This memo is adapted from Nury Turkel’s testimony before the US House of Representative’s Committee on Foreign Affairs’ hearing on May 6, 2021, “The Atrocities Against Uyghurs and Other Minorities in Xinjiang.” He testified on behalf of the Uyghur Human Rights Project.
Genocide and Genocide Denial
The Chinese government’s systematic, comprehensive, and multi-faceted genocidal policy against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims has reached a new phase in my homeland.
The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) has warned for more than three years that the end goal of this policy is the destruction of Uyghur culture, traditions, language, and faith. The Chinese state has criminalized being Uyghur. The policies are eliminating our community ties, all genuine practices and expressions of our culture, language, and civilizational accomplishments in poetry, literature, and all the arts, theology, architecture, and scholarship. Uyghur society’s religious and secular leadership, the university professors and high school teachers, successful business owners, and entrepreneurs have been swept wholesale into camps and prisons. In many cases, their entire families have disappeared, including their parents, siblings, and children.
Very soon, anything remaining that can be described as “Uyghur” in our own homeland will be an empty shell, a Potemkin show. In fact, it is already a reality due to the inadequate international response to this staggering 21st century high-tech genocide.
I want to emphasize that genocide denial is in full swing. The Chinese government is not only carrying out a brutal policy of state violence that is causing immeasurable, irreversible human suffering. It is demanding that the world praise its policy. The CCP is now producing a daily stream of material for international audiences about its policies towards Uyghurs: government statements, state-media print and video output, and highly produced content for social media platforms. The CCP is taking advantage of its seat in multilateral forums to assert that it deserves praise for (1) commendable “anti-terrorism” policies, (2) successful “poverty alleviation” by the Xinjiang government, and (3) enabling Uyghurs to live a “happy life.”1
Furthermore, China is not only committing genocide and demanding that the world praise its actions. The government also forces Uyghurs to participate in the genocide, dancing and singing for the cameras and recording in a string of videos denouncing criticism of China. Dozens of Uyghurs have been forced to denounce their own relatives abroad for speaking up for their freedom. In February, UHRP released a detailed analysis of this cruel propaganda, in which Uyghurs say scripted lines such as “the government never oppresses us.”2
The government has mounted an aggressive campaign to push back against the global pressure campaign to end the state-imposed forced labor of Uyghurs.3 On March 24, 2021—just two days after coordinated human-rights sanctions on Xinjiang officials by the US, UK, EU, and Canada—the government manufactured a purported boycott by Chinese consumers against foreign brands to defend what they call “Xinjiang cotton.” As part of the “defend Xinjiang cotton” campaign, one video showed Uyghurs dressed in traditional performance costumes, dancing, holding a fluffy ball of unprocessed cotton in each hand, and singing a song of praise for “Xinjiang cotton.” The Chinese government has also recruited foreigners to praise its policies.4 China Global Television Network has also played a significant role in justifying China’s Xinjiang policies, the topic of a forthcoming UHRP publication.