Country Conditions: The Persecution Of The Uyghur People In China
The People's Republic of China which is governed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is a unitary and socialist state, governed with a Marxist-Leninist ideology. With a population of over a 1.3billion people,- making it the most populous nation on earth- the country consists of over sixty ethnic groups. The majority ethnic group is the Han ethnic group accounting for an estimated 1.2billion people, which is 91.51% of the population. Of the numerous ethnic groups in China, only 56 are recognized, including the aforementioned Han Chinese and the Uyghur people. As of 2010, the Uyghur people in China were estimated at 10,069,346 people which is 0.7555% of the entire population. All ethnic groups in China, except the Han Chinese, are minorities.
Over time, the People's Republic of China has been accused of seriously violating the human rights of minorities. The abuse of human rights extends to both ethnic minorities and religious groups. One of the ethnic groups most affected by the gross act of human rights abuse is the Uyghur people. The abuse of human rights is majorly carried out by the Chinese government ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, led by Xi Jinping. The gravity of the persecution gives rise to the term, "Uyghur Genocide."
Could there be any reason for the grave persecution of the Uyghur people? How have the Uyghur people fared so far? What could give rise to the genocidal persecution of an ethnic group? What is the position of the international community in the matter?
These are some questions that this article attempts to answer.
The Treatment Of The Uyghur People
The treatment meted out to the Uyghur people mainly includes but is not limited to, rape(gang rape and otherwise), forced abortion, forced sterilization, physical assault, torture, internment, and brainwashing. The possible reasons for such ill-treatment are the fear of terrorism, Islamophobia, and the suppression of political dissent.
The Uyghur people are of Turkic descent, mostly Muslims, and reside mainly in the Xinjiang area. They have always faced challenges especially since the period of Imperial China to the new People's Republic of China. These challenges were first recognized as a grasp for control over the region and forced assimilation of the Uyghur people until more brutal measures were employed.
Increasing violence in Xinjiang and an introduction of a monocultural and monolingual system led to great dissatisfaction. The establishment of a monocultural system was to aid the extermination of the Uyghur culture. Large demonstrations emerged after the rounding up and execution of 30 suspected separatists in early 1997. This led to the crackdown on protesters by the People's Liberation Army, leading to several deaths. Attacks and counter-attacks became the order of the day.
In addition to the suppression of the Uyghur people, Uyghur religious sites, especially mosques and shrines were attacked and destroyed. The educational system became such that the primary mode of instruction was in Standard Chinese with almost no room given for the Uyghur language.
In attempts to suppress the Uyghur culture, the Communist Party also introduce incentives for intermarriage and reduced reproduction, especially of Uyghur women. Uyghur women have married off to Han-dominated societies with the false impression of creating a positive ethnic bond. Once in 2017, the Communist Party Secretary in Qira County, Salamat Memetimin was relieved of her duties for taking her nikah marriage vows at her home. This marriage was performed in the traditional Uyghur nikah marriage style. This is something the Communist Party is trying to systematically eradicate.
In addition to these, the government also prohibits the adorning of traditional Islamic attire such as scarves and hijabs, as well as the giving of Islamic names.
Abuse Within Internment Camps
Various camps for detaining and "re-educating" ethnic minorities are set up in Xinjiang. Over 1 million Uyghurs are held in these camps and are made to undergo untold hardships. The internment camps aided the mass governing of Xinjiang by the Communist Party. When an Uyghur village is to be raided, the authorities sometimes arrange for a mass meeting with the village chief, and then the police come to arrest everyone at once. In other cases, the police break into houses and drag men, women, and children out. After the rounding up, the people are severely beaten before being sent to the camps.
Former camp detainees give reports of successive rape( including gang and public rape) and severe torture with drugs, electric shocks, waterboarding, and wearing of metal suits weighing at least 23kg.
Women were also subjected to compulsory sterilization and contraception. On some days, up to 80 surgeries were performed on women to ensure that they are unable to give birth and to maintain the minority status of Uyghurs. Aside from these, detainees are also subjected to brainwashing and forced labor( especially on cotton farms).
Some of these abuses are also perpetrated outside camps, including forced cohabitation, abortion, co-sleeping, organized rape, and forced disappearance.
Position Of The International Community
International bodies such as the UN and EU have criticized the treatment of Uyghurs in China. Several countries in Africa and Middle Eastern countries have defended and denounced the Chinese treatment of Uygurs except for Qatar(in 2019)and Israel.
Former Soviet states and some Asian countries have equally defended the Chinese government.
European states, the US, and Canada have all signed against the treatment of Uyghurs in China.