The United Nations Hymn

We thought we’d share this beautiful hymn written and read by W.H. Auden in 1971, with accompanying footage provided, in part, by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). We hope you will find it as moving, as poignant, and as relevant as we did. It was shared with us by Ambassador Mark Hambley:

UN Oral Intervention: End the Oppression of Ethnic Minorities in Xinjiang

The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, prepared by a Next Century Foundation Research Officer.

The indoctrination of over a million Uyghur and Kazakh Muslims in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China infringes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Next Century Foundation is dismayed at the lack of support for these fellow Muslims shown by the Arab World.

Recently the State of Palestine’s President Mahmous Abbas stated Palestine, “Would continue to firmly stand with China and resolutely support China’s just position on . . . Xinjiang”. 

The 41st session of the UNHRC witnessed the submission of a letter supporting China’s policy in Xinjiang from the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Arab Republic of Egypt, amongst others.

That letter described China’s policy as “a series of counter-terrorism and deradicalization measures in Xinjiang” stating that the “fundamental human rights of people of all ethnic groups there are safeguarded”.

Whilst we recognise China’s desire for a cohesive collective identity, against the backdrop of decades of foreign interference and induced fragmentation during the ‘Century of Humiliation’, the violation of basic Human Rights is inexcusable.

The Next Century Foundation asks for a UN led investigation into international corporate complicity in the employment of these detained ethnic minorities within China. We also ask that China aligns its national labour standards with those held by the International Labour Organisation.

Additionally, it would be helpful if Amazon, an organisation that has featured wrongly or rightly in complicity allegations, were to include the country of origin on the descriptions of goods they market. We call upon the international community to boycott goods produced in China until such time as China’s treatment of its Muslim minorities reaches standards that accord with the United Nations Human Rights Charter.

Include the Rohingya in Elections

The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, and was prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer, Grace Cornish.

The Next Century Foundation asks the government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to re-enfranchise the Rohingya minority in time for the upcoming elections on November 8 2020. By doing so, they would grant the Rohingya the status of a legally recognized ethnic minority. 

At present, the Citizenship Act of 1982 prohibits some 600,000 Rohingya from legal recognition, reinforcing their marginalization. 

The Next Century Foundation recognises the difficulties faced by the Myanmar government in dealing with Buddhist nationalist opposition to the assimilation of the Rohingya. In 2010, the Rohingya were briefly enfranchised, but only if they registered as Bengali at the cost of their ethnic identity.

We note the passing of the ‘Race and Religion Protection Laws’ in 2014, which reduced the autonomy of Rohingya to marry freely, have children and determine their lifestyle.

Underlining which, the inability to influence legislative outcomes has compromised the ability of the Rohingya to enjoy their social human rights. 

Taking note of the 2020 ruling by the International Court of Justice in “Gambia v. Myanmar”, the Next Century Foundation welcomes the consequent military reforms, but encourages the Myanmar government to implement all aspects of the ruling. 

Bearing in mind that UN General Assembly Resolution 69/248, adopted in 2014, demanded ‘equal access to full citizenship of the Rohingya minority’, we ask that Myanmar ratify the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. This recognises the right to a nationality provided for by Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Myanmar is a signatory. 

The Next Century Foundation endorses the words of UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand De Vareness, ‘Without citizenship, people who are stateless become humans without rights’. 

We ask that the Rohingya be given their due electoral rights. 

A Better Understanding of China’s Thinking

Why has China risked international condemnation with their treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang? Why do they feel the need to exert such a high level of control over civil society? This blog will attempt to demystify China’s thinking behind these controversial decisions.

Whilst it would be all too easy to attribute current policy programmes to the authoritarian nature of the current Chinese state, China’s history of empire, domination and the formulation of Han nationalism against a backdrop of a diverse number of ethnic minorities should be given greater importance.

The ‘100 Years of Humiliation’, a period ending in the mid-20th century, is key to understanding how China has regarded their position on the international stage. This period saw decades of economic exploitation by Western imperialists and political domination from Japan and Russia. Considering the length at which China experienced such foreign interference, it is unsurprising that they pursue an agenda to strengthen both their nationalist identity, but also their identity as a strong, independent political actor (examples here can include their treatment of ethnic minorities and Hong Kong). Indeed, in 2013, current President Xi Jinping emphasised the ‘Chinese Dream’, referring in part to the need to ‘rejuvenate’ China as a nation.

China has portrayed the detention of Eastern Turkic Muslims, specifically the Uighurs in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, as a necessary step in the reduction of terrorism. China’s official justification to the existence of these ‘Vocational Training Centres’ is that they need to protect their populations against a terrorist threat and need to pre-emptively reduce the spread of extremism.The state has connected the terrorist threat to the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement, a separatist, militant Uighur group. However, whilst China is officially an atheist state and wary of religious separatism, this alone cannot explain the prosecution of an entire ethnicity.

Considering how far reaching China’s economic investments are, it is likely that they recognise their influence, subsequently discouraging challenges to China from other states. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) would help illustrate this, specifically in the case of Kazakhstan. Despite reports stating there to be thousands of Kazakhs imprisoned in ‘Vocational Training Camps’ in Xinjiang, the Kazakhstan government has so far remained quiet on this gross abuse of Human Rights. According to the Council of Foreign Relations, BRI countries’ debt to China has increased significantly since their participation in this infrastructure scheme. In Kazakhstan, which joined the initiative in 2013, the percentage of debt owed to China increased by 8.3% by 2016. This raises the possibility that Kazakhstan has felt unable to challenge China on its treatment of Kazakhs due to the economic significance of their relationship.

All in all, the driving factors behind China’s decision-making process are linked to strengthening the image of a strong, singular identity of the Han Chinese people, a fixation encouraged by a history of exploitation by foreign powers. In addition to this underlying theme, their economic omnipresence has led to a fear of opposition to such a policy. China perceives the Uighurs to be a threat to ethnic nationalism, rather than a genuine threat to their national security, a perception which has been moulded by a history of fragmentation, and confidently carried out against a backdrop of economic dominance.