Blog of Kamran Hasanov

Open-air Jail: China’s Suppression of Uighurs and the Lack of International Response

August 19, 2019
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The use of re-education camps to suppress the ethnic Uighur community in Western China is an ongoing crisis that, if continued to be ignored by the international community, could result in the eradication of the Uighurs entirely. While the world community is absorbed in the deadly wars in Syria and Ukraine, an equally terrible tragedy is happening thousands of kilometers away from here. In the eastern province of China, Xinjiang, two million Uighurs live in jail under the open sky [1].

Officially the detainees are brought to the so-called educational centers, where they are allegedly taught Chinese language, history and law. But in reality these are in no way different from prisons. The selection criteria are primitive. One can be jailed just because he is reading the Quran, praying, wearing a beard, buying a SIM card or communicating with people abroad.

Muslim means “Terrorist”

It would seem the Chinese authorities regard Muslims as potential extremist threats. The provincial authorities prohibit people from fasting, using the traditional greeting As-salamu alaykum and giving Uighur names to children. It is not allowed to close restaurants during Ramadan. The President of the World Uighur Congress told The Telegraph [2] that the Chinese government intentionally provides water and food to force fasting inmates to drink and eat. Hidden cameras are installed in homes to ensure that no one is fasting in secret.

"Two plus two equals five"

The goal of these educational centers is the eradication of Islam as the supposed source of terrorism. Although people are being sent to the centers by force, the methods used in the camps is not physical but psychological. Young and old students watch propaganda films glorifying the Communist Party. Every day they sing songs in honor of Xi Jinping and the anthem of China. In case of refusal, at best, the residents are deprived of food, at worst case they are beaten. To prevent pregnancy, the camp staff uses injections [3].

According to the witnesses of France 24, students periodically write essays in order to judge the progress to their “change in thinking”. It is very similar to the methods described in George Orwell's 1984, where the main hero was being persuaded that "two plus two equals five".

For a long time, China kept the existence of the camps secret. Once the world's leading media sources such as BBC, Deutsche Welle, France24 and Bloomberg uncovered them, Beijing acknowledged them but presented them as educational centers. Nevertheless, in order to hide the truth from the world community, foreign journalists are still not allowed to visit the camps. They are surround by 3 to 4 meter hightwalls with barbed wire and several watchtowers. The few scenes filmed with the approval of China are keen to fake performances, where the students with emotionless faces say that they are happy and have come here voluntarily to get education. Their relatives are afraid to tell the truth, because prisoners will be punished [4].

The Richest Chinese Province

The fight against terrorism has been declared by the UN as one of the major threats to the world. But are these millions of people in China’s western territory actually terrorists

The Turkic-speaking province rebelled several times in the past. In 2009, during the protests in Urumqi, 200 people were shot dead [5]. It was the largest bloodshed in China since the Tiananmen Square protests. The authorities launched a large-scale project to destroy the national identity of Uighurs and prevent a potential separation of the region.

The program is not limited to camps. Around Xinjiang, there are checkpoints and hidden cameras with facial recognition systems. Cars are constantly checked and houses are searched. At every step there are mini police stations, their employees may stop street walkers, search them and check their phones. Over the entrances to the mosque they hang propaganda posters with the inscription: "Love the party." [6] Uighurs are prohibited from visiting some public places and shops.

In addition, Chinese authorities have worked towards cultural assimilation of the province by encouraging ethnic Han Chinese - the titular ethnic group of the country - to move to the region.

The main reason why China is doing this is the fear of separatism. Xinjiang is the largest and the richest part of China. It accounts for more than 60 percent of China's onshore ultra-deep oil and gas resources [7], and has huge reserves of gold, copper, nickel, and water. The key transport project of Eurasia “One Belt One Road" passes though Xinjiang. China needs stability in the Western province.

The major powers keep silent

With the exception of certain critical statements by the State Department [8], the Turkish Foreign Ministry [9][9] and EU representatives [10], the world community ignores the problem of the Uighurs. Year over year Beijing becomes too important of a partner for Russia, the United States and the EU. China is the main trading partner for all of them. Smaller countries, such as Kazakhstan, whose citizens also end up in the camps, also depend on Chinese investment and are part of the “New Silk Road”. Therefore, at a meeting with Xi Jinping, they simply cannot afford to talk about the Uighurs [11].

Currently, it seems that it is the United States who could criticize China, because Washington is already waging a trade war with the Beijing. But Trump is less concerned with the problems of Muslim world. Otherwise, he would not recognize Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

What we are seeing today in Xinjiang has happened once before. About a hundred years ago, in one European country, they also put walls around houses, detained the peoples of one ethnic group and forbade them to go to public places. Afterwards they were taken to concentration camps. The world community ignored these atrocities, being delighted with the economic miracle of Germany. In the end, the truth triumphed, the world recognized and condemned the Holocaust. But this delay cost the lives of 6 million Jews.

In China, the Uighurs are not being killed. But the concentration camps, the forced assimilation and the re-population of the province by Han Chinese is leading to the death of the Uighur nation. Xinjiang is home more than 11 million people live in [12] - this is the population of an average European country. But in the scale of China, this is only one percent. If the world community will continue to ignore the oppression of Uighurs, this Central Asian nation will join the Celts, Thracians, Hittites and others as a “disappeared nation”.

1. China forcing Uyghur Muslims into ‘re-education camps’, violation of rights, says UN

2. China's Uighur Muslims forced to eat and drink as Ramadan celebrations banned

3. Uyghur woman details life inside Chinese 're-education camp' in Xinjiang

4. How Uyghurs are silenced from sharing their suffering with the world

5. Urumqi riot handled 'decisively, properly'

6. Amid wrecked mosques, a tense Ramadan in Xinjiang

7. CNPC drills Asia's deepest oil and gas well in Xinjiang, proving nation's technology

8. China's Uighur policy is human rights 'stain of the century' – Pompeo

9. Turkey, Britain raise China's treatment of Uighurs at U.N. rights forum

10. China Rebuked by 22 Nations Over Xinjiang Repression

11. Muslim Leaders Are Betraying the Uighurs

12. China Says Most Muslims Have Been Released From Camps.

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