By J.P. Linstroth
At this moment, China has as many as one million Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities held in concentration camps in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in northwestern China. This has been ongoing for some time now and is beginning, finally, to be noticed.
This unfolding tragedy is well-known by the United Nations as well as influential governments such as the United States. Thus far, little is being done to prevent the Chinese from carrying out its concerted efforts in imprisoning and politically indoctrinating its Muslim populations.
It is so objectionable that Badger Sportswear of North Carolina announced it stopped purchasing imports from that region of China due to credible reports of mass forced labor.
The Chinese government is spending huge amounts of money in Xinjiang Province where these ethnocidal horrors are taking place. These so-called “re-education camps” have been analyzed by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). The ASPI examined 28 camps in Xinjiang but stated there may be as many as 1,200 across the entire region. Since 2016, the ASPI found an increase in growth of these camps to almost 470 percent.
In 1981 the Chinese signed onto and ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), but these camps clearly violate that law.
Chinese officials also heavily police the region, using surveillance cameras and security checkpoints, biometric data collection, voice recordings, and requiring identification cards of its mostly Uighur population in Xinjiang. According to the most recent estimates, there are most likely 11,000,000 Uighurs and 1.6 million Kazakhs living in the Western Chinese Province of Xinjiang.
Perhaps the best and most extensive report about the current situation in Xinjiang is by “Human Rights Watch” (September 2018). One Uighur refugee, Tohti, is quoted as saying: “What they want is to force us to assimilate, to identify with the country [China], such that, in the future, the idea of Uyghur will be in name only, but without its meaning.” From the Human Rights Watch Report we learn the Chinese government has arbitrarily detained its Muslim minority population, and not only this, these Turkic Chinese-Muslims have been abused, tortured, and deprived of fair trials. The Chinese want to eliminate basic freedoms of religion among this population for practicing Islam. The re-education of these Turkic Muslims is meant to Sino-assimilate or “Sinicize” them with Chinese identities, scrubbing them of their religious identity.
Two other refugees told Human Rights Watch: “[The guards] told us that Uyghurs and Kazakhs are the enemies of China, and that they want to kill us, and make us suffer, and that there’s nothing we can do about it.” Another stated: “[A detainee] showed me his scar from being hung from the ceiling. He didn’t have any religious materials, but after being hung for a night, he said he would agree to anything.” Others had died while in detention and their families were not allowed to bury the dead with Islamic blessings or ceremonies and were forced to bury their loved ones under military watch.
Aside from the political aspects of Chinese social control, how do we understand this type of discrimination in relation to modern world history?
Humans are highly complex and for the most part racism is entirely a social construct, usually involving essentializing entire populations and persecuting them en masse, virtually always with a veneer of rhetoric to make it all acceptable unless we actually look. The histories are shameful. Thus, we saw all non-Europeans referred to as, what Rudyard Kipling euphemistically called them, the “white man’s burden”; Jews and Gypsies sent by Germans to labor camps with sayings such as Work is Freedom; land stolen from Native tribes in the name of “progress”; Tutsis slaughtered by Hutus to “protect” themselves from a minority; Japanese-American families rounded up into compounds in the western US during World War II to secure the homeland; and millions of Armenian civilians killed by Turkey a century ago to punish traitors, and other horrific chapters in our human story. Almost all the terrible responses in the modern era that target innocent civilians are massive overreactions to violent attack. In China, those attacks from Islamic extremists were in 2013 and 2014 and have been the official justification for mass incarceration since then.
The magnitude of China’s efforts to incarcerate its Turkic Muslim minority populations is happening in an unprecedented way, which we have not seen since Nazi Germany and the imprisonment of Jews throughout Europe. As usual, there is an official rationale and a public relations effort, including the approval of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aka MBS, which “proves” that China’s systematic persecution of Chinese Muslims for religion is not its sole rationale.
How many more Muslim Chinese minorities need to be imprisoned before we say no more? When should the UN Security Council act in concert against China? When should the United States begin imposing economic sanctions upon China for its human rights abuses in Xinjiang northwestern China?
We know from our human history that it almost always takes outside pressure to bring regimes back from the brink of genocide.
What can you do to change the situation?
- Write the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. and complain: (202) 495-2266
- Write or call to your local US House of Representative and/or your two US Senators
- P. Linstroth, Ph.D., syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a former Fulbright Scholar to Brazil. His first book is: Marching Against Gender Practice (2015).