There are about 11 million Uighurs living in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, China. Uighurs are a predominantly Muslim, Turkic-speaking ethnic group that has been victim to mass detentions. Since April 2017, around 800,000 to 2 million Uighurs and Muslims from other ethnic groups have been detained in Xinjiang according to government officials.
There are hundreds of camps located in Xinjiang which serve the purpose of “re-education camps” that experts estimate started as early as 2014, but were accelerated in their expansion in 2017. According to Reuters, 39 facilities had almost tripled in size between April 2017 and August 2018.
Disputes over the region of Xinjiang developed since claims by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949. However, Uighurs have referred to this northwest region as East Turkestan as it borders eight countries, including Pakistan. In trying to figure out why Uighurs are being targeted and tortured in this cruel and backward manner, the only answer is religion.
As if being Muslim is a crime in the eyes of the Chinese government, Uighurs are labeled as extremists and terrorists for merely practicing their religion. As the United Nations confronts China on these camps being a human rights violation, it is rebutted by denial, claiming that these camps are “vocational education and training centers” to combat terrorism and religious extremism.
What is going on in the camps?
Detainees who have escaped the camps have reported the prison-like conditions they faced. Tortured and sleep-deprived, detainees are interrogated and forced to renounce Islam and instead pledge loyalty to the CCP. Stories of sexual abuse, forced abortions, and suicides are among the brutal realities of life in the camps.
“The international community can no longer sit back and allow the Chinese authorities to trample on human rights at home and abroad,”Joshua Rosenzweig, the head of Amnesty International’s China team.
What is the international response to this crisis?
In an open letter to the UN, 321 organisations have demanded an “international mechanism to address the Chinese government’s human rights violations” regarding the unlawful detention of Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic groups. The knock-on impacts of China’s violation of rights are feared to extend worldwide to display a dystopian-like world. With global censorship, surveillance, and a rights-free development, the signatories (which include Amnesty International and the World Organisation Against Torture) have endorsed calls for a special session of the Human Rights Council to “evaluate the range of violations made by China’s government.”
This is an urgent human rights crisis that demands more global attention. Powerful organisations need the pressure of the public to condemn these heinous violations that are occurring in Xinjiang.