In China’s north-western Xinjiang province, as many as two million (twenty lakhs) Uighur (pronounced WEE-gar) Muslims are being detained against their will in concentration camps. The coercion of Uighurs – including Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Hui, and other Muslim ethnic minorities – in Xinjiang meets the U.N (United Nations) definition of ‘Genocide’. Over the past few years, the Republic of China has been accused of forcefully conducting “de-extremification”, brainwashing, mass sterilization, physical abuse, intense surveillance, among others, on the Uighurs.
Uighurs are primarily Turkic-speaking Muslims residing in the autonomous province of Xinjiang. These Islamic people are the largest ethnic group in the province, with almost a population of eleven million, and have suffered decades of tyranny under Chinese authorities. Outside of China, many diasporic Uighurs also live in Australia, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, etc.
The United Nations Organization, Human Rights Organizations, and many countries have raised their condemnation of the growing human rights violation inside internment camps in China. Chinese officials denied the infringement accusations against the camps, and instead, called it voluntary “re-education camps” to give vocational training to Uighurs. Senior officials in Xinjiang say “the region is facing the three evil forces of terrorism, extremism, and separatism.” Experts believe these camps first laid its foundation in 2014, and have expanded by more than 2 million square meters over the years, with dozens of facilities.
Most people in the camps are arbitrarily incarcerated for the display of their Islamic religion – growing a long beard, wearing a veil, closing their shops early during Ramadan, attending prayer services in Mosques, praying “too much”, having more than three children, or sending verses from the Quran as text messages. Human rights groups have said that ‘many Uighurs have been labelled as extremists simply for practicing their religion.’
“By detaining such a huge amount of people for no legal reason China is really running the risk of radicalizing these people and creating the perfect conditions for violent extremism to happen in the future,” warns an International Cyber Policy Expert.
In 2019, a secret document leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed the atrocities subjected to the detainees, which was confirmed by those who fled or were released from the camps.
Inside the prison-like camps complete with barbed wires, double-locked doors, and extreme video surveillance, detainees endure indoctrination – forced to renounce their faith, transform their ideologies, and learn principles of the Communist Party. In the “education and training centre,” they are allegedly forcefully made to learn Mandarin and use it as their only language of communication. Those failing to respond in Mandarin were beaten mercilessly.
Detainees are given scores based on their performance in regular tests on Mandarin, discipline, and ideology. Those scoring well are rewarded with perks – family visits, or early release; while those with poor performance undergo strict punishments – solitary confinement, food deprivation, etc.
Women captives shared stories of forced sterilization, contraceptives, and abortion for an ethnic cleansing measure. Some are administered with IUDs – a pregnancy control treatment to prevent Uighur women from giving birth and to achieve “zero birth control violation incidents.”
China has apprehended children of thousands of detainees and exiles, allegedly treating them as orphans. The children are distanced from their parents at a young age to erase their Islamic origins, beliefs, and steer them from stereotyped ‘terrorism’.
Heavy surveillance in the city outside the camp help police monitors every citizen. They scan faces, DNA samples, irises, identification cards, fingerprints, and cell phones.
Recently, an Uighur model held captive in one of these detention camps released videos and text messages explaining the apprehension. He talked about people being locked in cages, living in unhygienic and dangerous conditions.
“One time I heard a man screaming from morning until evening. This was psychological torture to me – I was afraid, would the next one be me?”, he said.
Feature Image Via Canva