On 8th July 2019, 22 states signed a United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) statement to call on China to stop its brutal and “horrific treatment of Muslims” in the Xinjiang province. Among 22 signatures, the joint-statement includes signatures from representatives of countries Switzerland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, Japan, Finland, and so on. A rebuttal to this statement was issued with the support of 37 countries on 12th July 2019. These countries supported China’s claims that Uyghur Muslims were a threat to national security, and that the measures taken were to eradicate terrorism in the country. The pro-China letter applauded China for its “remarkable achievements in the field of human rights”; signatures included UN ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Russia, North Korea, Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, Cuba, Sudan, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. Why are Muslim nations supporting the torture of Uyghurs, and what really occur inside these “re-education camps”?
Uyghurs (pronounced “wi-gurs”)
Uyghurs are an ethnic minority native to the Xinjiang Uyghur region in Northwest China. Modern Uyghurs are primarily Muslim and they are the second-largest predominantly Muslim ethnicity in China. Chinese officials believe Uyghurs to hold “extremist and separatist ideas” which could later prove lethal to Chinese territorial integrity and government. In a series of “secret speeches” revealed by the New York Times in November 2019, President Xi Jinping addressed the “toxicity of religious extremism” and highlighted the importance of using dictatorship methods to “eliminate Islamist extremism”. The rebuttal letter backed by 37 UN countries reads, “faced with the grave challenge of terrorism and extremism, China has undertaken a series of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures in Xinjiang, including setting up vocational education and training centers”. The question is, to what extent is the Chinese government willing to “re-educate” an entire population of 11 million people without violating their human rights?
Xinjiang (pronounced “shin-jang”)
According to Lindsay Maizland, China achieves economic gain from the marginalization of Uyghur Muslims. Xinjiang is an important piece to China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, a 21st century silk road which distributes trade and Chinese economic development through Asia, North Africa, and Europe. Xinjiang is also home to China’s largest coal and natural gas reserves. To eliminate the potential rise of any separatist or extremist activity within Xinjiang which may disrupt the Belt and Road, the Chinese have adopted a plan of religious cleansing within the region.
The Support of Muslim Countries
What strikes as most surprising is the support of Muslim countries of the strategic massacre of Chinese Muslims. Nick Cohen, an observer columnist, notes that many of these countries have been “bought off”. China is now more influential in UN meetings because many countries benefit from billions of dollars of Chinese investments through its “Belt and Road” infrastructure programme. As for Iran, it is dependent on Chinese aid against the Trump administration. Cohen states, “the Chinese world order appeals to freemasonry of publicity-shy sadists.” These authoritarian Muslim states are not likely to condemn the abuse of Muslims by China when they are just as keen on abusing the rights of their domestic opponents.
Concentration Camps – Brainwashing
The last the world has seen a scheme of religious cleansing of this nature was during Hitler’s Nazi reign over Eastern Europe. The Chinese claim that the camps in Xinjiang are strictly for training and re-education purposes, but Chinese official documents leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which were then shared with the BBC, have shown information which “undermines Beijing’s claim” that the detention camps are for “voluntary re-education purposes to counter extremism”. The documents include a nine-page memo sent out to Xinjiang’s top security officials and those who run the camps. The memos read, “never allow escapes”, “Increase discipline and punishment of behavioural violations”, “Promote repentance and confession”, “Make remedial Mandarin studies the top priority”, “Encourage Students to truly transform”, and to “Ensure full video surveillance coverage of dormitories and classrooms free of blind spots”.
It is also revealed that students in re-education centres should have “fixed bed position, fixed queued position, and fixed classroom seat”. The memos also order to “implement behavioural norms and discipline requirements for getting up, roll call, washing, going to the toilet, organising and housekeeping, eating, studying, sleeping, closing the door and so forth.” This has been highlighted as a mass brainwashing scheme, but the methods with which to brainwash also go beyond mental manipulation, and ignore the legal guidelines of a prison-like detention scheme.
Concentration Camps – Violence
According to Charlie Campbell on the severity of Uyghur torture, reports from a 39 year-old Uyghur Muslim outlined the terror of Uyghur treatment in the camps. The man said he was “forced to learn the Chinese language and fed endless propaganda about the glory of the Chinese Communist Party under strongman President Xi Jinping”. During one of his interrogations, the man reported that he was “thrown into a hole in the ground, doused with cold water and severely beaten.” According to Campbell other inmates have reported rape, and torture with electric batons.
There have also been reports of Chinese men being sent to “monitor the homes of Uyghur women whose husbands were sent to prison camps”. These men would “frequently sleep in the same beds as them”. Since 2017, China has run a “Pair Up and Become Family” program, in which Communist party male officials stay in Uyghur homes. These Chinese officials are then considered ‘relatives’. A Chinese official commented, “normally one or two people sleep in one bed, and if the weather is cold, three people sleep together,” and that “it is now considered normal for females to sleep on the same platform with their paired male ‘relatives’”. One can only imagine the dangerous repercussions of refusing to comply with the program.
An ethnic Kazakh who worked in one of the women’s camps in Xinjiang told an Israeli newspaper her story. She recalled the guards taking the “pretty inmates” every evening and returning them in the morning. She also saw incidents of gang rape, including of one female inmate while other inmates were forced to watch.
The marginalization of Muslims in China further illustrates the state’s growing power across the globe, and further suggests the possible rise of a new major influential power replacing the United States - or perhaps the rise of a new empire.