A vast and diverse network of international law and organizations aid the world toward globalization. We have different and versatile international laws for different subjects- economics, trade, human rights, environment, etc. International law, a term coined by Jeremy Benthem can be defined as a set of rules, regulations, norms, or standards that apply between sovereign states and other entities which are legally regarded as international actors. International organizations can be said as international actors that imply international law to accomplish the goal of global peace and prosperity. Even after the establishment of various international organizations and laws to promote globalization, we have witnessed ethnic conflicts and massacres in history. One can look into the situation of people living in Palestine, or hear to Uighur living in exile, or can ask the Armenians to understand how these conflicts impact civilians the most. The prominent reason for the conflicts to become so severe is the lack of an international mechanism that is responsible to preserve the dignity and lives of people. Even after the establishment of UDHR, ICSER and its lengthy tedious charter lack the mechanism and power to saviour people. In this blog let’s, discuss how international organizations have fallen short to accomplish their duties in the case of the Uighur-Xinjiang conflict.


Uighur Muslim community are residents of Xinjiang province, officially known as the Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang. Xinjiang is a province that is situated in the northern part of China, a landscape with lonely, rugged mountains with large desert basins. Xinjiang is China’s biggest political unit with Wulumuqi as its capital. Uighurs living in this area don’t hold similar ethnic background to the Chinese population. Their cultural roots and origin are from Central Asia, specifically Mongolia.[1] After 1949, the control of Xinjiang passed to the Chinese government to reduce the position of Uighur start infiltrating the Xinjiang province by appointing Han Chinese people through XPCC (the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps).[2] This brought a strong backlash from the Uighur community that considers themselves autonomous. Large protests and rallies were organized against the Chinese government for freedom and against the malpractices of China. China, following its paths of severity and stringent mechanism, followed a strict policy against the protest. The government imitated large reforming programs that never reformed but always imposed and repressed. China has a very close-knit and closed system where knowing the happening in China is very difficult for the outside world[3]. The curb and restriction on Chinese journalism, as well as foreign journalist giants, provide a back step to analyze the exact condition of Uighurs. Still, it is said that injustice can’t be suppressed hence there are various pieces of evidence that state grave acts done by the Chinese officials on the Uighur population ranging from torture, rape, controlling birth, infringement of privacy, illegal detainment, and allegations of genocide are also imposed.[4] Activities carried against the Uighur community leads to violation of the treaties of human law, where China is a part of- Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD); and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).[5] So, the prominent question is, what enabled China to carry out these acts even after pieces of evidence and witness provided by Uighur and renowned sources[6]. Let’s analyze it.

One of the main arguments presented by the China government on the allegation of Western countries on the violation of Uighur people’s human right is the lack of evidence that explicitly claim the violation. Though, there are statements by Uighurs in exile, images and videos by some world-renowned journalist groups and agencies, and also the leak of China cables in which there is mentioning of detention and extreme force.[7] Still, due to weak international policy mechanisms and China being one of the most powerful nations, evaluation of the exact situation of the Uighurs is very crucial. As the Chinese government believes in its journalism and hardly any data is released that can give the exact situation and condition of Uighurs, it’s very hard to put allegations on China. One more reason is the dominating power that China holds, due to its last investment in middle east Islamic countries and Belt and Road Initiative, many countries side with China due to their interest[8]. For example- at the UN high commission meeting for human rights, only 43 countries alleged against China’s violative practices, and 63 voted against the 43 countries stating that allegations are false.[9]

Investigation in Uighur crisis can be proceeded by two international bodies- International criminal court and UNSC that can hold or start the investigation for the violation of International Human rights laws as their resolutions are binding in international law. The ICC can prosecute a state for four crimes- a crime against humanity, genocide, war crimes, and crimes of aggression if the state comes under the jurisdiction of ICC.[10] Though, ICC can put a state under its jurisdiction provided that UNSC promulgate a resolution and is adopted against the state under Chapter-VII of the UN charter. China has not recognized the ICC jurisdiction but legal action could be taken if UNSC passes a resolution against the Chinese activities and refer the resolution to the ICC prosecutor, making ICC jurisdiction on China.[11] This could happen if China was not a part of P-5 nations as according to Chapter-V of the UN charter says that for passing a resolution one needs minimum approval of 9 members countries including all permanent members if one of the P-5 nations uses a veto the resolution stands disapproved. This mechanism of UNSC is aiding China to restrict the international organizations to investigate the crisis hence leaving the Uighurs to their suffering and situations.[12] Low-level, intermittent skirmishes between civilians and police have occurred, but Beijing’s strong security mechanism has so far kept escalation at distant. In this scenario, diplomatic intervention options are limited compared to those available during more traditional violent wars. Furthermore, China has opposed diplomatic pressure to reform its policies, portraying its treatment of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang as an issue of domestic sovereignty, preventing foreign diplomatic intervention.


China neglects all the allegations against human rights violations as well as the pieces of evidence are neglected to say that there are fabricated and false. China claims that the Xinjiang province is climbing the stairs of development under the Chinese government policies and allegations of west countries about human rights violations as a fabricated political allegation just to lower China’s reputation. It also neglects the pieces of evidence provided by the west as false and lack credibility. Due to weak international policy mechanism, China’s dominating power, lack of exact pieces of evidence from the territory due to strict regulations imposed by China that prohibits journalist to conduct their investigations, and also the restrictive policy of China that restricts its journalism to publish anything against the government and outside China, make it more crucial to evaluate the exact situation of Uighur and role of China. Sanctions from the west and maintaining pressure on China through UN organizations do help to some extent but there is a need for more strengthened international policies especially the role of international law of human rights to aid Uighurs as well as a collection of sufficient data to evaluate China position in the crisis. The immediate need of the hour is to formulate an efficient international policy mechanism as well as the usage of free and coercion-free deliberation between the Uighur community and the Chinese government to achieve a consensus decision.

Author(s) Name: Smriti Yadav (Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur)


[1] Waugh DC, ‘The Uighurs’ (UW Departments Web Server) <https://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/exhibit/uighurs/essay.html> accessed March 3, 2022

[2] Seymour, J. D. (2000) ‘Xinjiang’s Production and Construction Corps, and the Sinification of Eastern Turkestan’ (Inner Asia, 2(2), 171–193) <https://brill.com/view/journals/inas/2/2/article-p171_5.xml>, accessed March 5, 2022

[3] BBC News (2014, September 26) ‘Why is there tension between China and the Uighurs?’ <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-26414014> accessed on March, 3

[4] Vicky Xiuzhong Xu , Danielle Cave , Dr James Leibold , Kelsey Munro & Nathan Ruser, ‘Uyghur for sale’ (March 1, 2020) <https://www.aspi.org.au/report/uyghurs-sale>  accessed on March,4.

[5] Lewis, M. K. (2018, October 30) ‘China must stop making a mockery of the rights treaties it signs’ Washington Post.<https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/10/30/china-must-stop-making-a-mockery-of-the-rights-treaties-it-signs/>, accessed on March,5

[6] Giavanna O’Connell, How China is Violating Human Rights Treaties and its own Constitution in Xinjiang, <https://www.justsecurity.org/72074/how-china-is-violating-human-rights-treaties-and-its-own-constitution-fin-xinjiang/ >, accessed March 8,2022.

[7] BBC News. (2019, November 24) ‘Data leak reveals how China “brainwashes” Uighurs in prison camps’ <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-50511063>, accessed on March, 5

[8] Cohen, N. (2021, April 2) ‘Why do Muslim states stay silent over China’s abuse of the Uighurs?’ (The Guardian) <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/04/why-do-muslim-states-stay-silent-over-chinas-uighur-brutality >, accessed on March,4

[9] Sophie Richardson, UN Rights Chief to Report on China’s Abuses in Xinjiang, <https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/09/15/un-rights-chief-report-chinas-abuses-xinjiang>, accessed March 6, 2022

[10] How the Court works. (n.d.) <Https://Www.Icc-Cpi.Int/about/How-the-Court-Works. https://www.icc-cpi.int/about/how-the-court-works >, accessed on March 7

[11] Javier C. Hernández ‘I.C.C. Won’t Investigate China’s Detention of Muslims’ <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/15/world/asia/icc-china-uighur-muslim.html> accessed on March 4, 2022

[12] Alina Rizvi (2020, July 11) ‘Uighur Crisis Highlights Flawed Structure of UN Security Council’ JURIS Commentary Legal News &Commentary. <https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/07/alina-rizvi-unsc-reform-uighurs/> accessed on March 7,2022