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The Uyghur Crisis: A Disturbing Portrait of Repression, Resilience, and Resistance
A closer look at the outlawing of strikes and troubling accolades for key figures in the region's harrowing human rights crisis.
It seems a shameful admission that the screams of the Uyghur contingent in China have gone mostly unheard by the international community. If that seems depressing to read, be assured it was even more depressing to write.
The litany of human rights abuses that the Chinese government has inflicted on the Turkic ethnic group will be at least broadly known to many. Beginning back in 2014, General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has seen to the detention (to resort to euphemism) and enslavement of well over 1 million Turkic Muslims. For quick context, it is reported that “the region of Xinjiang in Northwest China has witnessed the largest forced incarceration of an ethnoreligious minority anywhere in the world since the Second World War”.
The term “genocide” will often be used to describe the plight of the Uyghurs, and rightly so. In fact, as the concept of genocide pre-dates the term, it’s worth pointing out that the pre-word term, to coin a phrase, to describe an extirpation based on ethnicity was known as “race murder”. Paradoxically, this term seems to hit home even harder.
The race murder of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region is ground that has indeed been covered. But there are a few recent updates that will hopefully tempt the outrage glands to kick in.
Earlier this year, eyewitness testimony was given before Congress of the horrors witnessed at these “re-education camps”. It was two women who appeared to off their horrifying accounts of life inside a detention center while also begging for redress by the international community, namely the United States, in defense of the Uygher populace.
The Guardian reported, “Speaking before a special bipartisan House committee at the start of Ramadan, Gulbahar Haitiwaji, a Uyghur woman, said she spent nearly three years in internment camps and police stations, during which she was subjected to 11 hours of daily ‘brainwashing education’ that included singing patriotic songs and praising the Chinese government before and after meals.”
In addition to being punished for daring to speak in Uyghur (this would have to be one of the linchpins of a cultural erasure), she also testified that at one point she was chained to a bed for 20 days. As horrifying as this may be, it really is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of crimes against humanity.
If one wonders what China thinks it owes to the rest of the world on this matter, one need not look too far. In response to this ongoing race murder, the United States has admirably imposed sanctions on China. It was just last week that China felt that this was an unfair response to the needless immiseration of over a million people. Reuters reported at that time that “China on Thursday renewed its call for the United States to lift ‘unilateral’ sanctions against Chinese enterprises ahead of a possible visit by the U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.”
China's commerce ministry spokesperson Shu Jueting went into an Oscar-winning whinge about these sanctions at a press conference, complaining that "The U.S. has seriously damaged Chinese companies' interests," Shu went on to moan that"China is firmly opposed to [the sanctions], and urges the U.S. side to immediately stop its unreasonable suppression of Chinese firms and lift its unilateral sanctions against them". There you have it. In a tale as old as time itself, the victimizers see themselves as the oppressed and luckless victims. Incidentally, one must notice the historical irony, not to say tragedy, of the mass genocide of an entire ethnic minority not being acknowledged as such, as was and in many ways, still is, the case with the race murder of the Armenians.
A salient update comes in the form of tyrannical overreach imposed by the Chinese government on its people. The CCP “Strike Hard” campaign back in 2014 and a splinter operation of this campaign seeks to inflict its authority on any gatherings in Xinjiang that are larger than 30 people. Ostensibly excused by the government, as these always appear to be, to “combat illegal criminal activities”, according to Radio Free Asia, it stands, in fact, as an antidote to Uyghur sympathizers and protestors. A sort of unilateral and additional oppression of the people.
Radio Free Asia interviewed a policeman and further reported that “those who host gatherings with more than 30 people, organize parties or conduct religious ceremonies without first reporting to their neighborhood committee or to police will be targeted for holding ‘illegal gatherings’”. In the interview, the policeman went on to say that, regarding religious gatherings, “While some individuals may attend gatherings with good intentions, there are others who may have ulterior motives. However, regardless of their initial intentions, if any participant engages in discussions or activities involving forbidden matters, all individuals present at the gathering will face consequences.”
But it seems the real onus should come from the outside. The terms, concepts, and, indeed, the spirit of an international community permeates the Geneva Convention and the United Nations, from which the Genocide Convention sprung forth. Sanctions from the United States are a decent act, but not an enormous one. While it is also true that Canada recently launched an investigation into Nike and Dynasty Gold for having potential links in their supply chain that came as the result of forced Uygher labor, that seems to be more of a reproach to Nike and Dynasty Gold than to China.
Sadly, the general view from the outside seems to be, far from condemnation, in many instances, bold-faced affirmation. Enter Liu Jianchao, Minister of the International Department of the Central Committee of the CCP. A tsunami of outrage washed over as it was reported that Jiancho, a man responsible for the forceable extradition of more than 9000 exiles to face oppression in their homeland, was the guest of honor at the Great Britain China Council leadership forum. It was reported that “Uyghur activists are enraged that one of the architects of China’s brutal so-called “fugitive recovery operations” of exiles fleeing CCP oppression, has been feted by the UK government.”
It was further reported, “In a letter to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, members of IPAC [(Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China)] wrote, “Mr. Liu is a figure who has presided over human rights abuses on a global scale, bearing overall responsibility for kidnapping, trapping, ‘persuasion to return’ of thousands of overseas Chinese in gross violation of domestic law and international human rights standards.”
Continuing, “We fully appreciate that bilateral diplomacy with China requires forbearance and willingness to deal with those who do not share our values. A line is crossed, however, when attempts are made to normalize visits from someone so clearly responsible for serious crime and human rights abuses across the world, including in our own country,” citing the attack on UK residents as, “in direct violation of the UK’s sovereignty and the individual’s fundamental rights.”
One suspects that the international community, certainly the Western industrialized world, including but not limited to, the U.K. can do a little bit better than this. The hope is that, at some point, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, may finally take notice and act to impose the will of the world on the CCP.