Will the International Community Hold China Accountable for Human Rights Abuses?

Written by Cameron Chambers – September 12, 2022

The Peoples Republic of China (PRC) has come under scrutiny this week as a U.N. report was released detailing the human rights abuses that Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region are facing. The United Nations Human Rights Office of High Commissioner released the report on August 31, 2022. This follows a long investigation that details how the Uyghurs have faced increasing discrimination in the autonomous region. Within the past decade, the PRC has created internment camps that are used to house Uyghurs. These camps are used as “reeducation” tools to stifle any dissident within the region. The report details several abuses such as torture, beatings, waterboarding, forced sterilization, religious repression and rape. Furthermore, an example of the abuse that the Uyghur people face  is that the rate of sterilization within Xinjiang was higher than in the rest of the nation, with 243 per 100,000 inhabitants being sterilized. This example is just one of many ways in which the PRC is being accused of abuse.

These human rights abuses are undertaken by the PRC’s counterterrorism effort, against what the government emphasized as a movement of extremism and violent terrorism. The PRC uses legal means to discriminate against the Uyghurs,  as documented in section 16 of the U.N. report

China has developed what it describes as an “anti-terrorism law system” composed of specific national security and counter-terrorism legislation, general criminal law, and criminal procedure law, as well as formal regulations pertaining to religion and “deextremification”.

Of note are the broad and unclear definitions that the PRC uses when describing terroristic acts, these include terms such as “propositions, social panic, and other objectives” as noted in section 18 of the U.N. report. These broad and unclear definitions allow for increased legal discrimination that the Uyghurs face.

The PRC, as stated by the U.N. report, has used legal and extralegal methods to stifle the human rights and freedoms of the Uyghur people. Methods such as imprisonment, reeducation, and ethnic repression are common. In response to the accusations of the report, the Chinese government has stated that “authorities in the Xinjiang region operate on the principle that everyone is equal before the law … and the accusation that its policy is ‘based on discrimination’ is groundless.” Furthermore, the government has stated that the camps are not internment camps but rather learning facilities that are in accordance with the law. The International response has been mixed, with no clear consensus on holding the government responsible for the alleged crimes.

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