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Why we cannot ignore China’s ethnic cleansing

China’s ethnic cleansing of Uyghur Muslims is a human rights catastrophe that we should be paying closer attention to. More than one million Uyghur Muslims in China’s north-western Xinjiang province are being systemically targeted, tortured, and arbitrarily detained. Their only crime is being Muslim. This is not something we should turn a blind eye to, nor should China escape justice. We must begin with ending impunity for the horrific human rights violations that are occurring right before us, and do everything we can to hold China accountable.

Uyghur Muslims are one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognised by the Chinese government. The Uyghur community in China are a large percentage of the Xinjiang province, an officially autonomous region, where they make up 45% of the population.

They are being persecuted in “re-education camps,” where they are forced to abandon their religion and language. Men, women, and children, are forced to renounce Islam, sing praises for the Chinese Communist Party and learn Mandarin. The Chinese government is coercing Uyghur women to take birth control as part of a campaign to curb its Muslim population. Women have shared harrowing stories of sexual abuse with some saying they were forced to undergo abortions or have contraceptive devices implanted against their will.

Over one million Uyghurs placed in re-education camps are suffering ethnic cleansing, which has not been defined and is not recognised as a crime under international law, according to the United Nations.

Uyghur human rights advocate Nury Turkel joined IOHR to discuss the modern-day genocide against Uyghur Muslims:

“This should shock the conscious when any government, any authority, political leader criminal an ethnic group based on ethnicity, religious practices. For the Chinese government, Uyghur Islam is a mental illness. For the Chinese government, Uyghur’s sense of appreciating their cultural values is a cancerous tumour.”


The Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimates that since 2017, 80,0000 Uyghurs have been sent to factories throughout China linked to 83 global brands – including Nike, BMW, H&M,, and Apple. There is evidence that factories across China are using forced Uyghur labour. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre reached out to a number of companies implicated in abusive forced labour programs.

Amazon responded:

“The human rights abuses alleged in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), including the export of forced labour to other regions, are alarming and require a strong and coordinated response from governments and the business community. These practices are not tolerated by Amazon and do not align with how we do business. Amazon is strongly committed to conducting our business in a lawful and ethical manner, including engaging with suppliers who respect human rights, provide safe and inclusive workplaces, and promote a sustainable future.”


No one should be forced against their will to abandon their families, their culture, and their life. As if this wasn’t enough, they are then exploited by some of the world’s most valuable global brands, who despite the evidence of human rights violations, continue to source their goods through a state-sponsored system of detention and forced labour. To put this into perspective, it is estimated that as many as one in five cotton products sold across the world are tainted with human rights violations and forced labour occurring in Xinjiang’s forced labour camps.

Last year, the International Observatory of Human Rights published “An Unanswered Telephone Call: A Personal Story of Uyghur persecution in China” written by Aziz Isa Elkun, Secretary of Uyghur Pen Centre. He lives in exile in London and he was refused a visa to go to his fathers’ funeral and has not been able to speak or communicate with his mother or any of his other relatives who are still in Xinjiang. Aziz told IOHR:

“There is no doubt that many forms of genocide are taking place in Uyghurs’ homeland of East Turkistan. The Chinese government is committing one of the worst crimes against humanity in this century and there are plenty of evidence that hundreds and thousands of Uyghur children are separated from their parents, because either the parents were arbitrarily detained and locked up or died inside Chinese Concentration camps.

While some parts of the world are acknowledging that the Chinese government is engineering a cultural genocide of the Uyghur people, words are not enough to stop it from happening. The international response must be both multilateral and urgent. International law against China’s ethnic cleansing cannot be enforced without support from both individual states and the international community. We must therefore raise our voices, loud and strong, against the injustice and atrocious crimes against humanity.

The International Observatory of Human Rights is calling on Chinese authorities to close internment “re-education” camps and immediately release all those held in arbitrary detention, reveal the names, whereabouts and current status of all those who have been subjected to enforced disappearance in China, to cease policies of forced cultural assimilation and social re-engineering, known as “Cultural Genocide”, focused on the Uyghurs, Tibetans, Southern Mongolians and other groups, and allow access for independent investigators to visit and monitor the region

Watch IOHR TV’s exclusive investigation into China’s cultural genocide of the Uyghur community:

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