Can you believe that there are Nazi-style concentrations camps in a 21st century superpower?

In the north-west regions of China is a large province by the name of Xinjiang. It is mineral-rich, generating more than ⅓ of China’s total natural resources. It is also under heavy military occupation, although this was not always the case.

Before Chinese occupation in 1949, Xinjiang was known as East Turkestan, home to people called Uyghurs. Uyghurs are an indigenous Turkic Muslim minority and ancestors to Turkic people, though this fact has been erased from history by China. Ever since Chinese annexation, Uyghurs have been treated as enemies in their own land.

The condition of Uyghurs in Xinjiang has reached a new limit. Prior to 2017, anyone that spoke out against Chinese assimilation tactics would be imprisoned. Now, people are faced with arbitrary arrest for doing acts that would be considered simple rights. Imagine being thrown in prison for practicing Islam. For Uyghurs, having a Quran, praying, fasting, wearing hijab, and giving your child “certain Muslim names” are all punishable by law (1). Masjids that still stand are equipped with “facial recognition cameras”, so even the most devout fear entering the holy sites (2). Those with ties to Uyghur nationalism have all been persecuted; there are few singers, actors, and politicians not in internment camps. Speaking the language of the land, Uyghur, is also used as an excuse for imprisonment in Xinjiang. Leaving East Turkestan is not a viable option; police have “confiscated passports”, so seeking asylum abroad is not possible (1).

In the past four years, over three million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities have been put into concentration camps where they are tortured and politically brainwashed. This is based on the idea  that Islam is a mental illness needs to be cured. Uyghurs that are in these internment camps have cut communications with relatives in the province for fear of Chinese harassment. Due to this, Uyghurs outside China have not heard from family members for years, and are unsure of whether or not they are even alive.

First, China targeted the Uyghurs because they were said to be separatist extremists, and that it was China’s job to prevent the breakup of their nation. Ever since the 9/11 attacks however, China claims that Uyghurs are Islamic extremists, and it is their job to extinguish extremism in their nation. In reality, Xinjiang is a valuable land that they refuse to give up.

China is a superpower and an important trading partner for many other nations; countries fear opposing China and blotching trading agreements. Even countries in the same Turkic family hesitate to announce their loyalties. The treatment is not completely unnoticed; the issue of the concentration camps have been vocalized at United Nations, as well as by multiple European countries, but Chinese representatives rushed to end conversation.

At the moment, people might not care as Uyghurs are targeted, but we know that history repeats itself. Yet we continue to make the same mistakes, to let the same injustices happen again. Think about if this was your country, your people. We cannot let this injustice repeat itself.

References:

  1. Kirby, J. (2018, November 07). China’s brutal crackdown on the Uighur Muslim minority, explained. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/2018/8/15/17684226/uighur-china-camps-united-nations
  2. Feng, E. (2018, July 18). China steps up surveillance on Xinjiang Muslims. Retrieved from https://www.ft.com/content/c610c88a-8a57-11e8-bf9e-8771d5404543