UN Committee Grills China on Widespread Gender-based Violence Targeting Uyghur Women

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May 12, 2023 | 1:00 p.m. EST
For Immediate Release
Contact: Peter Irwin +1 (646) 906-7722, Zumretay Arkin +49 176 6161 9282

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) and the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) are calling for renewed action by governments and UN agencies following vigorous questioning by a UN Committee on the Chinese government’s blatant attack on the rights of Uyghur and other Turkic women.

“This review has proven that the Chinese government continues to completely deny the wide range of human rights abuses, amounting to genocide,” said WUC Director of the Women’s Committee, Zumretay Arkin. “It is now up to the Committee to assess the evidence presented to them by NGOs, researchers, and other independent bodies and opt for accountability.’’

“From birth prevention and sterilizations to forced and incentivized marriages, Uyghur women have borne the brunt of the Chinese government’s atrocious policies,” said UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat. “The UN Committee did even more today to uncover many of these abuses, but the government clearly demonstrated its unwillingness to even acknowledge these facts.” 

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) reviewed China’s human rights record in Geneva today during their 85th session, asking pointed questions on a number of issues raised in parallel reports by UHRP and WUC to the Chinese government delegation.

Clear, detailed questions were posed by committee members throughout the session, including on significant drops in birth rates among Uyghurs, forced and coerced sterilizations and IUD insertions, torture and sexual violence in the internment camp system, forced labor, forced and incentivized marriages, and passport confiscations.

Committee member Ms. Hilary Gbedemah raised birth rate declines in East Turkistan between 2015 and 2018—evidence which the Uyghur Tribunal relied on in their 2021 finding of genocide. Ms. Gbedemah asked if the Chinese government has investigated the fact that “birth rates in Uyghur majority prefectures have dropped significantly between 2015 and 2018.”

A Chinese delegation member responded by pointing to high birth rates among all ethnic minorities, obscuring the fact that Uyghur birth rates in particular declined significantly over these years.

Citing 2022 research by UHRP, Lithuanian Committee member, Ms. Dalia Leinarte, said that “It seems that the [Chinese] government promotes forced marriages between Uyghur women and Chinese men as a tool of intended assimilation,” and asked for the delegation to comment on the issue. 

Other questions reflected information provided by the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region, including by Ms. Marianne Mikko, who asked the delegation to “provide information on measures to independently investigate reports of forced labor on Uyghur women particularly in the textile and cotton picking industries.”

Committee member Mr. Elgun Safarov asked the delegation to “clarify when state agencies can confiscate passports on legal grounds,” referring to widespread passport confiscations in the Uyghur region in 2016. The Chinese delegation blatantly refused to acknowledge that confiscations took place—something that was widely reported by Human Rights Watch at the time. UHRP released a report in 2020 examining Chinese government efforts to deny Uyghurs access to passports and other documents.

Ms. Genoveva Tisheva asked for more information on the conditions of detention of Uyghur and Turkic women, as well as for the delegation to “provide information on the number and status of investigations into police for sexual violence—including rape—for excessive use of force, and the outcome and sanctions applied.”

Vice-Chair, Ms. Hiroko Akizuki, highlighted access to education in mother language and asked about “the measures [in place] to provide necessary education, including education in native languages, including Tibetan, Uyghur, and Mongolian?”

Despite numerous, critical questions from the Committee, the Chinese government delegation consistently refused to acknowledge any of the issues raised, and provided long-winded responses with little relevance to the requests from the Committee.

We continue to reiterate previous recommendations for governments, UN agencies, and international organizations, and urge robust follow-up from the CEDAW Committee in relation to Chinese government abuses.