UHRP Submission for Consideration by the U.K. Conservative Party Human Rights Commission
January 19, 2021
The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) submitted a briefing in May 2020 to the U.K. Conservative Party Human Rights Commission ahead of its compilation of the now-public report, The Darkness Deepens: The Crackdown on Human Rights in China 2016–2020.
The briefing draws on UHRP research, firsthand testimonies, and additional reporting on the Uyghur crisis since 2016. In particular, the briefing touches on a several key issues relating to the persecution of the Uyghur people since 2016:
- Religious repression: The Chinese government has, for decades, taken steps through law and policy to broadly coerce, control and restrict religious practice and prohibit that which is seen to undermine the state’s authority. This constitutes, in many cases, state-sponsored religious discrimination prohibited in Chinese and international law.
- Harassment of Uyghurs abroad by the Chinese government: The Chinese government has for years engaged in a campaign of intimidation and espionage against the Uyghur diaspora around the world. This campaign has escalated since 2017, as various representatives of the Chinese government have threatened to throw family members in the Uyghur Region into various forms of detention.
- Mass detention and forced labor: Since 2017 Chen has perhaps most notably orchestrated the extrajudicial, extralegal detention of upwards of 1.8 million Uyghurs in “re-education” camps that he has designed to “teach like a school, be managed like the military, and be defended like a prison.”
- Surveillance technologies: Since 2016, the Chinese government has developed new surveillance technologies in the region to serve two purposes: (1) to command unprecedented knowledge over the lives of individuals and communities, and (2) to build products and expertise for profitable export.
The briefing also includes a number of priority recommendations for the U.K. government to respond to the human rights crisis:
- Take immediate steps to ensure that Uyghur asylum seekers in the UK are protected and follow the lead of the migration agencies of Germany and Sweden by publicly announcing that Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim peoples will not be returned to China.
- Ensure that Uyghurs living on short-term residency permits have the right over time to apply for long-term residency in the UK.
- Take immediate steps to ensure that dissidents and Uyghurs residing in the UK are protected against retaliation from the Chinese government and invoke domestic law as appropriate.
- Publicly and privately urge the Chinese government at the highest levels to end mass, arbitrary detention of Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples.
- Consider Magnitsky-style targeted sanctions, such as those currently in development by the UK government, and other visa protocols, against Party Secretary Chen Quanguo and other senior officials linked to abuses in the Uyghur region.
- Urge British companies with operations in the Uyghur region and across China to adopt explicit policies in support of human rights and establish procedures to ensure that their operations do not result in, or contribute to, human rights abuses, including forced labor.
- Impose appropriate export control mechanisms to deny the Chinese government, and Chinese companies enabling government abuses, access to technologies used to violate basic rights, particularly in the surveillance sector.
- Consider expanding the UK export licencing policy for China to include technology and equipment that may be used to repress the Uyghur population, in line with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s addition of 28 Chinese organizations to its “entities list.”
- Reassess the UK’s Department for International Trade’s relationship with Chinese companies involved in the development of artificial intelligence systems, including SenseTime.
- Urge British companies involved in the sale of surveillance technology to the Chinese government to conduct human rights due diligence to assess the impact of their products on religious and ethnic minorities.
- Ensure that institutions like universities and research organizations do not engage with Chinese police departments, security agencies, or Chinese technology companies linked to human rights abuses against Turkic Muslims.