The treatment of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region has increased concerns over the risk of widespread and systematic human rights abuses and violations in China. The government’s approach to combatting religious extremism has resulted in the arbitrary detention of up to one million Uighurs, severe restrictions on religious practice, and pervasive surveillance and control of the entire Muslim population of Xinjiang.
A new joint policy brief by the Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect asserts that these policies may constitute crimes against humanity under international law. The policy brief provides an overview of China’s response to growing international pressure to halt the persecution of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region and offers recommendations on how to comprehensively address these issues.
The policy brief calls upon the government of China to:
1. Immediately halt widespread violations of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms in XUAR, including arbitrarily depriving Turkic Muslims of their liberties. China must uphold its primary responsibility to protect all its populations, regardless of religious belief or ethnic identity.
2. Repeal the Regulation on De-extremification, as called for by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.
3. Respond favourably to the requests of the above UN special procedures mandate holders to undertake an official visit to China, and accept technical assistance and advice to ensure that China’s national security, counter-terrorism or counter-extremism laws and practices adhere to China’s obligations under international law, including the defendant’s right to due process, legal counsel of choice, timely notification of families, and fair and public trials by an independent court.
4. Ensure an impartial and credible investigation of allegations of abuse, torture and ill-treatment of persons held in detention in Xinjiang and implement appropriate measures to ensure justice and compensation for victims.
The policy brief calls upon the international community to:
1. Should urge Chinese authorities to take immediate action to uphold universal human rights and fundamental freedoms in Xinjiang. Specifically:
• OHCHR and special procedures mandate holders should continue to call for the immediate release of persons involuntarily held in detention without due process, and closely monitor the situation in Xinjiang.
• The Human Rights Council should continue to urge China to uphold the human rights of all Turkic Muslims and accept independent UN observers in Xinjiang.
• The UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect should closely monitor the situation in Xinjiang and alert the UN Secretary-General regarding the commission of potential crimes against humanity.
2. Recognising the important diplomatic influence they wield, Muslim-majority countries, as well as neighbouring states, should urge China to respect the right of all Turkic Muslims to freedom of religious observance and cultural expression, and call for an end to the mass detention and “re- education” programs.
3. UN member states and international civil society organizations should continue to raise awareness and visibility of the treatment of Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang and advocate for an end to all violations of their universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.