It's time to set the record straight on 'genocide'

By / China Daily / Updated: 2021-04-02,12:33

[Photo by Song Chen/China Daily]

The term "genocide" has become a matter of public concern following accusations about China's Xinjiang policy by the United States and some other Western powers. So what does genocide mean according to international public law?

The term "genocide" was coined in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent. At the end of 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed Resolution 260 A, "Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide".The treaty became effective in January 1951.

Article 2 of the legal document clearly defines acts of genocide, stating that any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, constitutes genocide: killing members of such a group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

For a long time since its founding, the United States was responsible for ruthlessly expelling and killing Native Americans during the westward movement of settlers. The US has also caused tens of thousands of innocent casualties in many anti-terrorism wars against Muslim countries, including Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan. The US is also one of the few nations to have allegedly engaged in germ warfare.

Even today, black Americans continue to suffer widespread racial discrimination and human rights abuses. George Floyd, an African American, died last year after a police officer knelt on his neck during his arrest. Less than three months later, another black American, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back by police and seriously wounded. Such things happen frequently.

In Australia, the so-called White Australia policy, formally known as the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, resulted in the mass slaughter of indigenous people and the forcible removal of an estimated 100,000 indigenous children from their families. Australia is still sending troops to Afghanistan in the name of anti-terrorism measures, and an official Australian Defence Force report in 2020 found "credible evidence" that Australian elite forces unlawfully killed 39 people in the war.

In the 1870s, the Canadian government put the assimilation of indigenous peoples on its official agenda, whose purpose was to eliminate Indian ancestry from the children of aboriginals, by setting up technical schools and implementing a cultural extermination policy.

Forcibly taken away from their families, more than 150,000 indigenous school-age children were made to convert to Christianity and learn English. As many as 6,000 children died in residential institutions, which operated from 1876 to 1996, though the real figure is likely to be significantly higher, since the government stopped recording aboriginal students' deaths in 1920 in light of the alarming statistics.

During World War I, the Ottoman Empire was responsible for the mass murder and ethnic cleansing of as many as 1.5 million Armenian victims, an incident the United Nations classified as genocide in 1978. During World War II, Nazi Germany massacred an estimated 6 million Jews. More recently, during a two-month period in 1994, Hutu government forces in the East African nation of Rwanda killed about 800,000 to 1 million of the minority Tutsi group as well as political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin.

The Uygur population in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has grown substantially in the past 40 years. In the seventh census conducted in 2020, it reached more than 12 million. When New China conducted the first census in 1953, the total population in Xinjiang was only 4 million. Life expectancy also increased from 30 years to 72.Children from infancy to 9 years old account for about 18 percent of the population. From 2010 to 2018, the Uygur population rose more than 25 percent.

Can there be genocide with such a rapidly increasing population? Uygur culture and scenic spots are the main attractions for 200 million tourists who visit Xinjiang each year. This shows the stability and openness of Xinjiang. Uygurs participate in all aspects of Chinese society.

However, due to poor living conditions and cultural habits, the Uygur population has a relatively low level of education. According to the 2019 census, only about 40 percent received a primary school education and about 40 percent received a middle school education. This explains why the government must increase investment in Uygur education.

Bilingual schools are being established in Xinjiang. Uygur students have six hours of Uygur language classes every week to learn more about their culture and increase the diversity of Chinese civilization. Students also learn Mandarin in order to access richer education resources and improve their knowledge.

If such facts and situations are inexplicably regarded as genocide, it is a lie with immoral political intentions.

The accusation of genocide against China stems from the great power struggle between China and the US.

The "genocide" that has led to Uygurs' rapid population growth has never been seen before in human history. What the US and some Western powers have done is a pure crime of genocide.

Lee Hoey Simon is vice-president of the Hong Kong Association of Overseas-Returned Scholars, and Rafa Yao Sihao is a research assistant with the Basic Law Foundation.

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