On 29 September 2020, a German Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Engin Eroglu of the Renew Europe Group tabled a written parliamentary question to the Vice-President of the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell:
“Serious human rights violations against the Uighur people in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China have been taking place for several years now and have included arbitrary mass detention, forced labour and religious persecution. Lately, it has also come to the public’s attention that the Chinese Government has engaged in a mass campaign to suppress birth rates among ethnic Uighur communities, subjecting Uighur women to forced sterilisations and other birth prevention measures. These findings suggest that China’s policies against Uighurs meet one of the genocide criteria under the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Despite the rapidly deteriorating situation, the terminology used by the European Union to describe the crisis has not changed substantially over the past three years. It often uses the phrase ‘allegations of serious human rights violations’. Many believe this to no longer capture the increased severity and scale of the human rights violations against the Uighur people.
1. What is preventing the EU from adopting stronger and more accurate language to describe the Uighur crisis?
2. How does the Vice-President/ High Representative plan on ensuring that its terminology, when referring to the Uighur crisis, continues to reflect the gravity of the situation?
3. How can the EU independently determine whether a situation constitutes a genocide, crime against humanity or atrocity crime?”
On 8 January 2021, High Representative and Vice-President Borrell, formally responded on behalf of the European Commission stating:
“The EU has repeatedly and strongly spoken out against the situation in Xinjiang since 2018, notably it has conveyed its grave concerns about ‘the existence of political re-education camps, widespread surveillance, and restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, against Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang’.
The EU’s position is based on extensive and credible reports indicating the existence of a large network of political re-education camps, widespread surveillance, systemic restrictions on the freedom of religion and belief against Uighurs and other minorities, as well as reports about forced labour, forced sterilisation, and forced birth control. Over the past years, EU statements, in the context of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, have also referred to the reports and conclusions of UN independent experts. The last Item 4 statement is an example. Within this statement as well as on other occasions, the EU has called on China to grant meaningful access to the region to independent observers, including to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
China is party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide having it ratified on 18 April 1983. Establishing whether international crimes, including genocide, have been committed, is the competence of national courts as well as international courts and tribunals, which may have jurisdiction.
The EU remains committed to continue to support international mechanisms established to ascertain facts related to alleged violations of international crimes, in view of facilitating the prosecution of these crimes at national and international levels.”
Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/photos/xinjiang-uyghurs-china-5973217/