• The French Foreign Minister has denounced the “institutionalized repression” of China’s Uighur minority.
• Rights groups believe that at least 1 million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslim minorities are incarcerated in camps in the western region of Xinjiang.
• The minister cited Xinjiang among several examples of “considerable regressions for human rights” in 2020.
• The Uighurs is a Muslim minority community concentrated in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province.
• They claim closer ethnic ties to Turkey and other central Asian countries than to China.
Why is China targeting the Uighurs?
• Xinjiang is technically an autonomous region within China.
• It is also its largest region and is rich in minerals.
• It shares borders with eight countries, including India, Pakistan, Russia and Afghanistan.
• Over the past few decades, as economic prosperity has come to Xinjiang, it has brought with it in large numbers the majority Han Chinese, who have cornered the better jobs, and left the Uighurs feeling their livelihoods and identity were under threat.
• This led to sporadic violence, in 2009 culminating in a riot that killed 200 people, mostly Han Chinese, in the region’s capital Urumqi.
• And many other violent incidents have taken place since then.
• Beijing also says Uighur groups want to establish an independent state and, because of the Uighurs’ cultural ties to their neighbors, leaders fear that elements in places like Pakistan may back a separatist movement in Xinjiang.
• Therefore, the Chinese policy seems to have been one of treating the entire community as suspect, and launching a systematic project to chip away at every marker of a distinct Uighur identity.
The Han Chinese:
• Han Chinese is an ethnic group within East Asian people.
• 92% of the Chinese population and more than 97% of the Taiwanese population are Han.
• Out of the entire human population in the world, 19% are Han Chinese.
• Han Chinese have the highest concentrations in the Eastern Provinces of China, particularly in the Hebei, Jiangsu and Guangdong regions.
• Han China is one of the world's oldest civilizations.
• Chinese culture dates back thousands of years.
• Some Han people believe they share common ancestors, distantly related to the Yellow Emperor and Yan Emperor, who existed thousands of years ago.
• Hence, some people of Han call themselves "Descendants of the Yan Emperor" or "Descendants of the Yellow Emperor."
• The US Secretary of State has asked UN member states to support the US for its re-election to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
• Trump regime had taken the U.S. out of the Council in 2018, saying it was biased against Israel and had members who were human rights abusers.
About elections to the UNHRC:
• Elections to the Council happen annually, with countries serving for three years on a rotational basis, as some of the seats expire on 31 December every year.
• Members shall not be eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms.
• There are 47 seats, equitably distributed according to five regional divisions (Africa, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western Europe and other States).
• Countries need a minimum of 97 votes to get elected, and everything happens by secret ballot.
• As of January 2020, 117 of the 193 UN member States will have served as a member of the HRC.
• This broad membership not only reflects the UN’s diversity, but it gives the Council legitimacy when speaking out on human rights violations in all countries.
The United Nations Human Rights Council:
• UNHRC is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world.
• The UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis.
• The headquarters of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland.
• The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in United Nations member states, and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women's rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.
• The UNHRC was established by the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006 to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights that had been strongly criticized for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members.
• The UNHRC works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and engages the UN's special procedures.
• Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Bill, 2021.
• The Bill seeks to replace the ordinance promulgated in November last year that seeks to curb religious conversions carried out by fraudulent or any other undue means.
• It makes religious conversion for marriage a non-bailable offence.
• The onus will be on the defendant to prove that conversion was not for marriage.
• The notice period to the district magistrate for the religious conversion is two months.
• In case of conversion done by a woman for the sole purpose of marriage, the marriage would be declared null and void.
• Violation of the provisions of the law would invite a jail term of not less than one year extendable to five years with a fine of ₹15,000.
• If a minor woman or a woman from the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribes communities was converted through the said unlawful means, the jail term would be a minimum of three years and could be extended to 10 years with a fine of ₹25,000.
• The Bill also lays down strict action, including cancellation of registration of social organizations conducting mass conversions.
Why this has become a controversial law?
• The ordinance, passed in November 2020, comes days after the Allahabad high court said in a verdict (Salamat Ansari-Priyanka Kharwar case) that the right to choose a partner or live with a person of choice was part of a citizen’s fundamental right to life and liberty.
• The verdict also said earlier court rulings that ‘religious conversion for marriage was unacceptable’ was not good in law.
What critics say?
• The law has come under sharp criticism from several legal scholars who had contended that the concept of ‘love jihad’ did not have any constitutional or legal basis.
• They have pointed to Article 21 of the constitution which guarantees individuals the right to marry a person of one’s choice.
• Also, under Article 25, freedom of conscience, the practice and conversion of religion of one’s choice including not following any religion, are also guaranteed.
Concerns and Challenges:
• The true danger with this new so-called ‘love jihad’ law lies in its ambiguity.
• The law employs the use of open-textured phrases such as “undue influence”, “allurement” and “coercion”.
• Indeed, even the question of whether a religious conversion is truly conducted solely for the purpose of a marriage is inherently vague.
• It is in the subjective assessment and appreciation of these tenuous phrases that the real peril lies – this is a matter left entirely to the discretion of the judge.
Views of the Supreme Court:
• The Supreme Court of India, in both the Lily Thomas and Sarla Mudgal cases, has confirmed that religious conversions carried out without a bona fide belief and for the sole purpose of deriving some legal benefit do not hold water.