It’s not stopping. The Chinese government continue to plead their innocence and take any means necessary to conceal any illegal activity in Xinjiang. However, the world is starting to discover the horrific crimes and human rights violations in the Uyghur detention camps. One country calling out China is unlikely to make a difference, but a unified denouncing of these detention camps can finally tear them down.
The Uyghurs are a mostly Muslim Turkic ethnicity with about 11 million of them living in Xinjiang. They have their own culture and language and attempted to claim independence in the early 20th Century until the region was brought under complete control of communist China.
It’s also important to note that the tension between the Uyghur community and China is not a new situation. The Chinese government has consistently attempted to control the Uyghur people such as the mass state-sponsored Han Chinese migration to the region from the 1950s to 1970s, government policies promoting Chinese cultural unity, and allowing anyone suspected of sympathies for separatism to be detained without trial.
Furthermore, the beginning of the Xi Jinping administration let to a further eradication of rights for the Uyghurs. The President issued a directed that ‘religions in China must be Chinese in orientation’ and ‘adapt themselves to socialist society’, targeting the Uyghurs and their religious practices. Many mosques and Sufi shrines have been destroyed by the government, and the region is now covered by a network of surveillance, from police checkpoints to cameras that can scan individual faces.
But why does China want to suppress the Uyghurs? That’s a question I’m struggling to find a reasonable answer to. China has wildly exaggerated the threat of violence from the Uyghurs and used it to justify the increasing control over the region. Another factor could merely be their desire to have a unified nation, and the threat of separatism possibly dangerous for their domestic and international image. Still, nothing justifies the abuse, violence, and crimes committed against the Uyghurs in the past few years.
Since 2017, the Chinese government has pursued a policy which has led to more than one million Uyghurs being held in secretive detention camps without any legal process. Detainees are forced to pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party and renounce Islam, as well as learn Mandarin. There have also been multiple accounts of women being sexually abused and systematic torture in the ‘re-education’ camps. This is an act of forced sterilisation and ethnic cleansing. China is attempting the destroy the Uyghurs and nations must continue to pressure the CCP to stop these crimes.
So far, the United States of America and the United Kingdom have been strong in condemning the repression of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, with it being only the third time in history that the US has officially accused another government of genocide. In Australia, Foreign Minister, Marise Payne has been a strong advocate for the Uyghur people and has brought the issue to the forefront of the Australia government. A consistent, unified and steadfast approach in condemning China’s actions by all nations is the only pathway which could see these detention camps destroyed. It’s a challenging pathway for many countries who rely on China, but it is the only way to stop the Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang.