China’s recent publicity stunt showing happy Uyghurs celebrating an Islamic holiday is a transparent attempt to proclaim that all is well in the Xinjiang region. But here, around two million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities toil under a repressive Chinese government.
For years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has detained and gathered biometric data on most of the population. Some individuals are set free, but others are deemed “troublemakers” and are coerced into forced labor in what amounts to maximum security prisons.
The details of these practices are the focus of the Xinjiang Police Files, released in May by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC), which solidified the case against China’s human rights violations. The files constitute one of the largest hacks that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has ever suffered.
For years, the free world has heard witness accounts of the CCP’s crimes. Now, we have the files: Thousands of photos documenting captive Uyghurs, including children and the elderly, as well as the prison-like conditions inside the camps.
Speeches from senior members of the CCP quoting Xi Jinping’s directives, directly implicating him in the forced labor and maximum-security policies of these prisons. Even directives for camp security, including watchtowers and “shoot-first” policies.
So what can be done? Currently, only a small number of Chinese leaders directly involved in Xinjiang have been targeted by a few countries, and no central government officials have been sanctioned by the United States or Europe for the atrocity. Visa and asset sanctions should be expanded to leaders higher up in the CCP, giving these economic deterrents the breadth required to have an impact.
My organization published policy recommendations in conjunction with the Xinjiang Police Files, which included a list of officials who are implicated.
One institution that should be well positioned to act as the voice for human rights concerns is the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. The high-profile visit by the High Commissioner to China in June, however, was absolutely squandered. Instead of demanding justice, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet announced that the visit would not be an investigation and repeated Chinese propaganda on counterterrorism and deradicalization that the CCP has used to justify its atrocities.
Conversely, America continues to show leadership. The bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act banning the importation of products made from forced labor from the region went into effect in June, despite the reluctance of many multinationals who fear disruptions to long-standing business interests. No company should profit from products derived from what is essentially slave labor.
Since the publication of the Xinjiang Police Files, Europe has also taken a much stronger stance on the Xinjiang atrocity. Numerous foreign leaders including from the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands, condemned the CCP’s crimes against Uyghurs and called for an investigation. In the case of Germany, a government that had previously been reluctant to criticize China because of economic ties, leaders indicated that Berlin would revise its Beijing policy to make human rights a greater priority, and the German chancellor became the first to recognize the Uyghur genocide.
The European Parliament also overwhelmingly passed a resolution on the Xinjiang Police Files in June.
The European Commission is currently considering an import ban on products made with forced labor and the European Parliament expressed its support for such a measure with the passage of another resolution in June. Both Canada and Europe especially need to address potential loopholes if an import ban strategy is to be effective.
Expanding sanctions and ensuring that China does not profit from its crimes can strip the regime of powerful incentives to persist its genocide against the Uyghurs. This can be aided by a unified message from the free world that China will be held accountable for its crimes.
More than ever, the free world must continue to call out the crimes of tyranny. That is why VOC opened the first-of-its-kind museum dedicated to the victims of Communism.
Join us from the nation’s capital, to teach truth, keep memory and seek justice for those who have been and continue to be oppressed by Communism, from Lenin and the Soviet Union to Xi Jinping the Chinese Communist Party.