From September 1 to 3, the biggest gathering of politicians, legal and academic experts on Xianjing has gathered in the Boiler House at Newcastle University in UK. The Xinjiang Crisis: Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, Justice is organized by a Xianjing-specialist academic, Dr. Jo Smith Finley.
Dr. Finley can speak and write in Chinese and Uyghur; she has been researching the “evolution of identities among the Uyghurs of Xinjiang, NW China, and in the Uyghur diaspora,” among others. In 2019, she co-edited Securitization, Insecurity, and Conflict in Contemporary Xinjiang, an issue from Central Asian Survey, an academic journal. Dr. Finley, Hanna Burdorf, a Ph.D. candidate for Uyghur studies, and Nick Megoran, a political geographer and a faculty member at Newcastle University, were the official organizers of the conference.
The three-day conference includes in-person panel discussions and virtual panel discussions. It aims to discuss the pressing matter of China’s increasingly volatile region of Xianjing and the Chinese Communist Party’s oppression of the Uyghurs, an ethnic Muslim population in China.
The three-day conference is attended by very specialized individuals, who are called into action to create a more effective international response against China. The attendance includes scholars in Xinjiang/Uyghur, experts in international laws and genocide, non-government organization representatives, human rights advocates, activists, think tanks, and politicians from the UK.
“We are gathering all these people to combine their expertise and influence to up the ante to increase pressure on China,” explained Dr. Finley. Another item the conference will discuss is the estimated 1 million people currently being detained in China’s “re-education” camps; most of them are Uyghurs. China is also accused of using these individuals for forced labor. The Uyghurs, the main target of China’s anti-terrorism campaign that turned into genocide, have experienced methodical forced birth control.
China has vehemently denied any of these accusations, despite mounting evidence. Beijing has repeatedly denied the existence of detention camps. “Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson for China’s Ministry on Foreign Affairs, claimed that there is no substantial evidence against the west’s accusations. Wenbin added that the Uyghurs are ‘living a safe and happy life.”
“This is a major humanitarian disaster which is increasingly urgent,” Dr. Fnley explained; she added that starting with the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the international community can do more to hold China accountable. “There’s a lot we can do in terms of shaming,” she mused.