Philip Lenczycki on February 17, 2022
Eight countries and hundreds of human rights organizations have condemned China for committing human rights violations against minorities.
Yet NBC’s coverage of the 2022 Winter Olympics has minimized the Uyghur genocide, despite 200 human rights organizations and eight governmental bodies, including Canada, the U.S., Holland, the U.K., Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Belgium, and France, declaring that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has committed atrocities against ethnic Uyghurs and other minority groups.
Critics argue the equivocations made by NBC, which owns the rights to broadcast the Olympics in the U.S. until 2032, do not mitigate the network’s culpability in willingly serving as a conduit for PRC propaganda, citing NBC’s conflict of interest in attracting viewers, and claiming comments by broadcasters hedged China’s human rights abuses.
NBC drew ire during the opening ceremony when broadcaster Andrew Browne framed the Belt and Road Initiative — or what many experts deem “neo-colonialism” and “debt trap” diplomacy — as merely an example of the PRC styling “itself as a champion of the developing world.” Critics also took offense with the fence-sitting of NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, who received blowback for labeling the lighting of the Olympic cauldron by PRC Olympic athlete and Uyghur, Dinigeer Yilamujiang, “provocative” and an “in-your-face response” to the West’s accusations of genocide.
The leaked documents, satellite imagery, investigative footage, studies, commissions, reports, bills, and tribunals detailed below provides the evidence used in establishing the PRC’s guilt in inflicting crimes against humanity and genocide upon Uyghurs and other minority groups. Here’s the timeline of how China’s genocide went from from unthinkable to undeniable.
Who Are The Uyghurs?
Why Has The PRC Been Accused Of Committing Crimes Against Humanity And Genocide?
Following years of instability resulting from ethnic tension, political violence, and Islamic terrorism, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping appointed the man who engineered Tibet’s crackdown, Chen Quanguo, as party secretary of Xinjiang in August 2016. The resulting repression has moved a growing number of governments and human rights organizations to declare that crimes against humanity and genocide are occurring in Xinjiang.
What Are Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide?
The United Nations definition of “crimes against humanity” is satisfied when acts such as “murder,” “enslavement,” “rape,” and “torture” are committed “as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”
While “Genocide” is defined as actions committed “with intent to destroy” in whole or part “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,” including “killing,” as well as actions which “prevent births.”
How Has The PRC Inflicted Crimes Against Humanity And Genocide?
Records from satellite imagery reveal that sometime around 2016 the PRC began sprawling construction projects across Xinjiang. Analysis conducted by the Rand Corporation and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute suggests that 380 detention facilities are currently in operation.
By early 2017, compulsory population registration had been initiated in Xinjiang, as well as legislation banning veils, “abnormal beards,” and the naming of newborns with Muslim names such as “Muhammad.”
These government actions were, in turn, followed by the implementation of facial and voice pattern recognition software, smartphone tracking, and DNA collection, which experts claim was done in order to construct a vast surveillance system punctuated by omnipresent biometric checkpoints.
Throughout 2017, the PRC engaged in the mass arrests of Uyghur men of reproductive age, with a PRC white paper which was cited within a 2020 State Department report claiming that 1.29 million persons each year between 2014 and 2019 received what the PRC white paper euphemistically calls “vocational training” in Xinjiang, but what the State Department deems “forced disappearance, political indoctrination, torture, physical and psychological abuse, including forced sterilization and sexual abuse, forced labor, and prolonged detention without trial because of their religion and ethnicity.”
While Uyghur men were targeted for detention, the PRC also continued the enforcement of the 2014 Pair Up And Become Family program, which requires Uyghur homes to lodge CCP members. The Pair Up And Become Family program has resulted in rampant sexual assault upon Uyghur women, according to the State Department.
The deliberate separation of Uyghur men from women, the fundamental viability of the Uyghur family was further imperiled by policies directed against Uyghur reproduction itself, with a PRC plan to impose forced sterilizations, abortions, and the compelled implantation of intrauterine devices being devised as early as 2014.
“Re-Education Camps” And Blanket Denials
What may be the first instance of a PRC official addressing the existence of the “re-education camps” came on Feb. 7, 2018.
According to a report from Radio Free Asia, when asked for comment on the “political re-education camps for Uyghurs in Xinjiang,” the consul general of the PRC in the Kazakhstan city of Almaty, Zhang Wei, answered, “We don’t have such a concept.”
The First Claims Of “Genocide” And “Ethnic Cleansing”
Salih Hudayar, a Uyghur rights activist who was elected to the position of prime minister for the unrecognized East Turkistan Government-in-Exile, along with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, are among the first political Americans to accuse the PRC of genocide or its equivalent.
Two months later, in an Aug. 3 tweet, Rubio stated “China” was “carrying out an ethnic cleansing campaign.”
“Training Centers” And Potemkin Prisons
Speaking to a United Nations panel on Aug. 13, 2018, PRC United Front Work Department spokesman Hu Lianhe responded to the reports of concentration camps by calling them “completely untrue” adding “Xinjiang citizens, including the Uyghurs, enjoy equal freedoms and rights.”
However, Hu said criminals convicted of “minor offenses” were being held in “vocational, educational, and employment training centers with a view to assisting in their rehabilitation,” but was quick to add prisoners were “not subject to any arbitrary detention or ill treatment there.”
Seeking to lend credence to the PRC narrative of “vocational training centers,” state-run CCTV released a Chinese-language report showing jubilant Uyghur prisoners on Oct. 16, 2018.
In the footage, prisoners learn to read, write, and speak Mandarin and study law for the stated reason of increasing “awareness” of their “citizenship.”
The video goes on to show prisoners training in vocational skills, such as sewing and carpentry and also includes footage in which prisoners sing and dance.
“Organ Harvesting,” “Torture,” And “Crimes Against Humanity”
On June 17, 2019, the China Tribunal, a non-governmental investigation with the stated purpose of examining “forced organ harvesting” in China, determined the PRC to be guilty of inflicting “torture” and “crimes against humanity” upon Uyghur and Falun Gong prisoners of conscience.
The China Tribunal judged that the CCP conducted between 840,000 and 1,260,000 organ transplants during the 14 years which followed the 1999 crackdown on Falun Gong.
During a press conference on July 30, 2019, the mayor of Urumqi, Shohrat Zakir, heralded the success of the “education and cultivation centers,” claiming “most of the graduates from the vocational training centers have been reintegrated into society.”
Department of Commerce Blacklists Chinese Entities
The Department of Commerce added “twenty-eight entities to the Entity List” on Oct. 7, 2019.
The determination was made according to the “reasonable cause to believe, based on specific and articulable facts, that they have been involved, are involved, or pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”
Among the twenty-eight blacklisted entities were Chinese artificial intelligence firms Yitu, Sense Time, and Megvii, as well as multiple public security bureaus. The vast majority of the blacklisted entities were located in Xinjiang.
The Xinjiang Papers, China Cables, and The Karakax List
On Nov. 16, 2019, the New York Times released the Xinjiang Papers, a collection of several hundred leaked internal CCP documents dating back to 2014, which detailed how the party’s top officials orchestrated the Uyghur crackdown.
Within the leaked documents, Muslim Uyghurs are referred to as a “virus” and “addicts” who are “infected” with religious and ideological “symptoms.”
The PRC Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geng Shuang, responded to the Xinjiang Papers on Nov. 18, saying the New York Times was “completely deaf and blind” to the facts and called the report a “clumsy patchwork and distortion.”
Geng maintained prisoners were merely engaged in “vocational, education, and training work” and said “China will show no mercy to violent radicals and terrorists, and will spare no effort to protect people’s life and safety.”
Unbeknownst to the public in 2019, the New York Times had neglected to release all the Xinjiang Papers. It wouldn’t be until Nov. 27, 2021 that the public would receive the withheld documents.
Little more than a week after the release of the Xinjiang Papers, additional leaked CCP documents known as the China Cables were published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on Nov. 24, 2019.
The China Cables revealed details on mass surveillance in Xinjiang, as well as standard procedures for operating the “education and cultivation centers,” including directives stipulating the indoctrination of prisoners with Mandarin, law, and “ideological education.”
Then, on Feb. 17, 2020, leaked documents known as The Karakax List were published, which included a list of detainees, as well as the CCP’s reason for their detention.
Imprisonable offenses included “birth policy violation,” “applying for a passport,” “wearing a veil,” “international travel,” being “related to someone outside the country,” “overseas communication,” and having a “beard.”
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute released a study on March 1, 2020, detailing how “80,000 Uyghur workers were transferred out of Xinjiang between 2017 and 2019” and named major multinational corporations as the direct beneficiaries of their forced labor.
Among the many companies listed were household names such as: Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, Amazon, Apple, BMW, Calvin Klein, Dell, Gap, General Motors, Google, H&M, HP, Jaguar, L.L.Bean, Lacoste, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, Nike, Nintendo, Nokia, Oculus, Panasonic, Polo Ralph Lauren, Puma, Samsung, Siemens, Skechers, Sony, Tommy Hilfiger, Toshiba, Victoria’s Secret, Volkswagen, and Zara.
Hot on the heels of the Australian study came a report from the Congressional Executive Commission on China on March 11, 2020, which listed Coca-Cola, Campbell Soup, Costco, Patagonia, Kraft Heinz, and others as also having ties to forced labor in Xinjiang.
As it would turn out, Coca-Cola, along with Airbnb, Intel, Procter & Gamble, Visa, and Snickers, are official sponsors of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
On the same day the Congressional Executive Commission on China’s report was released, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act passed in the House of Representatives.
In addition to determining “forced labor” existed within Xinjiang’s “internment camps,” the bill sought to make a “determination relating to crimes against humanity or genocide in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”
Governments And Major Uyghur Rights Groups Remain Agnostic
Late May and June 2020 saw the release of the United State Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China, the State Department’s Report on International Religious Freedom, as well as the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, yet none of the documents explicitly mention “genocide.”
Even major Uyghur rights group, such as Uyghur Human Rights Project and World Uyghur Congress, refrained from using the word “genocide” at this time, as shown by an event held on July 5, 2020, billed to address “systematic assimilation” and “cultural genocide.”
Accusations Of “Genocide” Grow
In contrast, on July 6, 2020, the day after other major Uyghur rights groups held their event, the East Turkistan Government-in-Exile delivered what would become the first of three “dossiers” to the International Criminal Court, calling upon the body to explicitly investigate the PRC for “genocide.”
To date the International Criminal Court has refrained from taking up the case citing the need for more evidence.
On July 8, 2020, within the same week in which the East Turkistan Government-in-Exile delivered the first dossier to the International Criminal Court, in a tweet Republican Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida labeled the situation in Xinjiang “genocide,” citing “brainwash, torture, rape” and sterilization.
Yoho added that the PRC “should not be allowed to host the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing.”
On Aug. 25, 2020, Biden campaign spokesman, Andrew Bates, followed suit, calling “the unspeakable oppression that Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities” suffered “genocide,” which “Joe Biden stands against in the strongest terms.”
Momentum continued to grow throughout the rest of 2020, with the Republican-comprised China Task Force citing the suppression of birth rates due to forced sterilization and birth control as constituting genocide.
Therefore, in a September report, the China Task Force recommended the Department of State should consider designating the CCP’s actions as such.
The PRC has destroyed burial grounds across Xinjiang. [YouTube/Screenshot/SkyNews]
The First Governmental Body Recognizes The Uyghur Genocide
On Oct. 21, 2020, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of Canada became the first governmental body to formally recognize the Uyghur genocide.
Thereafter, the United States inched closer to recognition with the Dec. 23 Congressional-Executive Commission on China Annual Report, which declared the “Chinese government is committing crimes against humanity and possibly genocide,” as well as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Withhold Release Order from Jan. 13, 2021, which prohibited the importation to America of products resulting from “slave labor” produced in Xinjiang, such as “apparel, textiles, tomato seeds, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and other goods made with cotton and tomatoes.”
Bi-Partisan Agreement On Uyghur Genocide
Bipartisan agreement on the Uyghur genocide finally materialized on January 19, 2021.
In a press statement, the State Department cited the “exhaustive documentation of the PRC’s actions in Xinjiang” as confirmation that “since at least March 2017” the CCP “committed crimes against humanity” and “genocide,” including the “arbitrary imprisonment” of “more than one million civilians,” “forced sterilization,” “torture,” “forced labor,” and restrictions on “freedom of religion,” “freedom of expression,” and “freedom of movement,” which the statement identified as being the same crimes for which the Nazis were prosecuted during the Nuremberg Tribunals held after World War II between 1945 and 1946.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also tweeted out his personal support for the State Department’s determination.
On the same day, Senate confirmation hearings were held for both Antony Blinken and Janet Yellen, with Blinken calling the situation “genocide” and Yellen saying China was guilty of “horrendous human rights abuses.”
A self-proclaimed former member of Chinese security forces told CNN he was ordered to “arrest and torture” Uyghur prisoners during an October 2021 interview. [YouTube/Screenshot/CNNArabic]
Global Governments Begin To Reach Consensus On The Crimes Of The PRC
Following bi-partisan acknowledgment of the Uyghur genocide in the United States, in relatively quick succession five foreign governments recognized the PRC’s commission of “crimes against humanity,” “genocide,” or both.
- Feb. 25, 2021, Dutch Parliament “genocide”
- April 22, 2021, British House of Commons “genocide”
- May 20, 2021, Lithuanian Parliament “crimes against humanity”
- June 14, 2021, Czech Senate “genocide”
- June 15, 2021, Belgian Parliament “crimes against humanity…serious risk of genocide”
The French Parliament would join this group on Jan. 22, 2022, citing “crimes against humanity and genocide.”
Final Run-Up To The Olympics
During the final months leading up to the 2022 Winter Olympics, consensus on the PRC’s culpability continued to coalesce.
June saw the Department of Homeland Security issue a ban on silica from Xinjiang, while, in September, more than 200 human rights groups petitioned broadcasters, such as NBC, to skip their coverage of the Olympics.
Following President Biden’s virtual summit with Xi Jinping on Nov. 16, 2021, Biden announced the diplomatic boycott of the Olympics, but merely weeks later it was learned that 18 American officials would also be attending.
The year closed out with the judgment of the Uyghur Tribunal, a non-governmental body tasked with impartially investigating the PRC’s culpability, finding the CCP to be guilty of committing genocide, President Joe Biden’s signing of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act banning the United States from importing goods produced in Xinjiang, and, going full circle, the replacement of the party secretary of Xinjiang, Chen Quanguo.
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