Million Muslims have been unlawfully arrested in China’s Xinjiang province. The re-education centers are only one part of the government’s anti-Uyghur campaign.
The Uyghurs are a Muslim minority in China who live at a cultural and imperial crossroads in the Xinjiang region. Over a million Uyghurs are said to be incarcerated in camps today. They’ve been tortured, forced to work, rape, internment, forced abortion and birth control, alleged rape (including gang rape), imposed under religious restrictions, and even forced forcefully sterilized.
In late 2018, rumors arose that China was constructing a vast network of camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It would be used to imprison a large number of Muslim Uyghur – some estimates put the number at over a million – who were accused of participating in or sympathizing with protests and attacks on government facilities. The Chinese government had denied the existence of such a project but later confirmed the camps, claiming that they had been centers for training Uyghur and redeploying them into productive jobs.
When did China start repressing Xinjiang?
Since the Chinese Communist Party was founded in 1949, Muslim Uyghurs have experienced restrictions on their religious and cultural traditions.
The 1990s also saw China label Muslim Uyghur activists as terrorists for the first time. After the Taliban took control in Afghanistan in 1996, the country’s Communist Party became more concerned. According to academic Sean Roberts, even though several hundred Uyghur combatants in Afghanistan had ties to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in 1998, there is a scant indication of widespread extremism in Xinjiang. Fears of domestic attacks grew after 9/11 when the US embraced the worldwide “War on Terror” rhetoric.
Naomi Kikoler, director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, said that “China has a history of targeting ethnic minorities, including Tibetans and African immigrants. But the Communist Party’s stated reason for taking action against the Uyghurs is the purported threat of terrorism and separatism.”
What does China’s Government have to say about the camps?
Foreign Minister Wang Yi, addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last year, said,“basic facts show that there has never been so-called genocide, forced labour or religious oppression in Xinjiang.”
China has denied the charges, claiming that its policies toward Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in its far western area are intended to “combat extremism” and help disadvantaged ethnic groups advance economically.
Chinese officials maintain that the camps have two purposes: to teach Mandarin, Chinese laws, and vocational skills, and to prevent citizens from becoming influenced by extremist ideas, to “nip terrorist activities in the bud,” according to a government report.
Experts claim that Xinjiang has also been transformed into a surveillance state that monitors millions of individuals using technologies. More than 15,000 Xinjiang residents were detained in detention centers for seven days in June 2017, according to classified Chinese government documents released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in November 2019.
Thousands of Mosques have been demolished and told that the structures were poorly built and dangerous to worshipers. Uyghur Women have reported forced sterilizations and intrauterine device insertions, and officials have threatened to arrest anybody who has too many children. Muhammad, Jihad, Imam, Saddam, and Medina’s specific names are forbidden to be given to Uyghur children.
What has been the international community’s reaction?
China’s incarceration of Uyghurs in Xinjiang has been widely denounced across the world. Human rights organisations have also asked China to promptly close the camps and questions about the Uyghurs who have nowhere to be found.
According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Government of China was perpetrating genocide and human rights violations. Canada, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands all approved motions between February and June 2021 proclaiming either that China was committing genocide against the Uyghurs or that a high risk of genocide existed. Foreign nations have also implemented limitations in response to Xinjiang’s forced labour.
Human Rights Watch has called China’s treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang a crime against humanity, while the US State Department has called it “genocide.”
The Uyghur Tribunal, a UK-based impartial “people’s tribunal,” began proceedings in June 2021 to investigate evidence in order to determine if China’s actions against Uyghurs amount to genocide under the Genocide Convention.
Chinese officials frequently deny allegations of human rights violations in Xinjiang and characterise international criticism as meddling in China’s internal affairs. Beijing claims that the 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslims detained in Xinjiang internment camps are just centre.
Nida Naz holds a Masters’s degree in International relations and she is working in the Express Tribune.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Defense Insight.