Some 55 Uyghur organizations have called on world leaders to recognize Dec. 9 as Uyghur Genocide Recognition Day, marking the day a year ago that an independent U.K.-based Uyghur Tribunal announced its findings that China committed genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in its western Xinjiang region
The tribunal held in London based its verdict on testimony from dozens of witnesses, including formerly jailed Uyghurs and other locals, as well as legal and academic experts on China’s actions in Xinjiang.
Though the tribunal’s decision was not binding because the panel had no state backing or power to sanction China, its conclusion added to the growing body of evidence that China’s persecution of Uyghurs constituted a crime against humanity that merited an international response.
The groups from 20 countries urged global leaders to take immediate action to end the Chinese government’s human rights atrocities against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs, which the United States and several Western parliaments have declared as constituting crimes against humanity and genocide.
“On Dec. 9, 2021, after 18 months of investigations, and reading through hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and holding hearings from witnesses, the Uyghur Tribunal declared that China’s crimes in East Turkestan as genocide,” said Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, or WUC, using Uyghurs’ preferred name for Xinjiang.
“[B]y declaring this day as Uyghur Genocide Recognition Day, we want to draw the international community’s attention to this ongoing genocide,” he said. “By commemorating the day, we want to mobilize countries, peoples and international organizations to stop the genocide.”
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, or OHCHR, issued a report in late August that documented widespread abuses, including torture, arbitrary arrests, forced abortions, and violations of religious freedom, and concluded that the repression in Xinjiang “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
Human Rights Council rejection
But in October, China and its allies on the U.N. Human Rights Council narrowly rejected a proposal by the United States to hold debate on the report’s findings.
Uyghur groups decried the move and what they said was China’s disregard for the U.N. human rights system. They called for governments to take action to introduce forced labor regulations, impose targeted sanctions, and increase their support for Uyghur refugees.
WUC, the Uyghur Human Rights Project and the Uyghur American Association cosponsored a Uyghur Genocide Recognition Day press conference at the National Press Club in Washington on Thursday.
Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland tweeted a video in which he said, “On Uyghur Genocide Recognition Day, we must continue to speak out against the gross human rights violations committed by the Chinese government. I call upon China to immediately cease its cruel genocide of Uyghurs and allow for the free expression of religion.”
In October 2020, Cardin co-sponsored a bipartisan resolution to designate the human rights abuses occurring in Xinjiang as genocide.
Translated by RFA Uyghur. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin. Edited by Malcolm Foster.