“Never Again” is a loaded political phrase. It rightfully calls to mind the slaughter of millions of Jewish people under Nazi rule. It insists that the world refuse to turn a blind eye to the systematic murder of huge swaths of innocent people.
Two days ago, Canada’s Parliament declared the Chinese actions against its Uighur minority a genocide. This followed on the Trump administration’s declaration of the same, on January 19.
(A political aside: for anyone who blinds themselves to the fact that some of the Trump administration actions were proper and worthy of commendation, this is an excellent example. But for those who argue that any or all such actions were tainted by base motivations, it’s hard to get more validating than seeing the former President wait until the last day of office, when he knows he can use the declaration as a diplomatic grenade to drop in the lap of his successor but will have to do nothing himself to pressure the Chinese government, before making such a statement.)
Both Canada and the United States are correct. The stories told by escapees are horrifying, detailing systematic murder, rape, abuse and “disappearing” – removal of a person from a group (whether neighborhood or prison) with that person never heard from again. The anecdotes are very similar, whether they’re being told to reporters in Australia, Hawaii, the UK or France. The sameness of the stories despite a lack of direct contact or coordination between those who left the camps strongly suggests the tales are true.
The BBC released a report in early February detailing some of the allegations. It describes prison life, where people are forced to memorize Mao’s book, sing pro-communist songs and otherwise participate in the indoctrination efforts seen employed by various organizations throughout the world. It describes more, though; things like gang rape used as a method of punishment, with other women being forced to watch (and sodomized with long electric prods if they dare look away); severe beatings, slave labor and, of course, the regular “disappearances”.
The Chinese government insists that there has been no official sanction of any of these actions from the top, and that is true; they use President Xi Jinping’s lack of direct commands as evidence that what is being reported cannot be. In a highly monitored state like China, it is true that there is no chance Jinping would be unaware of such actions, but it is easy for him to simply ignore the issue and in so doing grant tacit approval.
An Australian report from one year ago provides details on some of the slavery issues. In December of 2019, Regional Chairman Shohrat Zakir said that all uighurs who had been detained had “graduated” and been released. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute sought information on the former detainees and determined they had been sold to factories across China, most of which manufactured goods for prominent foreign businesses like Apple, Dell, and Nike.
Following the negative report, China changed its policy. Since March of 2020, there have been no known sales of slaves to factories. Instead, the detention camps, visible via satellite photos, have swelled from a few buildings to the size of small towns. While some previously would “graduate”, for the last year none who have been sent for reeducation has been released. Somehow, the facilities always have enough room for new arrivals (by reports, more than the camp expansion could reasonably accommodate) while the ranks of the “disappeared” continue to grow.
Western powers face significant problems if they push back hard against China’s abuses. There are strong financial ties between China and the rest of the world, and they are an expansionist government with a strong military. Also, China retains much of the world’s ready supply of rare earth minerals which are needed to pursue the energy agenda of many Western nations. These realities are undoubtedly why Trump chose to wait until he was on his way out the door before allowing his administration to condemn China. But the fact remains that a mass slaughter is strongly indicated to be happening, with the best possible alternative being that local officials have created an underground pipeline for slavery and torture of millions.
Western nations have the choice of potential damage to economies and political agendas or continuing to turn a blind eye to genocide as has been done since at least 2019. We will see, over the coming months, which is chosen.