*Note: the author uses the term East Turkistan to refer to what others call Xinjiang because he, like most Uyghurs, view ‘Xinjiang’ as a pejorative chosen by the Chinese to intentionally offend Uyghurs with each mention.
After World War II and the tragedy of the Holocaust, the world adopted a phrase that expressed its newfound resolve: “Never again.”
Never again would the world stand by and watch an entire people group be targeted for extinction. Never again would the world allow tyrants and thugs to engage in genocide without consequences.
But today, the world is doing just that with respect to the Uyghur people of East Turkistan. If we really do mean “Never Again,” we cannot allow this to happen.
After World War II, the United Nations established the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide in 1948. The purpose was to forever avoid atrocities against any people group like those of the Nazis against the Jews. The Convention defines “punishable genocide” as follows:
Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Each and every one of these criteria are met by the CCP’s actions against the Uyghur people. Thousands of Uyghurs have been killed; millions have been imprisoned in concentration camps; its women are forcibly sterilized, and their children forcibly aborted; and the CCP makes no distinction between Uyghur adults and children, who it persecutes or imprisons at whim.
I am a member of the Uyghur people. Many Uyghurs are members of the Islamic faith, which the CCP has identified as a threat, and seeks to annihilate within East Turkistan.
Fortunately, I was able to make it to the United States in 2008. Many of my family members have not been so lucky.
In East Turkistan, the CCP has created the perfect Orwellian police state. My family, friends, and acquaintances are monitored at every moment. Their movements are tracked. They must register virtually everywhere they go through a system of QR codes by which the prying eyes of the Communist Big Brother can keep tabs on their every move. Even the slightest hint of resistance will end them up in concentration camps where they are “reeducated” to “Love the Chinese Communist Party” and to “Love Chairman Xi Jinping.”
More than a million of my people have been in these camps since 2017.
If they are lucky enough to survive, they are allowed to return home to their families, where their wives, sisters, and daughters may have been sterilized or compelled to abort their children. Today, the population growth of the Uyghur has been brought to a complete standstill thanks to the CCP’s imposition of forced sterilizations and abortions on Uyghur women.
This is not a partisan issue.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), has observed that “If America does not speak out against human rights violations in China because of some commercial interest, then we lose all moral authority.” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) has likewise observed that “We can’t sit idly by and allow state-sponsored cultural genocide of completely eradicating an entire culture to continue. Our silence will be complicit, and our inaction will be our appeasement.”
“Never Again” Must Mean Something
Unfortunately, many powerful actors in the world have turned a blind eye to the genocide of the Uyghur. The ESG community, which has an enormous amount of control over American capital markets, has funneled billions of dollars into China while ignoring its blatant and ongoing human rights abuses. Likewise, powerful groups like the World Economic Forum (WEF) not only ignore the genocide of the Uyghur, but openly praise the dictator who is carrying it out, as its leader, Klaus Schwab, did when introducing Xi Jinping at this past year’s WEF gathering.
It would appear that many western leaders are prioritizing their bottom line.
But if we really mean it when we say, “Never Again,” this must change. The CCP is engaged in punishable genocide. Its actions against the Uyghur fit every criteria established by the UN and international law.
“Never Again” requires action. It requires punishment of the very thing the world declared it would never allow again after the Holocaust of the Jews in World War II. It requires prioritizing human beings over money. It requires acting now, not tomorrow.
Kuzzat Altay is a leading Uyghur American businessman, tech entrepreneur, and human rights activist. He is the Founder and CEO of Cydeo and a Harvard Business Alum. He previously served as President of the Uyghur American Association.