While China is not exactly known for its adherence to human rights, its persecution of the Uyghur community has been so severe that the UN recently asked for an explanation from a Chinese representative. And instead of allaying fears of persecution, the official ended up justifying why the communist government needs to continue its tyranny.
The issue came into light after the UN received multiple reports that documented the existence of more than 1 million Uyghurs being held in internment camps in the country. As per estimates, about 2 million Uighurs were forcefully being indoctrinated with the political ideologies espoused by China’s Communist Party.
“We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability, (China) has changed the Uyghur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone,’” Gay McDougall from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is quoted by Reuters.
During the UN meeting on racial discrimination, China was asked about the existence of such internment camps. “Xinjiang citizens, including the Uyghurs, enjoy equal freedom and rights. The argument that one million Uighurs are detained in re-education centers is completely untrue,” BBC quotes Hu Lianhe, deputy director of China’s United Front Work Department.
However, Hu later did admit that the state does carry out resettlement programs of Uyghurs whom it believes have been deceived by religious extremism. While the explanation might sound fair enough, the truth is that it is not.
From the perspective of the Communist Party, any religion is by default extremist if it does not ally with Party ideology. As such, simply terming a group of people as religious extremists when there is no serious incident of violence by them is flat out ridiculous.
The persecution of Uyghurs
Uyghurs largely live in the Xinjiang Province of China. Most of them are Muslims and have their own language, which is very similar to Uzbek. Being devout Muslims is one of the reasons that Uyghurs ended up attracting the wrath of the government. Beijing has been in overdrive trying to strip Islamic faith from them.
Though the community has tried to stand up to the persecution from the government, the Communist Party’s power has made them helpless. Many Uyghurs are forcefully admitted into government-run camps where they are made to renounce their beliefs. A vast network of cybersecurity initiatives has also been set up by Beijing to monitor and exert control over the Uyghurs.
Describing who gets detained, Vox quotes Adran Zenz, lecturer and social researcher: “Those where any religious (even non-extremist) or other content deemed problematic by the state was found on their mobile phones. Those aged 18 to 40. Those who openly engage in religious practices. But many Uyghur-majority regions have been ordered to detain a certain percentage of the adult population even if no fault was found. Detentions frequently occur for no discernible reasons.”
Though the UN did a commendable job highlighting the plight of Uyghurs at the racial discrimination summit, it is unfortunately not enough. Unless the UN and the world commit to a joint effort to force the Chinese government to stop persecuting Uyghurs, the Islamic community will always be at risk of losing their faith and lives at the hands of the Communist Party.