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Rubio Joins Yoho, Colleagues in Urging UN to Investigate Uyghur Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang

Nov 17, 2020 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL), and a group of bipartisan and bicameral colleagues, in sending a letter to Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres urging him to leverage the international organization’s investigative and political mechanisms to urgently investigate and elevate the ongoing crisis in Xinjiang. The letter’s requests align closely with the demands of leading experts and the non-governmental community. Notably, the appointment of a Special Envoy, Special Rapporteur, or other investigative mechanism, as well as the holding of a Special Session of the Human Rights Council.
Joining Senators Rubio and Congressman Yoho in sending the letter were U.S. Senators Rick Scott (R-FL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), as well as Representatives Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Donald Beyer (D-VA), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Brian Mast (R-FL), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), Ben McAdams (D-UT), Tom Tiffany (R-WI), and Elaine Luria (D-VA). International support on the letter included parliamentarians from Australia, Canada, the European Union, Italy, and Switzerland.
Rubio is Cochair of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) and is a member of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.
The full text of the letter is below.
Mr. Secretary General:
We write today to urge you to use your authority as Secretary General to take immediate actions to address the growing human rights crisis in Xinjiang. Specifically, we echo calls for you to appoint a Special Envoy or other investigative mechanism and for you to publicly support calls for the UNHRC to hold a special session on the crisis.
As you are intimately aware, millions of Uyghurs and other minorities have been taken from their homes and arbitrarily detained in “re-education centers” where innocent citizens have been reportedly subjected to political indoctrination, torture, rape, and forced injections. According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, there are at least 380 identified mass detention facilities—including “re-education camps,” prisons, and other facilities in Xinjiang. Despite claims by the Chinese government of slowed expansion, 61 of these detention facilities show signs of expansion in the past year alone. As reported by The Guardian, a recent Chinese Communist Party white paper openly claims that “an average of 1.29 million workers […] had gone through ‘vocational training’ every year between 2014 and 2019.”
Victims of the ethnic persecution in Xinjiang have also testified to our respective legislative bodies on widespread government-led efforts to suppress religious identity and expression. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimated that approximately 8,500 mosques have been destroyed in Xinjiang since 2017. Further evidence indicates that Uyghur women have been sterilized under threat of punishment, which could include being sent to the camps.

Independent reporting has also confirmed that the Chinese government uses diplomats, officials, and other proxies in our member nations to spy on and track down Uyghurs residing abroad. We are also concerned by a consistent pattern of  the Chinese government refusing to renew passports or travel documents for Uyghur citizens, forcing them to choose between returning to China and likely detention or facing potential deportation due to invalidated or expired documents. In addition, we are deeply concerned that Chinese authorities seek to silence protected speech of Uyghurs in our own countries by harassing and detaining their family members in China.
As a result of these widespread and well-documented reports, 50 human rights experts issued a call for key actions by the United Nations. Making note of the alarming attack on fundamental freedoms in Xinjiang and the unwillingness of the Chinese government to allow independent investigations, these experts urged several key actions—including some under your direct authority. Notably, the UN Human Rights experts urged:

  1. An urgent debate and/or special session of the UN Human Rights Council
  2. The establishment of an independent UN monitoring mechanism on rights in China, which could include a UN Special Rapporteur, an HRC Panel of Experts, or a Special Envoy appointed by the Secretary General

As you know, this call for meaningful action by UN human rights experts was reiterated by over 400 global NGOs. We write to join this call for action. The time for strong and unequivocal condemnation is not over. However, the circumstances today call for you to take unilateral action to the full measure allowed under your authorities to bring to bear the full power of UN investigative and political pressure on the crisis in Xinjiang.
We would welcome a conversation with you on the steps your office will pursue and encourage within the United Nations system to investigate the reported ethnic and religious persecution in Xinjiang.