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Genocide in the 21st century

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WORLD Radio - Genocide in the 21st century

The UN released a long-awaited report on human rights transgressions in China


U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet speaks to the media after her visit to Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar district, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Aug. 17, 2022 Associated Press Photo/Mahmud Hossain Opu

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: crimes against humanity in China.

The U.N. human rights office last week released its long-awaited report on human rights transgressions in China.

PAUL BUTLER, HOST: The report pointed to the government’s detention of Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in the western Xinjiang region.

It cited “serious” rights violations and patterns of torture. And it called for an urgent international response to the allegations.

The outgoing U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet released the report on her way out the door and faced criticism for not releasing it earlier.

BROWN: Joining us now to discuss these abuses in China and the importance of this report is Rushan Abbas. She is founder of the Campaign for Uyghurs.

She’s worked closely with members of Congress since the 1990s pushing for the rights of Uyghurs and religious minorities. Rushan, good morning, thanks for joining us!

RUSHAN ABBAS, GUEST: Thank you much Myrna for having me.

BROWN: What, if anything, was surprising about the content of the UN Human Rights Office’s Aug. 31 report on the situation of Uyghurs in Xinjiang?

ABBAS: We were surprised because Miss Bachelet when she went to our homeland, East Turkestan and China, she basically parroted the Beijing's narratives and the propagandas and legitimize the genocide. So we were glad that the report has released and it has confirmed what we have been saying for years about China's genocidal policies, and the arbitrary detention and the violence in the camps, and the oppression and the discrimination against our people. But we were disappointed that the word genocide and they didn't say the crimes against humanity, didn't say genocide or crimes against humanity despite the facts laid out. Everything they described are actually the description of the United Nations its own description of genocide, but they swayed under Beijing’s pressure.

BROWN: How much weight does this report carry compared to the work of other nongovernmental groups?

ABBAS: Well, the report from the United Nations is very strong because of Beijing's and the Chinese Communist regime’s influences and as well as the manipulation in the United Nations. For a lot of people, it carries a certain amount of credibility, despite the UN’s failing in recent years of the addressing the Uyghur genocide and atrocities. Still, it is a global forum for countries to come together and ideally to stop the atrocities. So this report confirming the facts that the researchers and the victims’ families and the former camp detainees and as well as people like myself, an activist and the sister of a detained person, so it's truly a great confirmation. And the allies such as victims of communism and Dr. Zazz’s heroic work also, although it was watered down, but it also vindicating in many ways that should spur further action in the UN and among the member states.

BROWN: The report was released as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, stepped down. Looking ahead now, what can the next High Commissioner do differently to better help the Uyghurs in China?

ABBAS: Well, the next commissioner can be independent and be protective of the UN’s founding principles and do not sway in in Beijing, and can be proactive in addressing the Uyghur genocide. The UN, United Nations adopted the Responsibility to Protect as a mechanism to prevent mass atrocity crimes and genocide. So the next commissioner must launch an investigation into China's genocidal policies and also should ensure that the influence of CCP does not sway future reports and investigations like the last one did.

BROWN: What can other nations do to better help Uyghurs?

ABBAS: Protecting the Uyghur people in diaspora from transnational repression and also making sure that China does not attempt to retaliate against Uyghur advocates for speaking out and also accept political asylum from the Uyghurs and also stop the forced labor. Because every single country, it's against their own constitutions and their own principles to have a slave labor. The companies using Uyghurs slaves basically, turning you, me, the audience, everyone out there to complicit with China's genocide. And my sister, Dr. Gulshan Abbas, retired medical doctor, could have made that shirt on your back. So, companies using the forced labor are making all of us complicit with this genocide, but also turning all of us into enablers of the genocide and the modern slavery. So we must create a supply chains free of forced labor and slave labor. So the countries can start not to violate their own fundamental, basic principles, and protect the rights of the people and do not kowtow in to Beijing. When you look at some of the world leaders and the famous celebrities, and like Hollywood celebrities, and all these people who are so vocal against any sort of social injustice, rightfully, they're supposed to, but they are voiceless when the perpetrator is China, and the perpetrator has money and the power. So none of them had the guts to condemn China because they are profiting from the genocide and my people's blood and sweat.

BROWN: What role could religious leaders and people of faith play in advocating for freedom for the leaders?

ABBAS: It’s so important to get the religious leaders involved because China is not only waging war against humanity, waging war against freedom and democracy, but China's also waging war against faith, religion, original thought. So religious leaders can give sermons and educate the public on the Uyghur genocide and China's war on faith. And also China's war on women and children. They are forcibly sterilizing the older women, forcibly giving them abortions, and forcing them to marry other people, and the Uyghur children are taken away. So the religious leaders must be working to educate their congregations on the connection between Uyghur suffering and all people. If genocide can happen in China in 21st century in 2022, it can happen anywhere. So it an issue [that] should concern all people and our knowledge can lead [to] action. So we really need religious leaders to educate themselves and educate people around them.

BROWN: China’s oppression in Xinjiang has been going on for years—with little change or end in sight. I’d like to know what keeps you going—keeps you hopeful—as you advocate for the detainees, including your sister?

ABBAS: I am speaking to you today, I am doing my advocacy work today at the cost of my own sister’s freedom. It’s a long and uphill battle for justice. And what keeps me going is the love I have for my sister, the love I have for my people, and the love I have for freedom and democracy. And I am doing this not just for my sister, just for my people, but trying to save the world, the free world that your parents, your grandparents worked so hard to establish. As I mentioned earlier, authoritarian regimes like China should immediately [be held] accountable and if we don't take action now, our children and our grandchildren will face the consequences of an illiberal world.

BROWN: We’ve been talking with Rushan Abbas, founder of the Campaign for Uyghurs.

ABBAS: Thank you, Myrna.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: crimes against humanity in China.

The U.N. human rights office last week released its long-awaited report on human rights transgressions in China.

PAUL BUTLER, HOST: The report pointed to the government’s detention of Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in the western Xinjiang region.

It cited “serious” rights violations and patterns of torture. And it called for an urgent international response to the allegations.

The outgoing U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet released the report on her way out the door and faced criticism for not releasing it earlier.

BROWN: Joining us now to discuss these abuses in China and the importance of this report is Rushan Abbas. She is founder of the Campaign for Uyghurs.

She’s worked closely with members of Congress since the 1990s pushing for the rights of Uyghurs and religious minorities. Rushan, good morning, thanks for joining us!

RUSHAN ABBAS, GUEST: Thank you much Myrna for having me.

BROWN: What, if anything, was surprising about the content of the UN Human Rights Office’s Aug. 31 report on the situation of Uyghurs in Xinjiang?

ABBAS: We were surprised because Miss Bachelet when she went to our homeland, East Turkestan and China, she basically parroted the Beijing's narratives and the propagandas and legitimize the genocide. So we were glad that the report has released and it has confirmed what we have been saying for years about China's genocidal policies, and the arbitrary detention and the violence in the camps, and the oppression and the discrimination against our people. But we were disappointed that the word genocide and they didn't say the crimes against humanity, didn't say genocide or crimes against humanity despite the facts laid out. Everything they described are actually the description of the United Nations its own description of genocide, but they swayed under Beijing’s pressure.

BROWN: How much weight does this report carry compared to the work of other nongovernmental groups?

ABBAS: Well, the report from the United Nations is very strong because of Beijing's and the Chinese Communist regime’s influences and as well as the manipulation in the United Nations. For a lot of people, it carries a certain amount of credibility, despite the UN’s failing in recent years of the addressing the Uyghur genocide and atrocities. Still, it is a global forum for countries to come together and ideally to stop the atrocities. So this report confirming the facts that the researchers and the victims’ families and the former camp detainees and as well as people like myself, an activist and the sister of a detained person, so it's truly a great confirmation. And the allies such as victims of communism and Dr. Zazz’s heroic work also, although it was watered down, but it also vindicating in many ways that should spur further action in the UN and among the member states.

BROWN: The report was released as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, stepped down. Looking ahead now, what can the next High Commissioner do differently to better help the Uyghurs in China?

ABBAS: Well, the next commissioner can be independent and be protective of the UN’s founding principles and do not sway in in Beijing, and can be proactive in addressing the Uyghur genocide. The UN, United Nations adopted the Responsibility to Protect as a mechanism to prevent mass atrocity crimes and genocide. So the next commissioner must launch an investigation into China's genocidal policies and also should ensure that the influence of CCP does not sway future reports and investigations like the last one did.

BROWN: What can other nations do to better help Uyghurs?

ABBAS: Protecting the Uyghur people in diaspora from transnational repression and also making sure that China does not attempt to retaliate against Uyghur advocates for speaking out and also accept political asylum from the Uyghurs and also stop the forced labor. Because every single country, it's against their own constitutions and their own principles to have a slave labor. The companies using Uyghurs slaves basically, turning you, me, the audience, everyone out there to complicit with China's genocide. And my sister, Dr. Gulshan Abbas, retired medical doctor, could have made that shirt on your back. So, companies using the forced labor are making all of us complicit with this genocide, but also turning all of us into enablers of the genocide and the modern slavery. So we must create a supply chains free of forced labor and slave labor. So the countries can start not to violate their own fundamental, basic principles, and protect the rights of the people and do not kowtow in to Beijing. When you look at some of the world leaders and the famous celebrities, and like Hollywood celebrities, and all these people who are so vocal against any sort of social injustice, rightfully, they're supposed to, but they are voiceless when the perpetrator is China, and the perpetrator has money and the power. So none of them had the guts to condemn China because they are profiting from the genocide and my people's blood and sweat.

BROWN: What role could religious leaders and people of faith play in advocating for freedom for the leaders?

ABBAS: It’s so important to get the religious leaders involved because China is not only waging war against humanity, waging war against freedom and democracy, but China's also waging war against faith, religion, original thought. So religious leaders can give sermons and educate the public on the Uyghur genocide and China's war on faith. And also China's war on women and children. They are forcibly sterilizing the older women, forcibly giving them abortions, and forcing them to marry other people, and the Uyghur children are taken away. So the religious leaders must be working to educate their congregations on the connection between Uyghur suffering and all people. If genocide can happen in China in 21st century in 2022, it can happen anywhere. So it an issue [that] should concern all people and our knowledge can lead [to] action. So we really need religious leaders to educate themselves and educate people around them.

BROWN: China’s oppression in Xinjiang has been going on for years—with little change or end in sight. I’d like to know what keeps you going—keeps you hopeful—as you advocate for the detainees, including your sister?

ABBAS: I am speaking to you today, I am doing my advocacy work today at the cost of my own sister’s freedom. It’s a long and uphill battle for justice. And what keeps me going is the love I have for my sister, the love I have for my people, and the love I have for freedom and democracy. And I am doing this not just for my sister, just for my people, but trying to save the world, the free world that your parents, your grandparents worked so hard to establish. As I mentioned earlier, authoritarian regimes like China should immediately [be held] accountable and if we don't take action now, our children and our grandchildren will face the consequences of an illiberal world.

BROWN: We’ve been talking with Rushan Abbas, founder of the Campaign for Uyghurs.

ABBAS: Thank you, Myrna.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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