In a resolute statement issued today, Geneva Council strongly condemns the unrelenting crimes against humanity committed against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China.
The alarming situation has been further exacerbated by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent declaration of continued counterterrorism policies in Xinjiang, which indicates a distressing continuity of severe rights violations in the region. This declaration comes precisely one year after the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a damning report, concluding that the Chinese government’s actions may constitute crimes against humanity.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk acknowledged the need for concrete follow-up on the report’s findings earlier this year. However, there has been a concerning lack of progress in briefing the UN Human Rights Council on the report or sharing updates on ongoing monitoring efforts in Xinjiang.
Geneva Council firmly echoes the concerns raised by the international community and human rights advocates regarding these egregious violations. We stand alongside individuals and organizations worldwide in condemning these atrocities.
In a recent speech delivered in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, President Xi reiterated support for China’s Xinjiang policies. This includes the consolidation of social stability, control over public views on ethnicity, history, and religion, and the promotion of a united Chinese nation.
Since 2017, the Chinese government has implemented a systematic campaign targeting Uyghurs and Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang. This campaign has included mass arbitrary detentions, torture, enforced disappearances, mass surveillance, cultural and religious persecution, family separations, forced labor, sexual violence, and reproductive rights violations. These actions have been widely recognized as constituting crimes against humanity.
Despite the 2022 UN report, there has been minimal change in Beijing’s approach to Xinjiang. While some “political re-education” camps may have closed, there have been no mass releases from prisons where hundreds of thousands of Turkic Muslims remain detained. Uyghurs living abroad continue to have limited or no contact with their detained or disappeared family members.
Foreign governments have taken various measures to condemn China’s actions in Xinjiang, including imposing targeted sanctions on Chinese officials, agencies, and companies implicated in human rights violations. Yet, a group of countries’ attempt to include the Xinjiang situation on the UN Human Rights Council’s formal agenda for discussion was narrowly defeated by Beijing and its allies, underscoring the need for greater international scrutiny.
In light of the gravity of the abuses in Xinjiang, Geneva Council calls on concerned governments to take swift and coordinated action. We urge governments to:
- Advocate for the adoption of a UN resolution to establish an investigative mechanism tasked with probing alleged violations in Xinjiang, identifying responsible parties, and offering recommendations for accountability.
- Enhance efforts to document the number and identities of those detained, imprisoned, and forcibly disappeared in Xinjiang and work toward reuniting families.
- Impose targeted sanctions on Chinese officials implicated in serious abuses in Xinjiang.
- Consider pursuing criminal cases under the concept of “universal jurisdiction” to investigate and prosecute grave crimes, such as torture, even if they occurred outside their territory.
UN rights chief Volker Türk should provide updates to the UN Human Rights Council on the Xinjiang situation, following up on his office’s recommendations and presenting an action plan for accountability. We call on Türk to lead an initiative, possibly in collaboration with special procedures mandate holders and governments with Uyghur diaspora populations, to assist victims and their families in tracing missing persons.
Geneva Council emphasizes that governments and the UN must seize the opportunity presented by the anniversary of the Xinjiang report to send a clear message that Beijing will be held accountable for grave international crimes. We urge them to announce a range of measures aimed at compelling the Chinese government to improve the lives of the long-suffering Uyghurs.