights issues should not be ignored as the U.S. and China move towards signing a deal to defuse ongoing trade tensions, expected next week.
“I will never accept the notion that somehow, in order to be able to sell them more things, we have to look the other way on some of the grotesque human rights violations that we’re seeing systemized on their part,” Rubio, who also sponsored the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, told CBS News in an interview on Sunday.
The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate both passed versions of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act in late 2019 that must be reconciled before it can be passed through Congress and sent to U.S. President Donald Trump to be signed into law. (Source: RFA)