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For China's Uyghurs, "the genocide doesn't stop" for the Olympics

Uyghurs say China's "genocide doesn't stop"
For China's Uyghurs, "the genocide doesn't stop" for the Olympics 02:47

London — Zumretay Arkin is an ethnic Uyghur Muslim whose family is from China's far western province of Xinjiang. Like thousands of other Uyghurs living outside the country, she has been unable to contact her family in China for years. While China's authoritarian government tries to keep attention focused squarely on the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Arkin and other activists want to make sure the world doesn't forget about the grim reality for the country's Muslims.

Both the Biden administration and the Trump White House before it have said China's crackdown on Uyghurs and other Turkic ethnicities in Xinjiang amounts to genocide

Chinese officials consistently deny accusations of abuses in Xinjiang and dismiss the criticism from abroad as interference in China's domestic affairs. Beijing insists that internment camps allegedly holding as many as 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang are merely centers for education, job training and to combat extremism within the Uyghur community. 

But it was largely the treatment of the Uyghurs that prompted the Biden administration to declare a "diplomatic boycott" of the Winter Games in Beijing, which means U.S. athletes and their teams are taking part, but no official U.S. government representatives are there. But only a handful of U.S. allies have joined the limited boycott of the Games.

U.S. and other countries criticize China for crackdown on Uighurs 06:51

To Arkin, the message from the wider world to the Uyghur people right now seems to be: "We know that you're suffering… but let's just pause for, you know, just two, three weeks just to focus on the Olympics, and then we'll get back to your genocide."

"It's just something horrible to say to an entire ethnic group and an entire people — that their genocide doesn't matter in the context of the Games," she said, adding that in her view and the view of the World Uyghur Congress that she works for, Beijing should never have been awarded the Olympics in the first place.

"It's just ridiculous that this country that is committing such horrible atrocity, crimes, are permitted to host these prestigious games," Arkin told CBS News.

She noted that survivors who've spent time in the massive camps set up by Chinese authorities to detain and, in China's words "re-train and re-educate" Uyghurs, report hideous treatment, including sexual abuse and the forced sterilization of women.

"For us, you know, these Games are just a reminder of the brutal repression under which Uyghurs are living currently," Arkin told CBS News. "For us, the genocide doesn't stop, you know, in the two to three weeks of the Olympic Games. Maybe it's even worse, because the international community's attention is only focused on the Games."

FILE PHOTO: A Chinese police officer takes his position by the road near what is officially called a vocational education centre in Yining
A Chinese police officer guards a road near what is officially called a vocational re-education center in Yining, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, September 4, 2018. THOMAS PETER/REUTERS
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