Uyghur Muslims are a Turkic-speaking minority ethnic group, originating from the central region of Asia. They are considered to be native to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China. Over the past few years, there has been extreme tension between the Uyghurs and China. Xinjiang came under Chinese rule in 1949, it was previously legally considered as part of East Turkestan. China’s President Xi Jinping has taken upon several austere measures in order to wipe out the Uyghurs from Xinjiang. In recent years, the Government has installed sophisticated surveillance systems across the entire region; Xinjiang has also seen a surge in police numbers. Muslim minorities are being arbitrarily imprisoned; about one million Uyghur Muslims have been detained in what China calls “vocational training centres.”
Most of the people living in these camps have never been charged with crimes and there is no concrete legal evidence to support their detainment. According to media reports, these people have been targeted for reasons such as- interacting with people residing in the twenty-six countries that China considers problematic, attending Mosque services, having more than three children, or sending texts containing Quranic verses. Xinjiang now contains over a hundred such camps and they seem to be increasing at a rapid rate.
What is happening in these camps is far more spine-chilling than imaginable; it is a clear repetition of what happened in the Auschwitz concentration camps decades ago. Information on what actually happens in these camps is restricted by the Chinese government, which should not come as a surprise at this point. Whatever information is available to the general public comes from the detainees who have managed to flee these centres. Detainees are forced to pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communism Party (CCP) and renounce their religion, their behaviour and whereabouts are closely monitored by the government, using cameras and microphones.
Two major events that have recently taken place have finally proven that these atrocities have only gotten worse with time. One is the Authoritative Report written by Adrian Zenz, which talks about the systematic sterilization of Uyghur women. The other was the US Customs and Border Protection seizing and eventually discarding 13 tons of products made from human hair, it is suspected that the hair was forcibly removed from these Uyghur prisoners.
China, being a member of the Genocide Convention defines genocide as committing specific actions against members of a particular group. These actions include killing, causing serious physical or mental harm, imposing measures to prevent childbirth, transferring children of one group to another group. The Chinese government’s deliberate and well thought out campaign to destroy the Uyghurs can be seen in their recent activities.
The detainees are subjected to a military-type lifestyle, thought transformation- where they are forced to boycott their own ideals, and forced confessions. Apart from these, they are abused, tortured, raped, and even killed. Survivors have reported that they have repeatedly been subjected to electrocution, waterboarding, beatings, and injections of unknown substances. The Government’s stringent ideals of breaking the Uyghur lineage have led them to systematically prevent Uyghur births by sterilizing all women.
In 2017, Jinping pursued a vicious “Special Campaign to Control Birth Control Violations”. The Government’s main objective was to subject over 80% of the Uyghur women of childbearing age to intrauterine devices (IUDs) and sterilization. They carried out thousands of sterilizations in 2019 and 2020, pushing China’s one-child policy agenda. For the effective implementation of these policies, China undertook a barbaric hunt for women of childbearing age. Statistics prove that the Chinese government is finally meeting its birth prevention goals.
Between 2015 and 2018, population growth rates plummeted by 85 percent in the Xinjiang region. Official documents show that during the same time, sterilization rates in Xinjiang sky-rocketed. Consequently, the funding for these programs increased. In 2018, Xinjiang accounted for 80% of IUD placements in China, despite housing only a mere 1.8 % of theChinese population. The annual reports of these regions have started omitting birth rate information for fear of them being leaked and accessible to the rest of the world. Thus, China has shut down its entire online platform.
The sinister secret of this genocide system is its technological sophistication, ensuring its cent-percent efficiency and concealment from global consciousness. The Uyghurs are put through intense and the most advanced police state, wherein every aspect of their life- from religious to familial and social aspects are closely monitored by the Chinese government. Cities and villages are divided into squares of 500 people each to facilitate easy monitoring of these regions. Each square has a police station that monitors the inhabitants of that block by regularly scanning their identification cards, faces, and even DNA samples. Intricate machines known as Integrated Joint Operations Platforms are used to collect personal information from video surveillance, phones, and other devices.
The central question arises once again- Why is China detaining Uighurs in Xinjiang? Chinese officials have always believed that Uighurs hold separatist and extremist ideas- confining these citizens in concentration camps was seen as a way of eliminating threats to China’s territory and government. In March 2017, Xinjiang’s government imposed an anti-extremist law that strictly prohibited people from growing long beards and wearing veils in public. It legalized the use of training centres to eradicate extremism. Under Jinping, the CCP has forced every inhabitant to officially conform to the atheist party’s doctrines.
Xinjiang is a central link in China’s Belt and Road Initiative- a development plan stretching through Asia and Europe. Xinjiang is home to China’s largest coal and natural gas reserves. China believes that by eliminating the Uighur population, they can prevent any future insurgence in the Xinjiang region. Human Rights Organizations have stated that the economic benefits of resource extraction are largely enjoyed by the Han Chinese, while the Uighur people are unnaturally marginalized.
Most people who were detained with false allegations have been forced to work in factories near the detention camps. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has noted that since 2017, eighty thousand Uighurs have been sent to work in Chinese factories linked to eighty-three global brands. Researchers from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies have also informed that forced labour is a very crucial plan for Xinjiang’s economic development- thus; it has become a hub for textile and other labour-intensive manufacturing industries. China has labelled these policies as “poverty alleviation” programmes.
China has always ardently denied the existence of these camps and has labelled them as “vocational centres” however; nothing can water down the fact that these centres are exact replicas of the concentration camps of Auschwitz. Uighur Muslims in China have been subjected to this kind of torture for years on end with no sign of stopping anytime soon. However, it is important to acknowledge what is going on. The only hope for these activities to be halted is through forceful external intervention. However, on a humanitarian ground, it is essential to get as much global attention on this matter as possible.
World Uyghur Congress. (2020, July 16) The World’s Most Technologically Sophisticated Genocide is happening in Xinjiang. Retrieved from https://www.uyghurcongress.org/en/the-worlds-most-technologically-sophisticated-genocide-is-happening-in-xinjiang/
BBC News. (2016, September 26) Why is there tension between China and the Uighurs? Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-26414014
Council on Foreign Relations. (2020, June 30) China’s Repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang. Retrieved from: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chinas-repression-uighurs-xinjiang