Call to action: Stop genocide in the 21st century
Flo Marks and John Merlin raise awareness of the ongoing persecution of Uyghurs in China and offer advice to Exeter students on what they can do to help put a stop to it.
Do you want to live in a world where we have the legal framework in place to protect all citizens from the threat of genocide? If yes, then the Students for Uyghurs and Stop Uyghur Genocide need your help. Read this article and email your MP today!
As you read this article, the largest forced incarceration of an ethno-religious group since World War Two is occurring. In North West China, Turkic-Muslims including, but not limited to, Uyghurs are suffering gross human rights abuse at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Under the guise of fighting a mythical Uyghur terrorist threat, over 1 million Uyghurs have been arbitrarily forced into internment camps for ‘political re-education’.
Originally the CCP denied even the existence of such camps. However, faced with overwhelming evidence accrued by independent journalists using CCP documents and satellite imagery, the CCP now have backtracked on their original claim that the camps do not exist. They now claim that the camps are merely part of a ‘re-education campaign’ to alleviate poverty. The CCP has provided no explanation for why such ostensibly benevolent camps regularly order police batons, electric cattle prods and pepper spray.
The next week is the most important in the fight not only for Uyghur rights, but the right of all humans, now and in the future, to live in a world free from genocide
Until recently, countries have only accused the CCP of perpetrating a cultural genocide against the Uyghur people with the intent to destroy the unique Uyghur identity. However, the mounting evidence confirms that the crimes being committed against the Uyghurs far exceed this and amount to total genocide whereby the CCP intends to exterminate the Turkic-Muslim minority groups. Under Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the CCP would be found guilty of genocide in a court of law under sections D and E. There is evidence of the CCP carrying out mass sterilisation, compulsory abortions and forced transferring Uyghur children away from their parents. Moreover, it must be added that there is also evidence of wide and systemic crimes against humanity being committed against the Uyghurs. These include the already mentioned mass imprisonment, torture and forced labour.
After the Second World War, the nation-states of the UN promised that ‘never again’ would people face the threat of genocide or would such an act go unpunished. Devastatingly, the international court system (including the International Criminal Court, International Court of Justice and UN Tribunals) are failing to uphold this pledge because the CCP has veto power over all of them.
However, there is reason for hope. The Genocide Amendment to the Trade Bill will pass through the House of Commons on 9 February. It offers the framework for our High Court to investigate the case of the Uyghurs and make a definitive, legal ruling on the case. An earlier version of the amendment was only 11 votes short of being passed and secured the rebellion of 34 Conservative MPs. Whilst giving our High Court the rationale to investigate and write a report on any bilateral trading partner suspected of perpetrating genocide, it calls on our Parliamentarians to engage in an informed debate about whether to continue fulfilling our obligations in bilateral trade agreements or enter new agreements if the partner country is found complicit in genocidal acts. The next week is the most important in the fight not only for Uyghur rights, but the right of all humans, now and in the future, to live in a world free from genocide. The UK must take the lead and be proactive to end the CCP’s current impunity.
The fact that our economy is so intimately tied to China’s does not mean we should acquiesce to the genocide of Uyghur Muslims but in fact gives us immense leverage over the CCP
Despite China’s aforementioned veto power, the government maintains that only international courts can determine genocide. This contradicts the Foreign Secretary’s own words from a letter written in 2020 where he accepted that national criminal courts are more than capable of making such a declaration. The government has also demeaned our courts by claiming that the amendment will facilitate judicial activism. To us, the idea that the designation of genocide (which has an incredibly high threshold) will be thrown around liberally seems nonsensical. The amendment also does not take power away from parliament which remains sovereign. As a concession, the government have proposed setting up special select committees to investigate claims of genocide. Committees of this nature have been consistently ineffective in confronting genocides in the past like the Rohingya and Yazidi genocides.
The government has claimed that the amendment is unnecessary because the UK is not in a bilateral trade deal with China and is unlikely to enter one anytime soon. This argument is flawed first of all because the UK already has pre-existing bilateral trade deals with China. The second part of the argument may be true, but it does nothing to prevent future UK governments from entering bilateral trade deals with genocidal states. If the disastrous EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investments (CAI) is anything to go by, it’s perfectly within the realm of possibility for rational Western states to enter trade deals with the genocidal CCP. The designation of genocide also has wider ramifications than just UK-China trade; other states will likely follow the UK and make similar designations to join the fight for Uyghur rights.
The real reason some may oppose the amendment is likely concern over the ensuing economic sanctions that will accompany aggravating the CCP. However, Conservative party Sir Iain Duncan Smith pointed out at a recent Young Conservative Network event, the CCP’s greatest strength (its huge economy) is also its greatest weakness. The fact that our economy is so intimately tied to China’s does not mean we should acquiesce to the genocide of Uyghur Muslims but in fact gives us immense leverage over the CCP.
We call on you to email/ring your MPs now. You can make a difference and encourage friends to do the same.
As said by Joe Collins, the Co-Executive Director of ‘Yet Again’, “it has been long-standing policy of both Labour and Conservative governments that genocide determination is not a political decision, it’s a judicial one”. Therefore, not only would this amendment protect domestic and foreign politicians from accusations of bias by the CCP but also would allow our independent and impartial High Court to give a credible and legitimate genocide determination.
Passing this amendment could be the first time in history when the UK has successfully recognised a genocide before it has been completed. From Rwanda to Cambodia to Bangladesh to Syria, the UK has consistently been on the wrong side of history when it comes to recognising and stopping mass atrocity events in real time. Don’t let the same thing happen to the Uyghurs.
How can you help?
We call on you to email/ring your MPs now. You can make a difference and encourage friends to do the same. Time is extremely short. MPs, particularly from the Conservative Party, must be persuaded to join the Tory rebels and back the amendment before the window of opportunity to bring about social justice closes.
If you would like to find out more about the Uyghur genocide and the amendment, join Exeter’s Students for Uyghurs ambassadors and their expert speakers Joe Collins and Rahima Mahmut this Friday at 5pm on Zoom in collaboration with Politics Society. Joe Collins is the Co-Executive Director of youth led organisation ‘Yet Again’ which aims to raise awareness of modern atrocity. Rahima Mahmut is a Uyghur human rights campaigner working with the Stop Uyghur Genocide Campaign as the director of the World Uyghur Congress UK and Adviser to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China. If you’re not able to attend the event, you can learn more about the Uyghur genocide here and here or watch the recorded event once it’s uploaded.
If you missed the Friday event, please contact Students for Uyghurs on Facebook for the recording or alternatively join us Sunday for another Briefing on the Genocide Amendment.