The United Nations “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” went into effect in 1951. At the time, the Convention defined “genocide” as actions “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” This definition includes “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” and “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.”
As in the case of any other activity deemed a crime, laws against genocide will not enforce themselves. People, or in this case nations, have to be willing to use the label “genocide” when necessary, and also to take action.
Tragically, since 1951, the international community is batting close to zero. Besides the genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda, there have been at least a dozen other campaigns of extermination that arguably met the Convention’s definition of genocide. With the possible exception of the horrific events in former Yugoslavia, no one did anything.
China, of course, has an atrocious human rights record. Given the lack of consequences the nation has faced time after time, it’s no surprise that the People’s Republic would flout the Convention and the international community. And they are.
Beijing’s treatment of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang Province qualifies, in every way, as genocide. Writing in Newsweek, Israeli Human Rights Lawyer Arsen Ostrovsky didn’t hesitate to call the Communist Party’s actions “genocide,” pointing especially to the “forced sterilizations, abortions and intrusive birth prevention.” These actions alone meet the requirement for genocide and have led to “the population growth rates in the two largest Uyghur prefectures [to fall] by 84% between 2015 and 2018.”
But there’s more.
According to the State Department, “Over a million Uighurs have now been detained by China in camps, where they are starved, abused, tortured, electrocuted, raped and even killed.” Recent video footage showed “Uighurs, with heads shaven, being blindfolded, shackled and herded onto trains, headed for these camps.”
Ostrovsky, who lost family in the Holocaust, admits that he is “loath” to draw comparisons, but in this case, finds it “impossible not to draw such parallels in the face of overwhelming evidence of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing and genocide by China’s Communist regime.”
Of course, it was equally impossible during the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides, when the world did next to nothing other than some hand-wringing and expressing regret long after it was too late.
This time, however, there are signs it may be different, though not from the Uighurs’ fellow Muslims, whose conspicuous willingness to be bought by Beijing should embarrass them. Instead, resistance to China’s genocidal policies are coming from countries finally fed up with China’s bad actions. Even some not concerned with China’s terrible treatment of religious minorities or its crackdown on Hong Kong, have concluded that Beijing must be knocked down a peg or ten.
For example, Japan is paying Japanese firms to move production out of China for reasons part economic, part national security and, part desire to reign in Chinese ambitions. Another example is India who, after a recent border clash in the Himalayas, is courting companies to relocate production from China. Apple is in the process of moving 20 percent of its production to India from China. India has also banned Chinese apps, including the insanely popular Tik-Tok, something President Trump also threatened to do for national security reasons.
Though none of these moves is in direct response to Uighur persecution, it illustrates that countries don’t have to appease Beijing. Civilized nations have both the means and the cause to punish China for its actions. People of good conscience, led by Christians, must make it clear to our leaders that business-as-usual is intolerable.
Otherwise, we can never say the phrase “Never Again!” ever again. At least not with a clear conscience.
Publication date: August 4, 2020
Photo courtesy: Alejandro Luengo/Unsplash
BreakPoint is a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. BreakPoint commentaries offer incisive content people can't find anywhere else; content that cuts through the fog of relativism and the news cycle with truth and compassion. Founded by Chuck Colson (1931 – 2012) in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends. Today, you can get it in written and a variety of audio formats: on the web, the radio, or your favorite podcast app on the go.
John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and radio host of BreakPoint, a daily national radio program providing thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.