Four US lawmakers led a group of international parliamentarians in calling on the United Nations for an inquiry into the alleged rights abuses against the Uyghurs in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
In a letter to UN General Secretary António Guterres dated Nov. 16, Representatives Ted Yoho and Tom Malinowski and Senators Rick Scott and Jeff Merkley have asked to appoint an expert to probe into the “growing human rights crisis” in the region, as well as to hold a special session of the Human Rights Council.
They also called for the appointment of a Special Envoy, Special Rapporteur, or other mechanism to spearhead the investigation.
Parliamentarians from Australia, Canada, the European Union, Italy, and Switzerland—who along with the Congressmen are members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC)—also signed the letter calling for a probe into China’s policies in the XUAR.
Authorities in the region are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since early 2017.
In addition to the campaign of mass incarceration, the letter cited testimonies of victims of ethnic persecution in the XUAR that detailed “widespread government-led efforts to suppress religious identity and expression,” as well as evidence that Uyghur women have been sterilized under threat of punishment, which could include being sent to the camps.
The letter also referred to reports that the Chinese government uses diplomats, officials, and other proxies in IPAC nations to spy on and track down Uyghurs residing abroad, refuses to renew travel documents for Uyghur citizens overseas, putting them at risk of deportation, and seeks to silence Uyghurs in other countries by harassing and detaining their family members back home.
“The abuse of the Uyghur population at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party has been ignored for far too long,” said Yoho, who is the ranking member of the House Asia Subcommittee.
“In order to properly investigate accusations of cultural genocide, forced labour, rape and forced sterilizations the international community must work together in holding the perpetrators responsible.”
Malinowski called the Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghurs “today’s greatest human rights crisis” and said that by activating a formal investigation of the situation, “the Secretary General can show that the U.N.’s principles are stronger than the Chinese government’s influence.”
Merkley, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and commissioner of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), called the situation in the XUAR “nothing short of genocide.”
“Partners of freedom and humanity around the world have a grave responsibility to come together and use every lever at our disposal to demand justice in Xinjiang—including a thorough United Nations investigation, unfettered access to Xinjiang for human rights monitors, and decisive action from the UN Human Rights Council,” he said.
Scott expressed frustration that the UN Human Rights Council has done little to address violations in the region.
“I am proud to join my colleagues to call on the UN to take immediate and forceful action to expose and condemn Communist China’s despicable human rights abuses,” he said.
Nury Turkel, a commissioner on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent U.S. federal government body, welcomed the bipartisan congressional effort and “growing international call” for the UN to appoint an independent expert and to hold a special Human Rights Council session.
“The U.N. has failed to fulfil its obligation under its mandate to protect the human rights of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the face of China’s genocidal policies,” he said.
“We call on the UN Secretary General to speak publicly against atrocities against the Uyghurs. His silence sends the wrong message to perpetrators of human rights abuses around the world.”
Monday’s letter came as more than 20 British and EU Members of Parliament, who are also IPAC members, issued a missive to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, urging him to examine whether the UK should level sanctions against the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp (XPCC)—a key paramilitary group in the XUAR—the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, and several Chinese officials deemed complicit in rights abuses in the region. (Source: RFA)