We should do something about the Uighur genocide

The US cannot stand idly by as China continues its campaign against the ethnic minority group


Photo courtesy of npr.org

Protests against the mistreatment of Uighur Muslims in China

Emily Paulin, Opinions Writer

A genocide is happening right now in China. Many of you will be shocked by this information. We should be doing something about it. 

One of China’s ethnic minorities, the predominantly Muslim Uighurs, is concentrated in the Xinjiang province in the west. Xinjiang has become a police state, and China justifies these policies as ways to prevent unrest and terrorism, like that which has originated from the province previously. 

There are checkpoints, surveillance cameras and searches. Many Uighurs have had their passports confiscated so they can’t leave the country. Over the past few years, China has also been encouraging the Han Chinese, the ethnic majority, to move into the Xinjiang province because the government wants control over it. This does not justify the other measures taken against the Uighurs, however. 

China has built concentration camps that they publicly call “re-education camps.” Initially, they denied the existence of these camps until internet sleuths proved it. According to an article by Vox news, “It is the largest mass internment of an ethnic-religious minority group since World War II.” There are more than 380 of the camps. 

In the camps, Uighurs are forced to study communist propaganda and swear loyalty to President Xi Jinping. There are reports of them being tortured, raped and deprived of sleep. As many as one million Uighurs are being detained currently, while three million have been detained at some point, according to the Vox article. 

Both inside and outside the camps, Uighurs are used as forced labor in factories and fields, especially cotton fields. Their labor has been linked to many clothing companies, especially since China is one of the world’s biggest cotton producers. 

One characteristic of genocide is defined as “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.” China has, undoubtedly, done this. While lightening punishments regarding the one-child policy have been issued against the Han Chinese, China has cracked down on Uighurs. Uighur women with more than one child have been forcibly sterilized, had pregnancies aborted against their will and been fined exorbitant amounts; if they resist or can’t pay, they are sent to a concentration camp. Meanwhile, the Uighur birth rate has declined by as much as 84 percent. China has also “forcibly transferr[ed] children of the group to another group.” This is another characteristic of genocide meant to eradicate the culture of a group. 

The United States classified this as a genocide right before President Trump left office. Thus far, the Biden administration has formalized the classification but has yet to do anything about it. 

A few options exist to do something about it, however: sanctions, boycotting or limiting the Olympics, diplomacy and boycotting goods from the area. The US has already imposed sanctions on some Chinese officials linked to the genocide. We could also boycott or prevent companies from sponsoring the Beijing Olympics this summer to put economic and international pressure on China. This goes hand in hand with diplomacy: if the US could get their allies to also boycott the Olympics or pressure China to end the genocide, it would be a lot more effective.

Finally, individuals have the power to boycott goods that may be made with forced Uighur labor. There are many lists out there of goods and companies that are suspected to use products from Uighur labor. 

We should not stand idly by while yet another genocide goes on. This time, it has been identified and announced early enough that we can do something about it. The United States and its people have the power to spread the word and prevent a genocide. We shouldn’t take that power lightly.