The Xinjiang Genocide Conference aims to increase pressure on China


Leading scientists and lawyers join politicians and human rights groups in the UK at the first major conference to discuss the alleged genocide of the Chinese government against the Uighur ethnic group in the northwestern region of Xinjiang

LONDON-Leading scientists and lawyers join politicians and human rights groups in the UK on Wednesday for the first major conference to discuss the alleged genocide of the Chinese government against the Uighur ethnic group in the northwestern Xinjiang region.

The three-day conference at Newcastle University brings together dozens of speakers, including senior British judges and lawmakers, and was the first to bring together so many experts on Xinjiang and genocide. It is the latest move aimed at holding China accountable for alleged violations of rights over Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim and Turkish minorities.

“We don’t want it to be just a scientific thing – we bring all these people together to combine their expertise and influence in advance, to increase pressure on China, to devise ways to end the damage to the Uighur people,” said organizer Jo Smith Finley, an academic specializing in Uighur studies.

“This is a great humanitarian catastrophe that is becoming more and more urgent,” she added. “Is it genocide or cultural genocide, or crimes against humanity, and how can we prosecute it? We’re really trying to refocus on what we can do to make it stop.”

Academician Adrian Zenz, whose research on forced sterilization among Uighur women has drawn widespread attention to the issue, will present official documents confirming claims that Beijing wants to forcibly reduce the Uighur population, Finley said.

Researchers say about 1 million people or more — most of whom are Uyghurs — have been locked up in huge re-education camps in Xinjiang in recent years. Chinese authorities have been accused of imposing forced labor, systematically controlling forced births and torture, erasing the cultural and religious identity of Uighurs, and separating children from imprisoned parents.

Chinese officials have dismissed allegations of genocide and abuse of rights as unfounded and characterized the camps as training centers for teaching Chinese, employment skills and laws that support economic development and the fight against radicalism. China experienced a wave of terrorist attacks linked to Xinjiang by 2016.

Xu Guixiang, a spokesman for Xinjiang, denied the allegations at a press conference in Beijing this week. He said government policy had curbed militant attacks and restored stability to the region.

“They say more than a million people have been imprisoned in Xinjiang, but in fact most graduates of training and education centers have gotten stable jobs and lead happy lives,” Xu said.

The US government and parliaments in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada have declared that Beijing’s policy against the Uighurs boils down to genocide and crimes against humanity. The United States has blocked imports of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang and companies linked to forced labor in the region, and the European Union and Britain have also imposed sanctions on Communist Party officials.

Despite such moves and a growing body of evidence documenting abuses, critics say there has not been enough international political or legal action. It is unclear whether economic sanctions will force Beijing or Chinese companies to change their ways. China also retaliated by imposing sanctions on Western individuals and institutions, calling for a boycott of leading retailers such as Nike and H&M after expressing concern over forced labor in Xinjiang.

Finley, the conference organizer, was one of several British individuals to whom Chinese sanctions were imposed and who were banned from visiting China earlier this year for her work.

One of the main goals of the conference is to consider whether diplomatic actions – such as the diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing – can be effective in achieving Chinese responsibility.

“There’s a lot we can do in terms of shame,” Finley said.

The conference will run through Friday and will be broadcast live online.


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