• AMBA

Statement of Solidarity with the Uyghur People


"Whoever of you sees a wrong, he should change it with his hand; and if he cannot do that [he should change it] with his tongue; and if he cannot do that [he should change it] with his heart and that is the weakest of faith."

-Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)


The American Muslim Bar Association (AMBA) and the undersigned civil and human rights organizations, legal associations, and policy institutes call upon individuals, corporations, and nations to take action and responsibility in dismantling China’s mass detention and ethnic cleansing regime of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims. Immediate measures need to be taken to end China’s blatant violations of international law in East Turkistan (also referred to as Xinjiang by the Chinese government) by independently investigating the atrocities it is perpetuating there - which arguably meet the criteria for genocide [1] - and holding China and complicit corporations accountable for the ongoing persecution of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims.


More than one million Muslims in East Turkistan are currently languishing in concentration style camps for indefinite periods while others are formally imprisoned for charges such as reading the Quran or refusing to eat pork. Many are tortured or killed in custody. The Chinese government purports that its policies targeting Muslims are to counter terrorism and that any camps are voluntary vocational training centers. However, these pretexts are upended by evidence that the government has orchestrated a mass detention regime: that one in six Muslim adults and unknown numbers of children are believed to be held in “re-education” camps and state orphanages with no escape; that imprisoned Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic Muslims are arbitrarily deprived of their liberties; and that Muslims across East Turkistan are threatened with longer detentions and detention of their relatives if they advocate for themselves and call attention to their struggle. There are countless well-documented human rights abuses against Muslims in and out of the camps and prisons in East Turkistan, including forced sterilization, rape and sexual abuse[2], torture and inhuman treatment of detainees, the forced separation of children from their parents, punishing Turkic Muslims for practicing their religion or speaking their language, forced labor, forced organ harvesting, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in detention.


China’s inhumane treatment of the Uyghur population is a source of grave concern which violates international law and essential human rights codified in multiple treaties that China is party to, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Slavery Convention. China is bound by the principles of customary international law, including those peremptory norms enshrined in these treaties - such as the prohibition of genocide, racial discrimination, slavery, and torture - and these obligations are owed to the international community. Consequently, all states have the responsibility to take all available measures to investigate, prevent and prosecute China's ongoing violations in East Turkistan through investigations, diplomacy, legal remedies, and sanctions. We commend the actions taken by the United States to report on China’s abuses and impose sanctions on specific Chinese government officials responsible for its mass detention regime as a first step in applying pressure to dismantle China’s systems of oppression. While we are wary of the U.S. government’s geopolitical reasons for being a forerunner for this cause, such as promoting fear mongering discourse surrounding international trade competitors, we believe that the US’s actions are effective counter-measures to promote justice and accountability for China’s ongoing human rights abuses that the international community should institute and expand on.


Additionally, states should domestically prosecute and sanction foreign and domestic companies that directly or indirectly contribute to human rights abuses against Uyghurs. This can have a huge impact in China’s practices as it relies on East Turkistan for major economic production; for example, most of China’s cotton is grown in East Turkistan and about 20% of the world’s tomato paste is sourced in the region. Much of this production is reported to rely on the forced labor of Muslims in “re-education” camps and there is evidence that multinational companies, including most major fashion retailers (such as Nike, Zara, Muji and Gap), are selling products manufactured by this slave labor, whether directly sourced or indirectly through sub-suppliers. Corporate accountability measures, including litigation against corporations complicit in these human rights abuses and the expansion of domestic legislation aimed at penalizing and sanctioning actors directly or indirectly involved in China’s systemic violations of international law, can therefore place further pressure on China to end its oppression of Muslims in East Turkistan.



Calls to Action

Uyghur human rights groups have been actively raising awareness, at great risk to themselves and their family members, about the abuses that the Chinese government is perpetuating in East Turkistan. We amplify their calls demanding accountability and dismantlement of the systemic detention, torture, enforced labor, and discrimination of the Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim people by the Chinese government:


  1. End corporate complicity in forced labor of Uyghurs, as outlined by a coalition of over 280 Uyghur civil society organizations and other human rights organizations, which includes:

  2. Disengaging from business relationships with any production facilities located in East Turkistan being used to make apparel and/or other cotton-based goods.

  3. Identifying suppliers and sub-suppliers engaged in forced labor and disengaging from business relationships with any supplier that has subsidiaries or operations in East Turkistan that have accepted Chinese government subsidies or employed workers provided by the government, regardless of whether the products are produced in East Turkistan.

  4. Engaging in remedial action and providing reparations for forced laborers and communities in East Turkistan.

  5. Implementing stricter due diligence measures to ensure that companies and supply chains are not contributing to forced labor in the region.

  6. Pass legislation at the national level that implements accountability measures for domestic companies engaging in forced labor, investigates ongoing human rights violations, and expands national and international targeted sanctions on specific Chinese government officials engaged in the mass detention, forced labor/exploitation, and ethnic cleansing of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims

  7. For example, the proposed Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, HR 6210 legislation in the US House of Representatives and S.3471 in the Senate, has bipartisan support and the potential to put pressure on the Chinese government and corporate actors to end forced labor and other human rights abuses in East Turkistan.

  8. Pursue diplomatic efforts on the international level to compel China to adhere to international law[3], including:

  9. Undertaking independent investigations of China’s genocide against the Uyghurs. Requesting an advisory opinion on China’s treatment of Muslims in East Turkistan from the International Court of Justice and other international human rights monitoring mechanisms. Establishing international criminal tribunals to try those responsible for China’s atrocities.

  10. Formally declare the atrocities the Chinese government has been enacting against the Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims living in East Turkistan (re-named Xinjiang by the Chinese government) as rising to the level of genocide as defined by the Convention for the Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide (1948), which China is a party to.

  11. Institute a targeted cultural and economic boycott of China in relation to its conduct in East Turkistan:

  12. Boycotting imports and goods made by brands operating in East Turkistan that have not taken any action to ensure their supply chains are not complicit in human rights abuses, including the forced labor of Turkic Muslims.

  13. Pressuring the National Basketball Association (NBA) to pull its operations from China and end all collaboration with the Chinese Communist Party, in line with the Council on American Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) boycott initiative:

  14. This includes providing reparations and compensation related to the now closed NBA training facility in East Turkistan (Xinjiang), ending the NBA’s policy of banning Americans from bringing signs that express support for Uyghur human rights to basketball arenas in the U.S., and “ceas[ing] all operations that benefit the genocidal Chinese government, including earning revenue from broadcasting games and licensing merchandise.”

Conclusion

China’s mass surveillance, detention, exploitation, and torture of the Uyghur and Turkic peoples is a stark example of how counter terrorism narratives are used to terrorize and discriminate against Muslims around the world. There are no justifiable excuses for systemic dehumanization nor the arbitrary persecution of Muslims. The undying narrative of a supposed "War on Terror" must end. The lack of regard for Muslim life, the inhumane treatment they are subjected to, and general animosity toward Islam weigh heavily on us; the fact that even Muslim states (including Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan) are complicit in China’s human rights abuses and some have even defended China’s actions is doubly reprehensible. We must demand that the Chinese government end its oppressive practices and policies and that individuals, corporations and organizations committing, enabling and furthering these serious human rights abuses against Uyghur and Turkic people are brought to justice.


In Solidarity,


American Muslim Bar Association

Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP)

Save Uighur Campaign

Justice For All

Uyghur American Association (UAA)

ICNA Council for Social Justice (ICNA-CSJ)

U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR)

Stand with Kashmir (SwK)

Elisabeth Wickeri, Executive Director, Leitner Center for International Law & Justice

Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)

Imamia Medics International (IMI)

World Uyghur Congress

Campaign for Uyghurs

Palestine Legal



Footnotes

[1] See Foreign Policy, The World’s Most Technologically Sophisticated Genocide Is Happening in Xinjiang (“The Genocide Convention, to which China is a signatory, defines genocide as specific acts against members of a group with the intent to destroy that group in whole or in part. These acts include (a) killing; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm; (c) deliberately inflicting conditions of life to bring about the group’s physical destruction; (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Any one of these categories constitutes genocide. The overwhelming evidence of the Chinese government’s deliberate and systematic campaign to destroy the Uighur people clearly meets each of these categories.”); See also NPR, China Suppression Of Uighur Minorities Meets U.N. Definition Of Genocide, Report Says.


[2]Stories that are among the most harrowing, of course, are stories of abuse, stories of women being caught up by the police and, as they're being brought to the internment camp, the first thing is that they're told, you're going to go on the surgery table, and we're going to put an intrauterine contraceptive device into your body, because that's standard policy for women who are put into a camp. Other women report of forced sterilization, of abuse, even accounts of rape.” https://www.npr.org/2020/07/04/887239225/china-suppression-of-uighur-minorities-meets-u-n-definition-of-genocide-report-s


[3] The Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales (“BHRC”) recently released a comprehensive briefing paper outlining how China is violating international law and demonstrating the international community’s responsibility in stopping these violations in calling upon China to immediately cease all and any discriminatory practices and policies towards Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims. BHRC stresses that the international community can and should use its power to, among other things, establish independent investigations of China’s human rights abuses and request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice. While neither are binding, they can be influential in galvanizing widespread international awareness and support diplomacy efforts to compel China’s adherence to international law.

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