An Examination of China’s Breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention
by Dr. Azeem Ibrahim, Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, Washington, DC, March 2021
1. This report concludes that the People’s Republic of China (China) bears State responsibility for committing genocide against the Uyghurs in breach of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention) based on an extensive review of the available evidence and application of international law to the evidence of the facts on the ground.
2. The examination was conducted by recognized independent experts on international
law, genocide, China’s ethnic policies, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
3. Intent to Destroy. Under Article II of the Genocide Convention, the commission of
genocide requires the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, [a protected group], as
such.” The “intent to destroy” does not require explicit statements. Intent can be
inferred from a collection of objective facts that are attributable to the State, including
official statements, a general plan, State policy and law, a pattern of conduct, and
repeated destructive acts, which have a logical sequence and result — destruction of
the group as such, in whole or in substantial part.
4. High-level statements of intent and general plan. In 2014, China’s Head of State,
President Xi Jinping, launched the “People’s War on Terror” in XUAR, making the areas
where Uyghurs constitute nearly 90 percent of the population the front line. High-level
officials followed up with orders to “round up everyone who should be rounded up,”
“wipe them out completely … destroy them root and branch,” and “break their lineage,
break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins.” Officials described
Uyghurs with dehumanizing terms and repeatedly likened the mass internment of
Uyghurs to “eradicating tumors.”
5. Comprehensive State policy, pattern of conduct and repeated destructive acts.
a. Government-Mandated Homestays. Since 2014, the Government of China
(Government) has deployed Han cadres to reside in Uyghur homes as monitors,
resulting in the rupturing of family bonds. County governments further coerce,
incentivize, and actively promote Han-Uyghur marriages.
b. Mass Internment. In 2017, the XUAR legislature formally legalized the mass
internment of Uyghurs under “De-Extremification” regulations. The top security
official and entities dispatched a manual and set of documents across the region
with orders to police Uyghurs, “speed up the construction” and expansion of the
mass internment camps, “increase the discipline and punishment” within the camps
and maintain “strict secrecy” over all information, which is not to “be
disseminated,” nor “open to the public.” The manual outlines the complex hierarchy4
of officials, entities, and the centralized digital surveillance system overseeing the
c. Mass Birth-Prevention Strategy. China has simultaneously pursued a dual
systematic strategy of forcibly sterilizing Uyghur women of childbearing age and
interning Uyghur men of child-bearing years, preventing the regenerative capacity
of the group and evincing an intent to biologically destroy the group as such.
According to Government statistics and directives, including to “carry out family
planning sterilization,” “lower fertility levels,” and ”leave no blind spots,” China is
carrying out a well-documented, State-funded birth-prevention campaign targeting
women of childbearing age in Uyghur-concentrated areas with mass forced
sterilization, abortions, and IUD placements. China explicitly admits the purpose of
these campaigns is to ensure that Uyghur women are “no longer baby-making
d. Forcible Transfer of Uyghur Children to State-run Facilities. Pursuant to new
Government policy in 2017, China began building a vast network of massive Staterun, highly securitized boarding schools and orphanages to confine Uyghur children,
including infants, full time. XUAR counties receive specific quotas from higher
authorities to institutionalize such “orphans,” who often lose both parents to
internment or forced labor.
e. Eradication of Uyghur identity, community, and domestic life. Pursuant to
Government campaigns, local authorities have eliminated Uyghur education,
destroyed Uyghur architecture and household features, and damaged, altered, or
completely demolished the majority of mosques and sacred sites in the region,
while closing off other sites or converting them into commercial spaces.
f. Selective Targeting of Intellectuals and Community Leaders. The intent to destroy
the Uyghurs as a group is further demonstrated by the Government’s deliberate
targeting of the guardians and transmitters of Uyghur identity for prolonged
detention or death, including household heads, intellectuals, and cultural leaders,
regardless of Party affiliation or educational status.
The deliberate targeting of Uyghur leaders and sacred sites evinces an intent to
destroy the essential elements of Uyghur identity and communal bonds, which
define the group as such.
6. China’s policies and practices targeting Uyghurs in the region must be viewed in their
totality, which amounts to an intent to destroy the Uyghurs as a group, in whole or in
substantial part, as such.
7. Acts of Genocide. While commission of any one of the Genocide Convention’s
enumerated acts with the requisite intent can sustain a finding of genocide, the5
evidence presented in this report supports a finding of genocide against the Uyghurs in
breach of each and every act prohibited in Article II (a) through (e).
8. “(a) Killing members of the group.” There are reports of mass death and deaths of
prominent Uyghur leaders selectively sentenced to death by execution or, for elders in
particular, by long-term imprisonment.
9. “(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.” Uyghurs are
suffering serious bodily and mental harm from systematic torture and cruel treatment,
including rape, sexual abuse, exploitation, and public humiliation, at the hands of camp
officials and Han cadres assigned to Uyghur homes under Government-mandated
programs. Internment camps contain designated “interrogation rooms,” where Uyghur
detainees are subjected to consistent and brutal torture methods, including beatings
with metal prods, electric shocks, and whips. The mass internment and related
Government programs are designed to indoctrinate and “wash clean” brains, driving
Uyghurs to commit or attempt suicide from the threat of internment or the daily
extreme forms of physical and psychological torture within the camps, including mock
executions, public “self-criticisms,” and solitary confinement.
10. “(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its
physical destruction in whole or in part.” The authorities systematically target Uyghurs
of childbearing years, household heads, and community leaders for detention in
unliveable conditions, impose birth-prevention measures on Uyghur women, separate
Uyghur children from their parents, and transfer Uyghurs on a mass scale into forced
hard labor schemes in a manner that parallels the mass internment. In sum, China is
deliberately inflicting collective conditions calculated to terminate the survival of the
Uyghurs as a group.
11. “(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.” The systematic
birth prevention campaign in Uyghur-concentrated areas is reinforced by the mass
internment drive. In the camps, Uyghur women are subjected to forced IUD insertions,
abortions, and injections or medication halting their menstrual cycles, while Uyghur
men of childbearing age are targeted for internment, depriving the Uyghur population
of the ability to reproduce. As a result of these interconnected policies, growth rates in
Uyghur-concentrated areas are increasingly approaching zero.
12. “(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” Where detentions
and forced labor schemes are leaving Uyghur children bereft of both parents, they are
being sent to State-run orphanages and raised in Chinese-language environments with
standard Han child-rearing methods.
13. China’s Responsibility for Genocide under the Genocide Convention. China is a highly
centralized State in full control of its territory and population, including XUAR, and is a
State party to the Genocide Convention. The persons and entities perpetrating the
above-indicated acts of genocide are all State agents or organs — acting under the
effective control of the State — manifesting an intent to destroy the Uyghurs as a group6
within the meaning of Article II of the Genocide Convention. This report therefore
concludes that China bears State responsibility for an ongoing genocide against the
Uyghurs, in breach of the Genocide Convention.