“China is facing mounting criticism from around the world over its treatment of the mostly Muslim Uighur population in the north-western region of Xinjiang.
Rights groups believe China has detained more than a million Uighurs over the past few years in what the state defines as “re-education camps”.
There is evidence of Uighurs being used as forced labour and of women being forcibly sterilised.
The US has accused China of committing genocide and crimes against humanity through its repression of the Uighurs.
Who are the Uighurs?
There are about 12 million Uighurs, mostly Muslim, living in north-western China in the region of Xinjiang, officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).
The Uighurs speak their own language, similar to Turkish, and see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations.
They make up less than half of the Xinjiang population.
In recent decades, there’s been a mass migration of Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) to Xinjiang, and the Uighurs feel their culture and livelihoods are under threat.
Where is Xinjiang?
Xinjiang lies in the north-west of China and is the country’s biggest region.
Like Tibet, it is autonomous, meaning – in theory – it has some powers of self-governance. But in practice, both face major restrictions by the central government.
It is a mostly desert region, producing about a fifth of the world’s cotton.
It is also rich in oil and natural gas and because of its proximity to Central Asia and Europe is seen by Beijing as an important trade link.
In the early 20th Century, the Uighurs briefly declared independence, but the region was brought under the complete control of mainland China’s new Communist government in 1949.
What are the allegations against China?
The US has accused China of committing genocide against the Uighurs. According to international convention, genocide is the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
It follows reports that, as well as interning Uighurs in camps, China has been forcibly mass sterilising Uighur women to suppress the population and separating Uighur children from their families.
On his final day in office under the Trump administration, US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo said: “I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state.”
A UN human rights committee in 2018 said it had credible reports the Chinese were holding up to a million people in “counter-extremism centres” in Xinjiang.”