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Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said that China is continuing to violate the rights of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in its northwestern region of Xinjiang, saying the offenses constitute crimes against humanity.

“Over the past year, Chinese officials have maintained their abusive ‘strike hard’ policies, crushing the rights of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Maya Wang, associate Asia director at HRW, said in a press release issued on August 31. “UN member countries should not stay silent in the face of crimes against humanity.”

The Chinese government has carried out widespread and systematic offenses against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and Xinjiang’s other indigenous ethnic groups since 2017. The campaign has included force assimilation and internment in mass detention camps.

The HRW assessment came one year after the United Nations issued a damning report on the rights violations being committed by the Chinese government in Xinjiang.

HRW said that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent pronouncement that China intends to maintain its counterterrorism policies in the region was indicative that crimes against humanity are still being carried out.

While traveling in Xinjiang on August 26, Xi commented on “the outcomes of [China’s] Xinjiang policies.” He pledged to “consolidate hard-won social stability,” ensure that “the public [in Xinjiang] have correct views…on ethnicity, history, and religion,” and “forge a consciousness of a united Chinese nation.”

Since Beijing’s dragnet accelerated in 2017, the plight of ethnic Kazakhs interned in China has been an unexpected source of dissent, with the testimonies of former detainees and family members fueling a guerrilla advocacy campaign that brought outsized international attention to the issue.

The U.S. State Department has said that as many as 2 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and members of Xinjiang’s other indigenous, mostly Muslim, ethnic groups have been taken to detention centers.


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