After annexing Tibet and imposing draconian measures aimed at sinicizing the region, the CCP has also threatened the existence and freedom of people living in the north western region of Xinjiang, a mainly Turkic speaking ethnic group, the Uyghurs. Many nations, such as Canada, UK, New Zealand, Lithuania, France, Belgium, Czech Republic and the United States have deemed CCP”s repressive measures in Xinjian as a cultural genocide, saying that they run afoul of the Article 2 of the Genocide Convention.
Since the 1950’s, China has sponsored mass migration of Han Chinese into the region, through the use of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a state run paramilitary organization, fueling tensions between the two ethnic groups. (About 1.2 million people settled in Xinjiang during the 1990’s, pushing the proportion of the ethnic Chinese population to 40 percent of the total of some 18.5 million people at present). By introducing measures aimed at stifling the cultural identity of the region, the CCP has subjugated multilingualism and cultural pluralism and instead promoted a monocultural model. Under the aegis of the 9/11 attack and the fact that some Uyghurs were found fighting in Afghanistan, the CCP tried to sanction its repression of the Uyghurs as part of the “Global War on Terror”, thereby maligning the Uyghurs as a source of Islamic threat in Xinjian.
“Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan had provided the ‘Eastern Turkestan’ terrorist organizations with equipment and financial resources and trained their personnel,” and that one particular organization, the “Eastern Turkestan Islamic Movement” (ETIM) was a major component of the terrorist network headed by Osama bin Laden”, the CCP claimed. Such claims were further attempted to be solidified through the issuance of documents such as “East Turkestan Terrorist Forces Cannot Get Away with Impunity” and “East Turkestan terrorist groups and individuals”. Such means to sabotage minorities through the publication of vicious but contentious literature was condemned by the United States when, in 2001, President Bush said that “the war on terrorism could not be used as an excuse to victimize minorities”.
Half a decade before, in February 1997, to protest against the migration of Han Chinese in the region and the restriction on religious and cultural activity, a demonstration was held by the residents of Yining. Though the protest was peaceful, aimed at the right of minority populations to set up organs of self government and to exercise control over certain economic resources, a number of unarmed protestors were shot, thousands of Uyghurs were arrested and a number of religious schools and mosques were closed. Then in 2009, the violent Urumqi riots broke out which marked a new turn in CCP’s attitude towards Uyghurs. More recently, to stymie the protests against the migration of Han Chinese in the region, the Strike Hard Campaign Against Violent Terrorism was launched by Xi Jinping in 2014 and the new Secretary of the CCP, Chen Quanguo unleashed a violent campaign against so called “terrorists”. Children were forced to attend state run schools, families were coerced to abide by the family planning rules, wearing of veils and long beards was also banned while a race based monitoring system especially targeting the Uyghurs was introduced.
Since 2016, under the leadership of the CCP Secretary Chen Quanguo, more than two million Uyghurs, including Uzbeks and Kazakhs have been detained in what the CCP claims as “educational and vocational camps”. Between 2017 and 2018, the size of some 39 camps tripled, equaling almost 140 soccer fields while security related spending in the region increased by almost 3 billion dollars. More than sixteen thousand mosques have been demolished and many children have been forcefully separated from their parents and sent to “re-education camps” since 2017. Also, while birth rates of the country decreased by close to 10 percent, for the Uyghur regions of Hotan and Kashgar, it fell by a whopping 60 percent, raising allegations of forced sterilizations, forced abortions and forced contraceptives in the region. People have been detained in these internment camps for reasons as silly as traveling to any of the countries that CCP considers sensitive, reading and texting Quranic verses and having more than three children. Between 2017 and 2019, “patterns of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment”, were found by a report based on twenty six people detained during the time. The detainees were monitored, forced to pledge loyalty to the CCP, sing praises of communism while women reported gross incidents of sexual abuse and violence.
While the CCP showcases Xinjiang as a hub for textile and apparel manufacturing, deeming that the minorities enjoy a considerable upside of economic development, reports from international organizations such the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Australian Strategic Policy Institute and independent reporters such as Adrian Zenz confirm that what is actually going in the region is a state sponsored labor program in which the citizens are monitored closely and vital but private information such as facial recognition, fingerprints and biometric data is collected and stored for further reporting use. It is clear from the vast amounts of reportage done on Xinjiang that the CCP has its vicious agenda to obliterate the culture of the Uyghur people and reduce them to nothing better than puppets, with no viable means for individual respect and livelihood. The world needs to take actions against the abuse of power propelled by the CCP against the Uyghurs through measures such as the assessment by the UN Human Rights Office and the UN that the CCP policies in Xinjiang amount to crimes against humanity.