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Zhang Yonghe: Why shouldn't the label of 'Genocide' be put on China's Xinjiang?

By An Yingzhao | Ecns.cn | Updated: 2022-05-18 15:58

On June 1, 2020 local time, people in New York marched through the streets of Manhattan to protest the killing of George Floyd. [Photo: Liao Pan/China News Service]

Individual politicians and media in the United States and the West have once again hyped up Xinjiang-related issues for some time. Pompeo, the former Secretary of the State of USA, fabricated the “Genocide in Xinjiang” before leaving office, which turned out to be the biggest lie of this century. Following Pompeo, many other people with ulterior motives are trying to attach this label to Xinjiang by providing false facts and data, like the so-called "China research expert" Adrian Zenz whose Chinese name is called Zheng Guo'en.

"Genocide does not and will never exist in China", said Zhang Yonghe, executive dean of the Human Rights Research Institute of Southwest University of Political Science and Law. In an exclusive interview with "W.E. Talk" of China News Service, he emphasized that there is no so-called "genocide" in China. This is not just a statement in terms of jurisprudence and academic principles, but also an indisputable fact.

The Constitution of the People's Republic of China (PRC) is the guarantee in preventing "genocide" in China

Zhang Yonghe pointed out that the word of genocide as a proper name did not exist in English language until 1944. Zhang Yonghe introduced that in 1944, Raphäel Lemkin, a Polish-Jewish lawyer, intended to form a specific term to describe Nazis' organized systematic murder including the devastating killing of European Jews. He made a new word "genocide" by combing the Greek word "geno", meaning race or tribe, and the Latin word "cide", meaning killing. Lemkin interpreted it as "acts committed with a series of plans deliberately destroying the necessary foundations of life for specific groups and eliminating these groups through various means". In the following year, the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany, charged the Nazi leaders with "crimes against humanity", with the term "genocide" as a descriptive non-legal term in its indictment. Due to the influence of the Holocaust and Raphäel Lemkin's continuous effort, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) was passed by UN on 9 December, 1948.

At a recent daily press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian, the spokesperson of China's Foreign Ministry, repeated three times that "Genocide does not exist in China", resolutely debunking rumors made by Pompeo and others about China's policies concerning Xinjiang. Zhang Yonghe holds that there is no so-called "genocide" in China, and it will never happen. From the perspective of jurisprudence, the Constitution and other laws of the People's Republic of China have laid solid legal foundation in preventing "genocide".

It was clearly stipulated in the preamble of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China that socialist ethnic relations of equality, unity, mutual assistance and harmony are established and will continue to be strengthened. The state makes every effort to promote the shared prosperity of all the country's ethnic groups. In Article 4 of the Constitution, it is further stated that all ethnic groups of the People's Republic of China are equal. The state shall protect the lawful rights and interests of all ethnic minorities and uphold and promote relations of equality, unity, mutual assistance and harmony among all ethnic groups. Discrimination against and oppression of any ethnic group are prohibited; any act that undermines the unity of ethnic groups or creates divisions among them is prohibited. The Article 52 regulated that citizens of the People's Republic of China shall have the obligation to maintain national unity and the solidarity of all the country's ethnic groups. In section 4 of Article 89, the functions and powers exercised by The State Council include " protecting the equal rights of ethnic minorities and the self-governing power of ethnic autonomous areas".

In addition, according to Article 9 of the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law of the People's Republic of China, discrimination against and oppression of any ethnic group are prohibited; any act that undermines the unity of ethnic groups or creates divisions among them is prohibited. Article 48 regulated that autonomous agencies of an ethnic autonomous area guarantee equal rights for the various nationalities in the area. At the same time, various ethnic regions in China can formulate their autonomous regulations according to their special circumstances.

This means that the existence and development of all 56 ethnic groups in China are protected by the Constitution and laws. Any case suspected of "genocide" is unconstitutional and illegal in China, and will be subject to the most severe sanctions of the law.

Using "crimes against humanity" to discredit China's policies related to Xinjiang is "imposing crimes to the innocent"

Zhang Yonghe said that the CPPCG came into effect on January 12, 1951. Article 2 defines "genocide" as the deliberate total or partial elimination of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, including the killing of members of the group, causing serious physical or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately putting the group in a living condition in order to destroy all or part of its lives, enforcing measures with the intention of preventing childbirth within the group and forcibly transferring children from one group to another.

Some later regional statutes, including Article 4 of the 1993 Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Article 2 of the 1994 Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and Article 17 of the 1996 Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind and Article 6 of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, made similar statements in general. These above acts obviously do not exist in Xinjiang, China.

Regarding Pompeo's other accusation against China, "crimes against humanity", Zhang Yonghe points out that it is a crime with a broader definition than "genocide" since the victims are not specific human individuals and groups. In other words, "crimes against humanity" do not target a certain ethnic group, but are directed against any people who is regarded as potential victims.

It is worth noting that the international community has not yet reached a basic consensus on the fundamental issue of defining "crimes against humanity". Zhang Yonghe said that in 2019, the United Nations International Law Commission submitted the Draft Articles on Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Humanity to the United Nations General Assembly and put forward suggestions in implementing it. Yet the concerned parties have not yet reached a consensus on whether to formulate relevant conventions. It requires countries to make clear decisions and reach a basic consensus on whether and how to formulate international conventions, and even on some fundamental concepts, specific content and technical issues. After all, this kind of legislation is from the perspective of human beings regardless of political stances, prejudice, self-interest and positions of states and nationalities.

Zhang Yonghe emphasized that some American and Western politicians and media's use of "crimes against humanity" without any internationally recognized definition to discredit China's Xinjiang-related policies is completely " imposing crimes to the innocent ". Even according to the definition in the Draft Articles on Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Humanity, there is no evidence that China’s policies related to Xinjiang result in any crime like 11 conducts listed in "crimes against humanity", such as murder, extermination, slavery, deportation or forced population migration, and so on.

The facts have proved that the status quo of the human rights in Xinjiang has been improved to a new level

As a legal anthropology expert, Zhang Yonghe has many years of experience in Xinjiang-related research work. He said, "I have led my team through Xinjiang except for areas of Bayingolin, Tacheng and Bortala, and witnessed quite amazing development in recent years". Zhang Yonghe introduced that in 2019, the number of domestic and foreign tourists in Xinjiang exceeded 200 million for the first time and its tourism revenue amounted to 345.265 billion yuan. In 2020, the number of tourists in Xinjiang still reached 158 million, with its tourism revenue of 99.212 billion yuan. For the year, Xinjiang area recorded a gross domestic product of 1.379758 trillion yuan. Calculated at comparable prices, it represented an increase of 3.4 percent over the previous year and 1.1 percent higher than the national level. That was hard to come by against the background of the raging global epidemic.

Zhang Yonghe stated that these American and Western politicians, represented by Pompeo, falsely claimed that the Chinese government had carried out "genocide" against Xinjiang Uyghurs. Nevertheless, the fact turned out to be the opposite. The Uyghur population in Xinjiang has continued to grow in recent years. From 2010 to 2018, the Uyghur population in Xinjiang rose from 10.17115 million to 12.7184 million, an increase of 2.5469 million, registering a growth rate of 25.04%. This was not only higher than the 13.99% growth rate of the entire population in Xinjiang, higher than the 22.14% growth rate of the entire population of all minorities, but also far higher than the 2% growth rate of the Han population. Adrian Zenz slandered that Xinjiang conducted “compulsory sterilization” on Uyghur women, which caused a significant decline in the Uyghur population. In fact, there were massive fabricated statements and data in his so-called report. For example, Adrian Zenz said, "in 2018, 80% of the new cases of IUDs in China occurred in Xinjiang"; "in 2018, the natural population growth rate of Hotan and Kashgar areas in Xinjiang was only 2.58‰". However, the truth was that, according to data from the China Health Statistics Yearbook 2019, the number of new cases of IUD insertion in Xinjiang in 2018 accounted for only 8.7% of the country's total. Also, according to the 2019 Xinjiang Statistical Yearbook, Kashgar's natural population growth rate in 2018 was 6.93‰, and that of Hotan area was 2.96‰.

In addition, in 2018, the three-year gross enrollment rate of preschool children in Xinjiang reached 96.86%, and its net enrollment rate of primary-school children reached 99.94%. In 2020, 3.0649 million rural poor people in Xinjiang have been lifted out of poverty under the current standards, while 3, 666 villages and 35 counties previously classified as poor had emerged from poverty. All these show that Xinjiang's absolute poverty problem has met a historic resolution.

Zhang Yonghe said that Xinjiang has achieved remarkable achievements in the development of human rights, which can be regarded as an epitome of the development of human rights in China. "China has successfully embarked on a human rights development path that suits China's national conditions, which is fully in line with the facts of China's human rights development".

Some people in the United States and the West hold serious misunderstandings of China's human rights cause

In Zhang Yonghe's view, on the development of human rights laws, China did not intend to "copy it mechanically" based on Western human rights theories. "The original aspiration of the Communist Party of China is to liberate Chinese people", he said, and that has also been the specific practice of Marxist theory for human liberation. Obviously, the word of liberation here has a comprehensive meaning, covering not only political scope but also economic, social and cultural aspects. The most important thing is that China's human rights practice has been successful, miraculously lifting over 800 million people out of poverty. Some of them even embrace prosperity. This is an exemplar for realizing mankind's "right to be free from poverty" and also, the greatest contribution to the international human rights cause. Of course, at the same time, China has made great progress in other areas of human rights protection.

Zhang Yonghe observed that, one of the reasons for some misunderstandings held by the United States and the West regarding China's human rights was Western media's false news and prejudices. He said that in the context of Western media, China has been stigmatized. If Western readers come to China, it is for sure that those negative impressions would be corrected, which occurs often.

"As for those who are hostile to China, it is really tough to change their ideas since harboring hostility to China is their job. If they don't express hostility to China, they will be unemployed before a new job is offered to them". Zhang Yonghe said that U.S. Republican Senator Rubio is a representative of these persons. Of Cuban origin, Rubio took anti-Cuban practice as his earliest career. After failing to flourish from it, he turned to anti-China practice and ended up "successfully" securing himself a career. It is conceivable that Rubio may find himself unemployed if not taking the anti-China stance.

Zhang Yonghe believed that on the issue of human rights, the biggest consensus among the United States, Western countries and China was "merely a concept". Yet the divergence stems from the fact that the United States and the West arrogantly restrict the interpretation of human rights to from their perspectives, ignoring the most basic human rights such as survival, development and rights in economic, social, and cultural fields. What is worse, they have politicized human rights as a weapon to suppress other countries and interfere in their internal affairs, seriously deviating from the inherent meaning of human rights.

As individual Western countries headed by the United States have found nothing more effective for attacking China, suppressing China through human rights has become their inevitable choice. “But unfortunately", said Zhang Yonghe, "this move is obviously wrong again. What they regard as China's ammunition does not exist at all. The tricks of spreading rumors, slander, and smearing no longer work".

International recognition of China is the most powerful refutation of the fallacy of "genocide"

Zhang Yonghe told our reporter that there were many expressions of human rights thoughts in ancient China. Mozi believed that "love shall have no distinction". Zhuangzi suggested that "from the point of view of Tao, everything is equal to each other". Confucius's thoughts included that "in teaching there should be no distinction of classes", that "within the four seas, all men are brothers", and that "do not do to others what you do not want others to do to you". Liu Xiang of the Western Han Dynasty believed that "All the humans are the most valuable among things created by the Heaven ". Chen Que of the Ming Dynasty deemed that "human desires, so long as they are legitimate and proper, are none other than Heaven's principle".

In fact, one of the root causes of the "genocide" problem lies in distinctive views of human rights. Zhang Yonghe analyzed that, from the election of the Chinese representative Zhang Pengchun as the Vice Chairman of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and his contribution to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to China's current status as the permanent member of the United Nations Security Council who sent the most peacekeepers and the second largest funder of UN peacekeeping operations, we can see that China has become a participant, builder and contributor to global human rights governance.

Zhang Yonghe said that since its reform and opening-up, China has stepped up its efforts to promote human rights. Over the past four decades, China has set a world record by lifting over 800 million people out of poverty, becoming the country with the largest number of people benefiting from poverty reduction in world history. China's contribution to global poverty reduction exceeds 70%, which included Xinjiang. "It would be no exaggeration to say that this is China's greatest contribution to global human rights governance and the promotion of the world's human rights cause, which is also the most compelling evidence for refuting the so-called 'genocide' ".

Zhang Yonghe said that on the basis of equality and mutual respect, China is actively participating in UN human rights affairs. Great achievements have been made on the human rights development path with Chinese characteristics. Since 2006, China has been elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council for five consecutive times. This not only shows the international community's recognition of China's human rights development achievements, but also demonstrates its great expectation for China's role in international human rights governance. It is especially the best refutation of the fallacy of the so-called "genocide" in China.

In January 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered two historic speeches in Davos and Geneva, Switzerland, elaborating the concept of building a community with a shared future for mankind with a deep insight into the future and destiny of mankind and the time trend. Zhang Yonghe believed that the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind has grown into an important theoretical framework for and a right solution to global human rights governance. This proposition of China has received positive responses in the United Nations. In recent years, many resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Commission for Social Development and the Human Rights Council have highlighted building a community with a shared future for mankind.

Also, on March 23, 2018, the 37th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted the resolution proposed by China on "promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of human rights", which for the first time incorporated into UN resolutions China's major concepts of fostering a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation and building a community with a shared future for mankind.

"This is China's important contribution to global human rights governance", said Zhang Yonghe. Only by developing objective, equitable, constructive, non-selective, non-confrontational and non-politicized global human rights governance can we seek to solve human rights problems worldwide. This is where the true meaning of a community with a shared future for mankind lies.

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