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China’s Repression of Uighur in Xinjiang
China has been quietly detaining its population of Uighur's, the country’s Muslim minority, in internment camps. First-hand
accounts from inside the camps paint a brutal picture of torture and political indoctrination. At first, China denied the existence of these camps and tried to cover them up. But as a network of academics and activists uncovered evidence of the camps’ locations, and the reality of what’s going on inside, China changed its story.
Who are the Uighur's?
The Uighur's are a Turkic ethnic group whose members are predominantly Muslim. They mainly live in the Xinjiang province of Northwestern China. That puts them closer to the capitals of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan than to Beijing.
And Uighur's are also culturally closer to those Turkic groups than they are to the Han Chinese, China’s ethnic majority.
China has been concerned for decades about the possibility of Uighur separatism.
Uighurs have actually had their own independent nation, two separate times in the last century. In 1933, they established the Islamic Republic of East Turkestan in Kashgar, But it crumbled less than a year later when it was taken over by Chinese forces.
Then in 1944, the Soviet Union backed the creation of the East Turkestan Republic, But when China became Communist in 1949, the Soviet Union turned on East Turkestan, and helped China take it over again.
Why is Xinjiang so important to China?
As Chinese economy grew so did its need for energy. The land sits on a designated “special economic zone” due to its rich oil and mineral supplies. Xinjiang is China’s largest producer of natural gas.
China needs resources, it needs energy. It needs the geographical location, the area on which Xinjiang sits. That’s where Uighurs are.
That’s where they live. And so China wants to have a solid control over that area.
As far back in the 1950s, China saw an opportunity to dilute the influence of the potentially rebellious Uighurs, and started encouraging the migration of Han Chinese, into Xinjiang. And it worked.
In 1945, Uighurs made up over 80% of the population, compared to just 6% of Han Chinese. By 2008, Xinjiang was 46% Uighur compared to 39% Han Chinese.
Over the years, as Xinjiang developed economically, Uighurs were left behind, working mostly low-wage jobs in agriculture while the Han held higher-paying jobs.
Finally, in 2009, a Uighur protest against the discrimination at the hands of the Han and the Chinese government erupted in violence.
“Bloody riots broke out, pitting ethnic Uighur Muslims against the dominant Han Chinese”
One of the worst riots took place in the provincial capital of Urumqi. About 200 people were killed and hundreds injured during the unrest.
And by 2013, Xinjiang had become even more important to China.
The country launched the “Belt and Road Initiatives” a trillion-dollar investment in things like fiber optic cables, train lines and the gas pipelines meant to boost the country’s economic and political influence around the world by making it easier to trade with China.
If we plot these projects on a map you will see a lot of them pass through Xinjiang, making the province arguably the most important corridor for the whole project.
But the most brutal part of this crackdown was hidden to the world at first.
Around 2017, China started building internment camps, large scale places to detain Uighurs.
Why are the Uighurs targeted?
China claims that Uighurs hold extremist views that are a threat to security. They point to attacks in 2013 and 2014, which Uighur militants claimed responsibility for.
Inside the Camps
Praying, fasting during Ramadan, reading the Quran and speaking one’s native language are FORBIDDEN.
Detainees are forced to pledge allegiance to the CCP and sing nationalistic propaganda.
Organ harvesting, poisoning, medical experimentation, injection of unknown substances.
Food and sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, interrogations
Electrocution, water boarding, beatings, rape, death
Up to 3,000,000 people are estimated to be in these camps.
They are locked up without a trial or charge.
FAMILIES ARE BEING RIPPED APART
Thousands of Uighur refugees cannot return to or contact family in East Turkestan, due to fear of punishment from the CCP.
Children are being separated from parents and sent to orphanages in mainland China.
Many do not currently know the whereabouts of family members.
FALLING UIGHUR BIRTH RATES
A report by China scholar Adrian Zenz, showed that natural population growth rates in the Uighur regions of Kashgar and Hooton fell by 84% between 2015 and 2018.
In 2019, birth rates in ethnic minority regions in Xinjiang fell between 30-56%, compared to the national birth rate decrease of 4.2%
The Chinese government has introduced financial incentives to encourage Han Chinese men to marry non-Han women. As a result, Uighur women have been subjected to forced marriages.
GLOBAL RESPONSES TO THE PLIGHT OF THE UIGHURS
In a July letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council, 22 countries, mainly European and excluding the United State, responded to
“disturbing reports of large-scale arbitrary detentions of Uighurs”
By condemning Chinese leadership. Notably 4 days later, 37 countries defended China’s “remarkable achievements in the field of human rights” by protecting their country from “terrorism, separatism and religious extremism”.
Last week, the U.S condemn China on the global stage at the U.N General Assembly with more than 30 other countries calling the camps a “horrific campaign of repression.”