The Treatment of the Uyghurs in China: International Responses

Dr Deborah Mayersen1

1University Of New South Wales Canberra At The Australian Defence Force Academy, , Australia

According to some reports, more than a million Uyghurs are currently being detained in Xianjing province in China. Phrases like ‘concentration camps’, ‘arbitrary detention’ and ‘systematic repression’ are increasingly common as descriptors of their treatment at the hands of Chinese authorities. Tight restrictions preventing outside observers from access to Xianjing, however, along with travel and communication restrictions for many of those in the region, have severely limited the availability of information about the conditions currently being experienced by the Uyghurs. This paper will examine whether a case for ‘crimes against humanity’ can be made for the current treatment of the Uyghurs. It will then explore international responses to the situation. While the US has taken some action, and the issue has been discussed in the UN Human Rights Council, overall the international community has refrained from strong condemnation. Yet if these violations do potentially constitute crimes against humanity, they fall under the rubric of the responsibility to protect – an international norm that suggests a much stronger stance is warranted. This highlights the complexities of addressing human rights violations committed by a permanent member of the UN Security Council.


Deborah Mayersen is a Lecturer in International and Political Studies at the University of New South Wales Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy. Deborah’s research expertise is in the field of genocide studies, including the Armenian genocide, the Rwandan genocide and genocide prevention. Her publications include On the Path to Genocide: Armenia and Rwanda Reexamined (Berghahn Books, 2014), and the edited volumes A Cultural History of Genocide in the Modern World (Bloomsbury, in-press), The United Nations and Genocide (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) and Genocide and Mass Atrocities in Asia: Legacies and Prevention(with Annie Pohlman, Routledge, 2013).




The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.

Photo Credits: Visit Victoria

© 2019 Conference Design Pty Ltd