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Press Release – For immediate release
19 January 2021
Contact: World Uyghur Congress
+49 89 5432 1999 or [email protected]

The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) welcomes the decision of the U.S. Department of State to determine China’s repression of the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples as both “crimes against humanity” and “genocide’’. This makes it the first government to designate the crimes in East Turkistan as genocide, and comes as the incoming Biden Administration is preparing for the presidential inauguration.

Announcing the decision, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, stated that “this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state.” Amongst the crimes cited are the arbitrary imprisonment of 1.8 to 3 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, forced sterilisation, torture, forced labour, as well as the imposition of draconian measures to restrict the freedom of belief, expression and movement. 

While the US is the first country to make a formal designation of China’s crimes against Uyghurs as a genocide, similar efforts have been launched and are ongoing in other countries as well. In October, the Canadian Subcommittee on Human Rights also stated that based on multiple hearings, the actions of the Chinese state against Uyghurs constitute a genocide as laid out in the UN Genocide Convention. In the U.K., an amendment to the Government’s Trade Bill by a cross-party group of peers was narrowly defeated in the House of Commons today (319/308) which if passed would have allowed U.K. courts to make a judgement whether it deems China’s actions to constitute a genocide.

“Today, history has been written not only for Uyghurs, but for all of humanity. Uyghurs have been looking for accountability for years, and this is the first time a government designates the Uyghur crisis as a genocide”, WUC President Dolkun Isa said. “It shows that genocide will not be tolerated in the 21st century, and this will hopefully incite other governments to take concrete action. On behalf of the WUC and of the Uyghur community, I would like to thank the U.S. government for taking a great deal of responsibility to end the Uyghur genocide. Additionally, I would like to thank all the MPs in the UK who have supported the Genocide Trade Bill, as well as all the civil society organisations who have worked on this.’’

In December 2020, the World Uyghur Congress, along with over 60 Uyghur organisations around the world, sent a joint letter to Secretary Pompeo urging the U.S. State Department to hold the Chinese government accountable for its serious ‘’crimes against humanity’’ and ‘’genocide’’ against the Uyghur and other Turkic peoples.

In the last few months, the U.S. government has taken active measures to combat Uyghur forced labour. Just last week, on January 13, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a ban on imports of cotton and tomato products from East Turkistan over forced labour concerns. This follows earlier import restrictions by the Trump Administration, including a Withhold Release Order (WRO) on cotton shipments from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), the Chinese-government-sponsored paramilitary organisation that is responsible for ‘labour transfer schemes’ used to move Uyghurs into forced labour settings. In the same week, the UK and Canadian government introduced new measures to counter Uyghur forced labour in their supply chains and hold companies accountable. 

It is now imperative that the new Administration, which has previously called for a genocide designation, commits itself to take concrete action that corresponds to the severity of the crisis. Similarly, WUC also calls on the international community to make a legal determination on the situation and take appropriate action, including UN member states to call for an independent monitoring mechanism of human rights in China. WUC looks forward to continue working with governments, elected officials, organisations and international institutions to end the Uyghur Genocide.