Christianity has long been targeted in China, but another group has faced noteworthy human rights travesties in recent years – the Uighur Muslims.
Uighur Muslims primarily reside in Xinjiang province in northwestern China in an area also sometimes referred to as East Turkistan. They are one of China’s 55 recognized minorities. Reasons for imprisonment of Uighur Muslims in China’s re-education camps established under Secretary General Xi Jinping include, but are not limited to, turning a phone on and off repeatedly, acting suspiciously, praying, using social foreign media, being born after the 1980s, setting a clock to a different time zone than that of Beijing or having too many children.
Uighur women imprisoned in Chinese re-education camps have been subjected to rape, sexual assault, starvation, forced abortions, unsanitary conditions and torture, which includes electrical shock. Some detained in these camps report being forced to strip females naked and handcuff them before leaving them at the mercy of Chinese men. Jewelry, clothing and other possessions are confiscated from those detained in the camps.
“There are four kinds of electric shock,” Qelbinur Sedik, an Uzbek woman from Xinjiang, shared with western media after fleeing China. “The chair, the glove, the helmet and anal rape with a stick.”
Even for Uighurs living outside the camps, their lives are subjected to surveillance, indoctrination, and in some cases, forced sterilization.
“In 2017, just because I was an official worker in a school, they gave me a wider choice to have this IUD or sterilization operation,” Sedik further revealed about her plight as an ethnic minority in China. “But in 2019 they said there is an order from the government that every woman from 18 years to 59 years old has to be sterilized. So they said you have to do this now.”
Sedik was subjected to having a Han Chinese man live as a “relative” at her apartment as part of the surveillance program rolled out across Xinjiang.
One definition of “indoctrination” of Uighurs by Chinese standards is, “washing brains, cleansing hearts, strengthening righteousness and eliminating evil.” The goal is to strip Uighurs and other perceived dissidents of their faith, culture, language, customs, family values, and way of life ,while forcing silent conformity to Chinese mainstream culture.
Though reports from China may or may not be accurate, it is believed there are 2 million Uighurs detained in internment camps throughout the mainland, which translates to slightly more than 11 percent of the Uighur population in China. This does not count the Uighurs killed for organ harvesting.
The United Nations has been requesting access to the camps to assess human rights violations, but not surprisingly, the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party has neither been cooperative nor granted access. The UN demands the release of all Uighurs from the detainment camps. The United States has proposed sanctions against China for its human rights violations under the Global Magnitsky Act. Bangladesh has condemned China for its treatment of the Uighurs, and Indonesia and Pakistan have urged China to be more tolerant of religious freedom. Nations such as Malaysia have refused to return Uighur detainees to China.
The Chinese Communist Party maintains such allegations of human rights violations are fake news, fabricated and unsubstantiated, and proclaims to protect the rights of all religious and ethnic minorities.
“It’s genocide, full stop,” said Joanne Smith Finley of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom. “It’s not immediate, shocking, mass-killing on the spot type of genocide, but it’s slow, painful, creeping genocide.”
Beijing’s attempts to purge the Uighur Muslim ethnic group from its communities is terrifying for people of all faiths who are trying to live their lives and provide for their families in China and around the world. The Uighur Muslims are not the only target, though they are currently being targeted the most harshly. If Uighur Muslims are successfully purged, China may take the liberty to eradicate another ethnic and religious minorities on a larger scale.
The right of all people to practice their faith and hold beliefs is essential to preserving freedom and peace worldwide. The degree of brutality that the Chinese Communist Party is wielding its power to force a monolithic Chinese population at the expense of millions of lives, no doubt qualifies as genocide and crimes against humanity.