Xinjiang is an autonomous region in northwest China, that borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia. Since 1949, C.C.P has had control over it. This place houses around 10 million Uighur Muslims. Uighurs follow a kind of Sunni Islam and speak a language similar to Uzbek, thus, their language has an Asian Turkic origin.
Thus today, we shall look into why China is clamping down on the Uighur minority as well as learn some harsh realities of the treatment of the Uighurs. We shall also look into the present-day condition.
Reason for Chinese repression of Uighurs
Xinjiang is located along the erstwhile Silk Route and is also a oil and resource-rich region. Thus, it attracted many Han Chinese to this area. Actually, the Chinese government wanted control over the area as a result they promoted said migration. In time, it led to civil wars and violent clashes between the Uighurs and the Hans. In 2009, for example, riots broke out in Urmuqi, the capital of Xinjiang, after Uighurs protested their treatment by the government and the Han majority. About 200 people lost their lives and hundreds injured themselves during the unrest.
Following these riots, the government began its clampdown on the Uighur minority. In the guise of combating extremism and separatism, it came out with policies curbing religious freedom as well as a De-Extremification Campaign.
What is happening with them
The laws mentioned above, that curbed religious freedom, came out around 2016-17. Just a year later i.e on August 2018, a UN Human Rights Committee got reports Xinjiang becoming almost like a mass detention camp. Everyone belonging to this ethnicity and/or having relations with 26 “sensitive” nations (eg. Indonesia, Turkey) were put into these camps.
According to reports by Agence France-Presse (AFP), thousands of guards carrying spiked clubs, tear gas, and stun guns keep an eye the detainees. The latter have their cells in buildings surrounded by razor wire and infrared cameras. Other reports also reveal some major disturbing details: –
- Women mercilessly harassed, raped and forcefully married to other Chinese men
- People forced to eat pork, consume alcohol and denounce themselves as Muslims.
- Torture during interrogations in camps
- Multiple people stuffed into crowded cells
- Detainees used as Guinea Pigs for medical experiments (Eg. Organ Harvesting, Sterilization Procedures etc)
Apart from this, the C.C.P also passed a number of anti-Muslim laws. It has banned certain Muslim names for babies. Secondly, women below the age of 45 cannot wear a veil. Though not yet successful, the government also tried to promote smoking and drinking.
Finally, it’s mandatory for detainees to learn Mandarin and swear loyalty to the C.C.P. Some reports even say that Uighur detainees have to renounce/criticize their faith. This quote is frightening enough to sum up the whole experience: –
They wouldn’t let me sleep, they would hang me up for hours and would beat me. They had thick wooden and rubber batons, whips made from twisted wire, needles to pierce the skin, pliers for pulling out the nails. All these tools were displayed on the table in front of me, ready to use at any time. And I could hear other people screaming as well.Omir (former detainee)
In today’s date, there’s a growing Western pressure on China over its treatment of the Uighurs. In fact, many rights organizations and western lawmakers term this genocide.
China time and again has been called out for its explicit attacks and abuse on women. In fact many have come forward to claim abuse by the officials in the camps. They claim that guards/officials approach female detainees at random and then taken behind closed doors, where they are sexually abused. Additionally, there’s the plucking of nails, hair and physical violence as well.
Chinese officials have also strengthened their P.R against the Uighurs. Officials have disclosed private medical data and named these women that they had affairs and even STDs. They call it an evidence of their “Bad Character” and as a means to rebuke the international media’s hate campaign against China. Additionally, Chinese authorities held hours long briefings and staged testimonies by Xinjiang residents. Clearly, these people were reading scripts and saying monologues.
However, the meticulous research by international media giants like REUTERS is punching holes into this Chinese propaganda. Through carefully curated presentations, research papers and expert interviews, they have proved that the concentration camp experience isn’t “enriching” unlike China suggests. Thus, China is gradually losing hold over the Xinjiang narrative.
One reason the CCP is so concerned about these testimonies from women is because it undermines their initial premise for what they’re doing here, which is anti-terrorism.James Millward (Professor of Chinese History, Georgetown University ; expert on Xinjiang Policy)
All in all, China’s propaganda is now compromised. Soon, these camps will be destroyed and the Uighurs will once again be free enough to live as equal citizens of China.