A Genocide in China

Matthew R. Bishop
4 min readJul 4, 2020

New evidence reveals worst fears, demands international response

Image of Chinese military drills provided by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, United States Armed Forces

Matthew R. Bishop — July 4th, 2020

The mass internment of Uighurs, Turks, Kazaks, various Muslims, and other ethnic-religious minorities by China constitutes the largest mass ethnic internment campaign since the Holocaust. For years, international observers have watched with a close and anxious eye.

This past week, new evidence came to light which reveals a worst-case scenario already unfolding. This evidence requires the United States and all other world powers to confront China under existing Responsibility to Protect laws. Read the full report on Foreign Policy.

“Forced sterilizations” have been hailed as the “next generation” of genocide. Sterilizations are less noteworthy, do not attract as much media attention, and will not spark an immediate WW3 backlash, because on the whole, sterilizations are less visible than just killing everyone — but equally as effective in accomplishing the end goal of eliminating an ethnic race from the world.

Promised their own lives in exchange for forfeiting their reproductive rights, victims are forced into compliance — but the crime is quieter than homicide, and fewer people speak out.

Last year — last year alone — some of these camps in western China reported forced sterilization rates of up to 34% of their interned population. Over a three-year period, Chinese Uighur reproduction rates plummeted by 84% — suggesting the forced sterilization campaign might be dramatically closer to completion than previously thought.

Genocide is the highest crime against humanity that exists. Evidence of genocide routinely suggests or even requires the immediate intervention of foreign military powers in order to protect an endangered human group from extinction. If this were a third-world state, interventionists would have been screaming to deploy a U.N. Peacekeeping force years before this ever happened.

But this is happening in China.

For many years, the internment issue in China has been a hot subject. When the belligerent, genocidal party is itself a world power — and even sits on the P-5 Security Council — it is clear that any such action on the part of international militaries risks a third world war. Normally a case of this magnitude is referred to the Security Council right away — but China holds veto powers on the United Nations Security Council, and will veto any United Nations attempt to intervene.

We’ve been avoiding this subject for years, because we are afraid to consider that this might happen again. But now the evidence increasingly points to a Final Solution-type program in western China, where as many as 2 million ethnic and religious minority groups may be force-sterilized in just three years.

Strong progressive internationalists must remain committed to the regimes of international law, human rights, and the responsibility to protect. But we must also remain acutely aware that this is an issue which could provoke a larger war that would result in a higher number of people killed than just 2 million.

Does that change the morality of it? Should that change how we view the issue? Does it absolve international peacekeepers of the responsibility to intervene in cases of genocide? Are we obligated to go in, guns blazing, without accounting for what civilians might die in an actual war?

On the other hand, can we really weigh the hypothetical loss of civilians in a war against the definitive loss of a civilian population that is already currently experiencing genocide, or are those two items not even comparable in the first place?

These are all the great moral and legal questions we need to debate as a country. What do we believe in, what will we fight for, and where will we draw a line?

This is not like an illegal nuclear weapons program — you can’t just find some genius kid in his mom’s basement and hire him to hack into some centrifuges to blow them up and take down the reactor. This is a civilian internment camp. The only way to free these people is to secure the ground location — with a ground invasion — and set them free by force.

In this scenario, China’s sovereignty is invaded, and both sides now have just cause to declare war — the one for genocide, and the other for sovereign invasion. This means both nations would enjoy popular support if they were to declare war. It’s a worst-case scenario, because when you have two fanatical opposites both believing in opposing just causes, ironically, those are the most heated and unjust wars, where millions of innocent people die and neither side surrenders.

This is a grave matter of the highest international concern. We cannot let COVID-19, global protests, and the next global depression distract us from the looming threat of a genocide. We have the evidence we were hoping not to find. We cannot unsee it.

This is not a hypothetical question of “What happens if China decides to commit genocide against all of these people they put into camps?” That was the hypothetical question two years ago. Today, genocide is the reality of what is happening on the ground. The only hypothetical question left is: “Will anyone stop them, or will they get away with this?”

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Matthew R. Bishop

Matt is an author, journalist, international affairs writer, and a federal civilian crisis responder for the United States.