A story from China: Unravelling of the Uighur crisis

Reading time: 5-6 minutes.

History is the evidence that China has always backed Pakistan in all its legal, illegal, moral or immoral ventures against India. Even when Pakistan was criticized at international level, we still have found China standing tall with Pakistan. Never has it occurred to anyone that what an irony it is or what an amazing game China has been playing for a very long time by plotting with Pakistan against India so that it can rise as a super power in the South Asian continent. 

Never has it occurred to anyone that the country, which supports Islamic state of Pakistan whole heartedly has been treating its ethnic group Uighurs who are mostly Muslims in an oppresive manner.  Pakistan that has always raised their fake concerns and ill propaganda against imaginary atrocities faced by Muslim brothers in Kashmir has strangely never raised its voice or has not noticed the way its beloved friend China is treating their Muslim brothers.

What atrocities are faced by the ethnic minority?

The meaning of the term ‘ethnic minority’ is very simple:  It a group within a community which has different national or cultural traditions from the main population but the atrocities these minorities face in countries in which they reside are very hard to explain. Generally, ethnic minorities should be considered as unique and important groups in any country since they are the ones that are preserving the rich and unique culture of their country. Unfortunately, the scenario is different as ethnic minority has become synonyms to what is known as ethnic cleansing.

If there is an ethnic group, the approach toward them is that they need to be wiped out or remoulded with the mainstream. If you don’t believe it, recollect some of the dark memories from past like Nazi holocaust of European Jews in 1930’s and 1940’s, Armenian massacres by the Turks in 1915-1916 and many more. Ethnic cleansing was considered as evil relics of the past but the reports of Uighur crisis from Xinjiang province in China have showed that this practice exists even in today’s time.

Why is China building detention camps in the Xinjiang province?

The Uighurs are mostly Muslims and are about 11 million in number in western China’s Xinjiang region. In the recent years, there have been mass migration of Han-Chinese who are China’s ethnic majority group to Xinjiang region which has made Uighurs scared that this mass migration will lead to loss of their culture and livelihood.

Uighur crisis in China came into light when in August 2018, a UN committee heard that up to one million Uighur Muslims and other groups following Islam are detained in the western Xinjiang region. Chinese government promptly denied those allegations but there are evidence of such oppressive and inhuman surveillance against people living in Xinjiang region. 

Human rights activists have claimed that Uighur people are not only put into surveillance but are also made to give their DNA samples as well as biometric samples. Those having relatives in “sensitive countries” are rounded up and millions of them are detained in camps. Right wing in China says that people in such camps are forced to learn Mandarin, read about communism and are also forced to renounce their faith.

Can China’s detention and re-education system be construed as ‘ethnic cleansing’?

Despite China’s close association with Islamic state Pakistan, it is shocking to see the growing intolerance of Chinese government towards their Muslim minority. Their treatment towards Muslims clearly shows that they don’t want Islam to grow in their country. Reports say that they are sending the kids to foster homes where they are taught hatred towards Islam.

Detention camps have been built up under the context that such camps will be the most “humane way of treating terrorism”. China has intensified its campaign of mass migration of ethnic majority in the Xinjiang, political indoctrination and forced cultural assimilation.

According to Chinese government, Xinjiang’s detention camps for Muslims are actually vocational training centre but media reports have found satellite images of at least 44 high-security buildings that had been erected in Xinjiang in recent years. One of the former prisoners Omir has revealed that “they wouldn’t let him sleep, they would hang him up for hours and would beat him. They had thick wooden and rubber batons, whips made from twisted wire, needles to pierce the skin, pliers for pulling out the nails. All these tools were displayed on the table in front of him, ready to use at any time. And he could hear other people screaming as well.”

Well, it can be inferred from the various reports and evidence that China’s so-called vocational camps have become synonymous to detention camps. Its re-education policy can be construed as a sophisticated ethnic cleansing technique. These camps can be compared to the concentration camps installed by the Nazis for genocide of Jews. Only difference is that Nazis killed the bodies, while Chinese are killing souls.

Has the UN taken a robust stand on China’s unrelenting attempt to undermine the basic human rights of Uighurs?

There is growing criticism in the international platform of China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims. Even the UN’s human rights panel has claimed that they have received many credible reports that around one million ethnic Uighurs were being held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy”.

Also, one of a member of the UN committee Gay McDougall, stated that he estimates that 2 million Uighurs and Muslim minorities were forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the western Xinjiang autonomous region. Despite the reports, Yu Jianhua, China’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said “it was working towards equality and solidarity among all ethnic groups.”

However, McDougall claimed that members of the Uighur community and others Muslims were being treated as “enemies of the state” solely on the basis of their ethno-religious identity.

On a brighter note, it is comforting to hear that human rights experts in United Nations have sternly called for release of those who are arrested on the pretext of combatting terrorism and have also called for shut down of “re-education camps”. However, no stern actions or sanctions have been taken against China. Had it been any other country, UN would not have been so hesitant in imposing sanctions.

What is India’s take on Uighur crisis?

China’s all-weather friend Pakistan has remained a mute spectator of the whole event. It is strange to see that Pakistan, which has always advocated for the imaginary crisis Indian Muslims have faced in Kashmir and other parts of India, has strangely not advocated for the real injustice and inhuman treatment faced by Muslims in Xinjiang.

Forget about Pakistan, it is shocking to see that even democratic countries like India have not raised their voice against the injustice faced by Uighurs. Where are the saviours of human rights in India who raised their voice for Rohingyas? Where are the left wing and Muslims of the country who have raised voice against wrongful treatment of Muslims?  

It is so shocking to see the selective nature of demonstrations by these human rights champions which mostly against our own government and are mostly a political gimmick for votes. Why not advocate and raise voice for issues like this which will probably help them to get votes by addressing real issues?

We have seen how China has always tried to poke India over Kashmir issue. This is the right chance for India to respond boldly and urge the UN to put sanctions and pressure on Chinese government. When all the other countries are mum and are busy issuing just oral statements which are in no way mounting pressure on China, it is a golden opportunity for Indian government to implement what Prime Minister Modi has been saying again and again: “Vasudeva Kutumbakam” which means that ‘the world is one family’. It is the right time to help our Muslim brothers in Xinjiang and showing world that India was never anti-Islamic state.

In fact, India has always cherished not only its Muslim citizens but also Muslims residing in other countries. We will always remain in the forefront whenever there will be human rights violations and atrocities against innocent people.

-This article is brought to you in collaboration with Deeksha Kathayat from Dr. D.Y. Patil Law College, Nerul.

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