These days, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s going on outside the United States, yet China continues to commit human rights violations in Xinjiang and Tibet with impunity. In fact, the pandemic has increased restrictions. Fortunately, the international community is speaking out, the Member States of the United Nations decry abuses in Xinjiang and human rights experts raise concerns on the “enforced disappearance” of the Panchen Lama. As the number of these convictions increases, we would like to propose two more: the disengagement of companies complicit in human rights violations and the recognition by the United Nations as non-self-governing territories.
Tibet and Xinjiang both have a disputed history of conflict with China, mostly over sovereignty issues. China claims Tibet has been under Chinese sovereignty for 1793. In contrast, the Tibetan government-in-exile claims that Tibet was invaded in 1949-50. Tibet had its own language, currency, army, government, culture, religion and treaties, which display their independence. Meanwhile, in comparison, in Xinjiang, China began asserting more sovereign control over the region – which borders Russia – as it became more interested in trade. A history of separatist violence challenging Chinese sovereignty claims has only heightened China’s resolve.
China’s human rights violations in Tibet and Xinjiang in the name of state sovereignty are truly endless. China has implemented the forced transfer of populations; public executions; murder of demonstrators; torture of monks, nuns and citizens in the country, including Tibet. Tibet also suffered from the genocide. Both regions suffered “re-education” and mass surveillance, and China has denied the basic rights of the two populations. Less direct infringements of rights such as destruction of monasteries, exile of religious leaders, attempted installation of religious leaders and Tibetan flag bans and Dalai Lama photos also took place.
Despite China’s draconian control over the two regions, divestment could be an effective means of exerting economic pressure on China. In Xinjiang, in particular, the divestiture could have the additional effect of ensuring that US-based businesses and consumers are not complicit in these human rights violations. In Tibet, US companies should consider disengaging from strategic sectors that will weaken either Chinese economic growth or the People’s Liberation Army. Meanwhile, in Xinjiang, Americans and US companies own millions of shares in Chinese tech companies like Hikvision and Dahua, which are implicated in human rights abuses, while other US-based companies companies, like Nike and Adidas, can source materials from the forced labor of the Uyghurs themselves, for which these companies should be held accountable. Marion smith, the executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, endorses this approach through Congress. All of these measures may not force China to completely stop the persecution of Uyghurs, but it would make participation in human rights abuses costly for American businesses, investors and consumers.
In addition to divestment, the UN should officially recognize Tibet and Xinjiang as Non-self-governing territories, which is defined as “the territories whose population has not yet reached a full measure of self-government”. A formal label like this would constitute a strong UN challenge to China’s claims to sovereignty in the two regions, and it would require China to report annually on the status of each territory’s progress towards independence. . retaliation, but China status on the UN Special Committee on Decolonization could influence the definition of decolonization, which would also have consequences for the rest of the world. In addition, the presence of Han Chinese settlers, attracted by incentive migration policies, complicates the eventual process of decolonization for the two regions. However, it should be noted that the two regions, which still have high ethnic concentrations of their indigenous populations, can serve as buffer states and benefit from growing international recognition of human rights violations. A more in-depth conversation on this idea would certainly help shed light on the extent of China’s resistance and more details on the effectiveness of this proposal.
As should be evident by now, these propositions are neither simple nor holistic. Our argument is that resuming the debate, even with non-exhaustive solutions, is the only way to find better answers. While talking about the problem isn’t a guarantee of a solution, ignoring it is a sure-fire way to make sure there never is one.
Fatima Bamba, Katie Engsberg, Mitchell Macheske and Sarah Salkowski are masters students at the School of International Service. The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Eagle and its staff.