TEICH: The Uyghur genocide is a genocide, let’s call it one

 In this file photo taken on July 5, 2020, demonstrators staged a protest across the street from the Chinese consulate in Calgary, demanding China stop the persecution of the Uyghur people and the freedom of imprisoned Canadians. PHOTO BY GAVIN YOUNG /Postmedia Network
On Tuesday, when asked, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to recognize that the acts being committed by the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang constitute a genocide.He articulated that the term must only be imposed based on “facts and evidence,” and it must be “properly justified and demonstrated.

Trudeau is correct in theory, but wrong in this case.

It is true that we cannot throw around the “genocide” label carelessly, and that doing so could weaken and undermine true instances of genocide, both future and past.

However, there is ample evidence that a genocide is taking place in Xinjiang. As the Subcommittee on International Human Rights found last year, there is pervasive state surveillance in Xinjiang.

Cellphone activity is monitored, and various technologies are being used to track every movement, including through the use of CCTV, AI, facial recognition and biometric data. Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims are rounded up and arbitrarily detained in what are euphemistically called “re-education camps.”

While estimates vary, nearly 2 million Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims are detained in these camps – making this the largest mass detention of a minority community since the Holocaust.Detainees are used for forced labour, and according to a recent study by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), the supply chains of massive multinational corporations are implicated, including Nike, Adidas and Apple.

As documented in a report by Adrian Zenz, women are forcibly sterilized and subject to forced birth control. And it has been documented that detainees are subject to unimaginable abuses in the camps, including systematic torture and rape.

As described by survivors to BBC News just this month, there is “an organized system of mass rape, sexual abuse and torture,” and “their goal is to destroy everyone.”

It is true that not all atrocities amount to genocide. However, the atrocities occurring in Xinjiang have already been found, by multiple, credible bodies, to constitute genocide.

In October 2020, following multiple hearings on the subject, the Canadian Subcommittee on International Human Rights was “persuaded that the actions of the Chinese Communist Party constitute genocide as laid out in the Genocide Convention.” The Subcommittee then explicitly called on the Government of Canada to “recognize the acts being committed in Xinjiang against Uyghurs (as constituting) genocide.”

Reputable Canadian non-profit organizations immediately echoed these statements. In November 2020, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR) called on the Government of Canada to implement the Subcommittee’s recommendations and recognize the atrocities as constituting genocide.

RWCHR Chair and former Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler stated that “the mass atrocities targeting the Uyghurs constitute acts of genocide under the Genocide Convention” and urged “the Canadian Parliament (to) make (this) determination.”
So what is missing, from Trudeau’s perspective, in terms of “facts and evidence”? Why the delay in making this recommended determination? If the report of the subcommittee left questions unanswered, why not refer the matter to the Supreme Court of Canada for an advisory opinion, as Cotler suggested yesterday? As he put it, it is urgent and compelling.As atrocities continue in Xinjiang, political inaction becomes increasingly unacceptable. Real people are suffering; an entire population is being destroyed.

Canada and other rights-respecting democracies need to step up, take concrete action to combat these crimes, and ensure that the words ‘never again’ mean something. This starts with calling it what it is: a genocide.

Sarah Teich is an international human rights lawyer, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, and a legal advisor to the Canadian Security Research Group.