UN: China’s mistreatment of the Uyghurs amounts to modern-day slavery

Jonah McKeown   By Jonah McKeown for CNA


Uyghur women work in a cloth factory in Hotan county, Xinjiang province, China. / Azamat Imanaliev/Shutterstock

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 17, 2022 / 14:54 pm (CNA).

A new report from the United Nations on modern slavery provides further documentation of China’s mistreatment of the Uyghur ethnic group, a Muslim minority that according to some human rights groups is suffering genocide.

The U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Dr. Tomoya Obokata, wrote that it is “reasonable to conclude” that forced labor among ethnic minorities, including the Uyghurs, “in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing has been occurring in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China.”

Obokata identified two state-mandated systems that have contributed to the forced labor of the Uyghurs, one of which is a system that detains minorities and subjects them to work placements, while the other system shifts rural laborers into other forms of low-skilled, low-paid work. While the Chinese government claims that the programs provide work opportunities for minorities, the report found that “indicators of forced labor pointing to the involuntary nature of work rendered by affected communities have been present in many cases.”

“Further, given the nature and extent of powers exercised over affected workers during forced labor, including excessive surveillance, abusive living and working conditions, restriction of movement through internment, threats, physical and/or sexual violence and other inhuman or degrading treatment, some instances may amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity, meriting a further independent analysis,” the report reads.

In recent years, Uyghurs — with estimates ranging as high as 1.8 million — have been detained in hundreds of “reeducation camps” in China’s Xinjiang, a sparsely populated autonomous region in the far west of the country. Inside the camps, the Uyghurs are reportedly subjected to torture and political indoctrination. Outside the camps, Uyghurs are monitored by pervasive police forces and facial recognition technology.

China has for years conflated the Uyghurs’ culture and religious activities with extremism and separatism. The government at one time denied the camps even existed but has since shifted to defending its actions as a reasonable response to a national security threat.

The United States formally labeled China’s actions in Xinjiang a genocide in Jan. 2021.

China’s crackdown on Xinjiang also includes alleged coercion to have contraception devices inserted, and even full sterilization, along with systematic rape. Hospitals in the province have reportedly committed forced late-term abortions on Uyghur women and killed newborn Uyghur babies to enforce China’s family planning policies, according to a former hospital worker in the region. Uyghur women, who used to have among the highest fertility rates in the country, have seen precipitous drops in fertility in recent years.

The Vatican has remained largely silent on the persecution of the Uyghurs, though Pope Francis did describe the Uyghurs as a persecuted people in a book published in 2021. The Chinese foreign ministry responded by saying that the claim was groundless.

Catholic leaders have condemned China’s actions in Xinjiang, with two Asian cardinals and 74 other religious leaders releasing a statement in Aug. 2020 calling the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs “one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust.”

The U.N. report documented several other forms of modern-day slavery in the report, including sexual slavery perpetrated by groups like ISIS and Boko Haram in the Middle East and Nigeria, and the plight of minority women and girls in the Tigray, Amhara, and Afar regions of Ethiopia who have been “subjected to rape, sexual mutilation and other forms of sexual violence by parties to the armed conflict.”

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1 Comment

  1. China is not known for being a bastion of human rights. Beginning with the Chinese people themselves, they are mistreated and have little hope. Perhaps this is why the church grows dramatically in China!

    Alas, the Uyghurs are a bellicose and fractious people, according to the news of the day. When they settle, strife is the order of the day. When in Rome do as the Romans do might be adapted to the Uyghurs in China.

    Romans 13:1-7 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

    Matthew 22:17-22 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” …

    Pray for peace and godliness. Let us honour the Lord as best we might.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. UN: China’s mistreatment of the Uyghurs amounts to modern-day slavery – Via Nova Media
  2. UN: China’s mistreatment of the Uyghurs amounts to modern-day slavery | Franciscan Sisters of St Joseph (FSJ) , Asumbi Sisters Kenya
  3. UN: China’s mistreatment of the Uyghurs amounts to modern-day slavery | Passionists Missionaries Kenya, Vice Province of St. Charles Lwanga, Fathers & Brothers

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