Central Conference of American Rabbis Resolution on the Uyghur Genocide

February 2, 2023


The Uyghurs are an ethnic Turkic minority group with a population of 12.8 million living in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The majority of Uyghurs are Muslims. For over a decade, Chinese authorities have increasingly engaged in oppressive restrictions of Uyghur religious, cultural, and family life and practices, as well as growing restrictions of the Uyghurs’ basic human and political rights. In 2017, the Chinese government escalated its assault on the Uyghurs by building a vast network of at least 300 detention centers in Xinjiang and arbitrarily imprisoning Uyghur Muslims.[1] Aided by surveillance tracking systems[2], China has detained as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, the largest mass internment of an ethnic-religious minority group since World War II.[3]

Human rights groups, reliable journalism, and Canadian and U.S. annual reports on human rights and religious freedom attest to a panoply of severe and systematic human rights violations,[4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] involving surveillance (including numerous instances of placing Chinese representatives in the homes of Uyghur families);[10] repression of Uyghur religious practices including enforced restrictions of dress (such as banning beards and head coverings like the hijab),[11] forcing restaurants to remain open during Ramadan,[12] and the destruction or damage of over 9,000 mosques in Xinjiang;[13] political indoctrination; physical and sexual abuse; sexual violence including rape and sexual assault;[14] torture; forced internment; forced labor;[15] forced separation of families; and reproductive violence and coercion, including coerced sterilization, contraception, and abortion.[16] U.N. human rights experts have also received credible information about alleged organ harvesting.[17]

The Uyghurs have also been forced to take factory jobs both inside and outside of the detention camps, which, in addition to the human rights violations inherent in such forced labor, serves as a form of cultural erasure: Chinese authorities utilize factory labor to assimilate Uyghur Muslims to the mindset and discipline of the Han majority culture.[18] Uyghur forced labor is used to produce cotton, textiles, yarn, polysilicon (used in solar panel manufacturing), tomato products, hair products, gloves, and fish. Due to the inconsistent tracking of goods produced with forced labor at various points in the production process, Uyghur forced labor is now believed to be inextricably linked with many, if not all, products that come from Xinjiang.[19]

The bipartisan 2021 American Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act established the “rebuttable presumption” that all goods from Xinjiang are produced with forced labor and bans the importation of these goods. The act, which took effect on June 21, 2022, prevents tainted goods from entering American markets. Due to the types of products manufactured in Xinjiang (such as cotton, tomato products, and solar panels) as well as penultimate step products that China’s trading partners use in finished products (Xinjiang is rich in critical minerals including gold, iron, zinc, chrome, nickel, copper, molybdenum, and tungsten, as well as fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas),[20] [21] rigorous enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and international adoption of similar anti-forced labor laws are needed.[22]

The Chinese government has, with intentionality, taken numerous steps to disrupt the Uyghur populace’s abilities to have families and raise children. In 2020, a leaked Chinese document called the Karakax List (named for Qaraqash County in Hotan Prefecture) detailed reasons for the detention of 484 Uyghurs. The most common reason (in 149 cases) was having had too many children.[23] [24] [25] Data comparing Uyghur birth rates in Xinjiang with national Chinese averages is shocking, showing steep declines in the Uyghur birth rate. Between 2015 and 2018, population growth in Kashgar and Hotan, two areas of Xinjiang mostly populated by Uyghurs, fell 84 percent. This has been accomplished in part by forced sterilizations and forced implementation of IUDs. In 2014, slightly over 200,000 IUDs were used in Xinjiang; by 2018, almost 330,000 IUDs were placed, an increase of over 60 percent.[26] Some Uyghur women have been forcibly and irreversibly sterilized and have given harrowing accounts of what happened to them, including but not limited to being subjected to both sexual violence and reproductive violence.[27] [28] The Chinese government’s own documents about “Free Technical Family Planning Services to Farmers and Pastoralists” suggests the campaign’s goal is to sterilize all women with three or more children and a percentage of women with one or two children; the project has enough funds to sterilize almost 200,000 or 12 percent of all married Uyghur women aged 18 to 49 in southern Xinjiang.[29]

In addition to the instances of reproductive violence, forced sterilization, and forced implementation of IUDs,[30] hundreds of thousands of children have been separated from their families. When Uyghur parents are detained or arrested, their children are often forcibly placed in orphanages or state boarding schools, even when relatives have offered to care for the children. Some of the children’s accounts from the state-run boarding schools include physical punishment, indoctrination, stress positions, prohibitions on speaking their native language, and solitary confinement—any and all of which can cause significant trauma, especially to a child.[31] [32]  In all these cases, the children are deprived of and sometimes punished for observing their own culture and religion, thus jeopardizing the future of the Uyghurs and their historic culture.

Chinese surveillance of the Uyghurs, absolute control over state media, and the government’s efforts to hide the internment camps severely limit the world’s ability to fully investigate what is happening to the Uyghurs. Further, it is increasingly difficult for Uyghurs to flee China.[33] Even if Uyghurs are able to leave, Chinese authorities threaten them or harm their family members still in China if they speak critically of the Chinese government.[34] The Chinese government has cut off contact between Uyghurs in China and their family members abroad. Those few Uyghurs who have both escaped from China and are willing to risk speaking out have confirmed the pattern and practice of inhumane abuses described herein. By testifying, the survivors give voice to the tortured and abused, providing insight into the extent of the harm and the immediate and long-term impact of such trauma. As one survivor stated, “[…] I am already a walking corpse, my soul and heart are dead.”[35]

The term genocide was coined by Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin[36] after horrific details of the Nazis’ Final Solution came to light, to convey the systematic extermination of a people. Genocide combines the Greek genos for “race” and the Latin cide for “killing.”[37] The U.N. Genocide Convention, which has been ratified by both the United States and Canada, declares that genocide is a crime under international law and that sovereign nations must stop the atrocity of genocide from ever happening again. Article II of the Convention defines genocide as

… any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.[38]

Killing, the first and most common instrument of action that signals intent to destroy a group, has been committed by the Chinese against the Uyghurs, albeit not on the scale of many other widely recognized genocides. However, the other four criteria do reflect documented Chinese government practices that are continuing to occur and are clear enough that the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, France, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic have formally determined China’s treatment of the Uyghurs to be genocide, as has an independent tribunal in the United Kingdom. [39] [40] The Chinese government has denied any wrongdoing and claimed that it is fighting “three evil forces” of separatism, terrorism, and extremism in Xinjiang.[41] The Chinese government has also refused to allow any independent entities, human rights experts, or international authorities into Xinjiang to investigate.[42]

This issue has deep resonance for the Jewish communities of the U.S. and Canada. Throughout history, Jews have been the victims of persecution, repression, and ethnic cleansing. Tragically, at certain times in history, these efforts constituted genocidal attempts to destroy us. Every Passover, we recall the story of the Exodus from Egypt, how the tyrant Pharaoh, fearing the size and power of the Hebrews, forced the Hebrews into slavery and then ordered all Jewish baby boys to be drowned in the Nile. We recall the “Ten Lost Tribes” of Israel. The holiday of Purim commemorates yet another genocidal attempt to destroy the Jewish people. The Jews of the Soviet Union faced decades of cultural genocide efforts. And there are those still among us who lived through the Shoah, one of the most heinous tragedies of history. In our family trees, we trace the names of those who were murdered as the world looked away. In history classes and educational lectures, people study the Shoah: how antisemitic attitudes became antisemitic actions, how prejudices and stereotypes became violence and destruction, how hatred hardened into genocide.

Our commitment against genocide remains strong both in our understanding of our tradition and in the power of the historic lessons of what happens when, literally, good people stand idly by the blood of their neighbor.[43] That is the spirit in which we address what our nation, our Movement, our congregations, and individual Reform Jews can and must do for the Uyghurs.


  1. Declares that the extent of the Chinese government’s relentless actions against the Uyghurs cannot be explained by anything other than an intent to destroy, in whole or in part, an ethnic or religious group;
  2. Concludes, based upon the definition above, that the Chinese government and those acting on its behalf are perpetrating genocide against the Uyghurs;
  3. Rejects racist and/or broad-brushed characterizations that hold the Chinese people, as distinguished from the Chinese government, responsible;
  4. Identifies as a friend and ally of the Uyghur communities in the United States, Canada, China, and elsewhere;
  5. Urges the U.S. and Canadian governments to act to aid the Uyghurs and hold responsible those perpetrating genocide, including but not limited to:
    1. Facilitating the expedited immigration of Uyghur refugees and other persecuted minorities to safe harbor here in the United States and Canada;
    2. Imposing sanctions that include barring perpetrators from entry into the United States and Canada, and/or prohibiting them from materially benefitting from their actions;
    3. Prohibiting import of products that use or incorporate, in whole or in part, Uyghur forced labor;
    4. Encouraging additional countries, including Israel, to carefully study and evaluate what the Chinese government is doing to the Uyghurs so that they can make their own such determinations of genocide, and to take similar actions to support the Uyghurs;
    5. Encouraging the U.N., especially the U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, to continue pressuring the Chinese government to allow a full, comprehensive, and unhindered investigation into the Chinese government’s activities in Xinjiang; and
    6. Encouraging the International Criminal Court, the International Justice Tribunal, and other supra-national judicial bodies as well as domestic and international human rights organizations to seek and advance justice on behalf of the Uyghurs;
  6. Urges CCAR Members and the communities they serve to engage in the following courses of action to assist the Uyghurs, including but not limited to:
      1. Raising awareness of the Uyghur genocide;
    1. Working with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) to take action and discover and share ways to help the Uyghurs;
    2. Partnering with Uyghur community members and groups to uplift their voices and center their needs and desires as the Reform Jewish Movement works to help them;
    3. Donating resources to Uyghur organizations and groups, especially those that help advance justice for the Uyghurs and those that teach and/or preserve Uyghur cultural knowledge, traditions, practices, language, and expression;
    4. Supporting Uyghur emigration to and resettlement in the United States and Canada through their synagogues or in partnership with HIAS or other refugee organizations;
  7. Endorses the intention of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) to research and pursue avenues for advocacy that help the Uyghurs, including but not limited to:
    1. Researching and supporting legislation that will help the Uyghurs;
    2. Partnering with organizations working to defend Uyghur human rights—be it for programming, information exchange, organizing or activism opportunities, and the like; and
    3. Partnering with Uyghur community members and groups to uplift their voices and center their needs and desires in advocacy work.

[1] The Xinjiang Data Project, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, https://xjdp.aspi.org.au/explainers/exploring-xinjiangs-detention-facilities/.

[2] How a Chinese region that accounts for just 1.5% of the population became one of the most intrusive police states in the world, Business Insider, https://www.businessinsider.com/xianjiang-province-china-police-state-surveillance-2018-7.

[3] Global Supply Chains, Forced Labor, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Congressional-Executive Commission on China Staff Research Report, March 2020, https://www.cecc.gov/sites/chinacommission.house.gov/files/documents/CECC%20Staff%20Report%20March%202020%20-%20Global%20Supply%20Chains%2C%20Forced%20Labor%2C%20and%20the%20Xinjiang%20Uyghur%20Autonomous%20Region.pdf.

[4] The Human Rights Situation of Uyghurs in Xinjiang China, Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/FAAE/report-4/page-33.

[5] 2022 Annual Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF),  https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/2022-04/2022%20USCIRF%20Annual%20Report_1.pdf

[6] 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: China (Includes Hong Kong, Macau, and Tibet), U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/china/.

[7] “Like We Were Enemies in a War”: China’s Mass Internment, Torture and Persecution of Muslims in Xinjiang, Amnesty International, https://xinjiang.amnesty.org/.

[8] China’s Repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, Council on Foreign Relations, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chinas-repression-uyghurs-xinjiang.

[9] “Break Their Lineage, Break Their Roots”: China’s Crimes against Humanity Targeting Uyghurs and Other Turkic Muslims, Human Rights Watch, https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/19/break-their-lineage-break-their-roots/chinas-crimes-against-humanity-targeting#_ftn6.

[10] China’s Nightmare Homestay, Foreign Policy, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/10/26/china-nightmare-homestay-xinjiang-uighur-monitor/.

[11] China Uighurs: Xinjiang ban on long beards and veils, BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-39460538.

[12] Restaurants Ordered to Remain Open in Xinjiang Amid Ramadan Fast, Radio Free Asia, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/ramadan-05262017080553.html.

[13] Thousands of Xinjiang mosques destroyed or damaged, report finds, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/25/thousands-of-xinjiang-mosques-destroyed-damaged-china-report-finds.

[14] ‘Their goal is to destroy everyone’: Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rape, BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-55794071.

[15] Addressing Forced Labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: Toward a Shared Agenda, Center for Strategic and International Studies, https://www.csis.org/analysis/addressing-forced-labor-xinjiang-uyghur-autonomous-region-toward-shared-agenda.

[16] Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang, The Jamestown Foundation, https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Zenz-Internment-Sterilizations-and-IUDs-REVISED-March-17-2021.pdf?x85091.

[17] Belgium, Czech Republic Legislatures Pass Uyghur Genocide Declarations, Radio Free Asia, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/genocide-declarations-06152021171101.html.

[18] Addressing Forced Labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: Toward a Shared Agenda, Center for Strategic and International Studies, https://www.csis.org/analysis/addressing-forced-labor-xinjiang-uyghur-autonomous-region-toward-shared-agenda.

[19] Against Their Will: The Situation in Xinjiang, U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/against-their-will-the-situation-in-xinjiang.

[20] Economy of Xinjiang, Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/place/Xinjiang/Economy.

[21] China’s Mineral Industry and U.S. Access to Strategic and Critical Minerals: Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R43864.

[22] The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Goes into Effect, Center for Strategic and International Studies, https://www.csis.org/analysis/uyghur-forced-labor-prevention-act-goes-effect#:~:text=In%20December%202021%2C%20Congress%20overwhelmingly,President%20Biden%20on%20December%2023.

[23] China’s Own Documents Show Potentially Genocidal Sterilization Plans in Xinjiang, Foreign Policy, https://foreignpolicy.com./2020/07/01/china-documents-uighur-genocidal-sterilization-xinjiang/.

[24] The Karakax List: Dissecting the Anatomy of Beijing’s Internment Drive in Xinjiang, The Journal of Political Risk.

[25] China cuts Uighur births with IUDs, abortion, sterilization, Associated Press, https://apnews.com/article/ap-top-news-international-news-weekend-reads-china-health-269b3de1af34e17c1941a514f78d764c.

[26] China’s genocide against the Uyghurs, in 4 disturbing charts, Vox, https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/22311356/china-uyghur-birthrate-sterilization-genocide.

[27] Women in Xinjiang shine a light on a campaign of abuse and control by Beijing, CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/30/asia/xinjiang-sterilization-women-human-rights-intl-hnk/index.html.

[28] “[…] I have no words to describe the inhuman cruelty of the violence, they didn’t just beat me, and they didn’t just satisfy their sexual desires, I remember clearly, they did that to me three times, and once they used those iron bars, electric shock wands. They raped me by inserting iron bars, electric batons, and other equipment into my genitals. I have no way to explain to you exactly what kind of equipment, anyway – it is the same as to pull out your intestines, internal organs. For my own sexual assault, once by them with these electric rods, iron bars and other devices, and three times by them artificial rape. The first time, I was raped by all three of them together. I remember it very clearly. I can’t cry and I can’t die, I must see them pay for this. But I am already a walking corpse, my soul and heart are dead. A young woman was taken out with me at that time, but after she came back, the woman was already delirious, just like crazy, not talking at all, not doing anything, not saying anything. I was taken out a few more times not long afterwards. They were also tortured in the same way. I also realized why the woman’s body was so bruised and battered, just like the skin was torn open by a few dogs. So that’s what they say it was like in there. It was all torture; it was all abuse. It was all inhuman abuse and torture.” Witness Statement: Tursunay Ziyawudun, Uyghur Tribunal, https://uyghurtribunal.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/05-1400-JUN-21-UTFW-019-Tursunay-Ziyawudun-English.pdf.

[29] China’s Own Documents Show Potentially Genocidal Sterilization Plans in Xinjiang, Foreign Policy, https://foreignpolicy.com./2020/07/01/china-documents-uighur-genocidal-sterilization-xinjiang/.

[30] China’s genocide against the Uyghurs, in 4 disturbing charts, Vox, https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/22311356/china-uyghur-birthrate-sterilization-genocide.

[31] Uyghur kids recall physical and mental torment at Chinese boarding schools in Xinjiang, NPR, https://www.npr.org/2022/02/03/1073793823/china-uyghur-children-xinjiang-boarding-school.

[32] Uyghur Children Face Legacy of Trauma Caused by Mass Incarceration Campaign, Radio Free Asia, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/children-03222021190834.html.

[33] Written Submission to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Hearing on Refugees Fleeing Religious Persecution, Uyghur Human Rights Project, https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/UHRP Submission to USCIRF Refugee Hearing February 10 2021.docx.pdf.

[34] China Retaliates Against Uighur Activists by Imprisoning Relatives, US Officials Say, Voice of America, https://www.voanews.com/a/east-asia-pacific_voa-news-china_china-retaliates-against-uighur-activists-imprisoning-relatives-us/6201486.html.

[35] Witness Statement: Tursunay Ziyawudun, Uyghur Tribunal, https://uyghurtribunal.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/05-1400-JUN-21-UTFW-019-Tursunay-Ziyawudun-English.pdf.

[36] The Union for Reform Judaism (previously the Union of Associated Hebrew Congregations, or UAHC) and Raphael Lemkin have a long history together, including UAHC providing Lemkin office space in the 1950s after the UN Genocide Convention was passed. Long after his death, Lemkin’s family entrusted his papers to the Religious Action Center, which turned them over to the American Jewish Archives to be made available to the public. Among his papers was an unpublished survey he was writing of an historical overview of numerous efforts in Chinese history of genocidal actions by authorities.

[37] Genocide, UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide.shtml.

[38] Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/documents/atrocity-crimes/Doc.1_Convention%20on%20the%20Prevention%20and%20Punishment%20of%20the%20Crime%20of%20Genocide.pdf.

[39] Belgium, Czech Republic Legislatures Pass Uyghur Genocide Declarations, Radio Free Asia, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/genocide-declarations-06152021171101.html.

[40] China committed genocide against Uyghurs, independent tribunal rules, BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-59595952.

[41] US: China ‘committed genocide against Uighurs’, BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-55723522.

[42] China’s Weak Excuse to Block Investigations in Xinjiang, Human Rights Watch, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/25/chinas-weak-excuse-block-investigations-xinjiang.

[43] Kedoshim (The Holiness Code), Leviticus 19:16, Sefaria, https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/172297?lang=bi.