Roughly every tenth Uyghur was forced into concentration camps by Chinese authorities without any trial or on baseless accusations. In camps, Uyghurs are beaten, raped, tortured, and punished for speaking their native language and exercising religion. Children of detainees are placed in state orphanages where, again, they are punished for speaking their language and are brainwashed with fear and aggression.
Mass detentions of Uyghurs and other minorities surged in 2016 as a part of China’s so-called “Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism.” One might assume that imprisonments are natural when it comes to fighting terrorism. But the Chinese government is blatantly labeling the entire ethnic minority as “terrorists” to justify its genocidal policies. Charges and reasons for imprisonment are absurd and specifically target Uyghurs minorities in the so-called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regions (XUAR). They include having relatives abroad, using international messaging applications, teaching religion, traveling abroad, and mere suspicion.
Many western countries have already recognized China’s treatment of Uyghurs as genocide. One of the survivors of the camp, Gulbahar Jelilova, witnessed how a lot of young Uyghur women “had their fingernails removed after interrogation.” On top of that, she told the story of other prisoners’ interrogation which was accompanied by being beaten with iron chains and having their hands and feet chained to the bed. The horrors which Uyghurs go through inside of the camps resemble the holocaust in its cruelty and soul-wrenching manner.
The Chinese regime is also extensively eradicating Uyghur culture. The genocidal regime destroyed or severely damaged at least 60% of mosques in the region. Some of the destroyed mosques were hundreds-years-old and were a big part of the Uyghur culture. Along with mosques, cultural-religious sites, shrines, cemeteries, and pilgrimage routes are purposefully being damaged or destroyed. The Chinese government imprisons Uyghur scholars, journalists, and writers accusing them of separatism and treason, thus, damaging Uyghur demographics.
Extensive forced sterilization is evident in official statistics from the Chinese government. XUAR’s births halved in two years between 2017 and 2019. The population growth in two predominantly Uyghur cities saw an 84% decline in their natural growth rate between 2015 and 2018. Women are given unknown pills inside concentration camps. Outside of camps, the Chinese government forcefully places an intrauterine device (IUD) on the Uyghur women. The IUD placement rate in the XUAR region is one thousand times higher than the national average in the country.
A substantial amount of evidence suggests that what the Chinese government is committing against Uyghurs aligns well with the UN’s definition of genocide. The Chinese government specifically targets Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the region. The regime carries out mass detentions, torture, and sterilization without any effective backlash from the rest of the world and/or international organizations. Uyghur children are brainwashed to give up their Uyghur identity in state orphanages which are organized in empty Uyghur neighborhoods whose population is taken to concentration camps.
The Chinese government is blatantly committing genocide against Uyghurs in the 21st century without any repercussions. Its economic power that flows into political one is effectively silencing Muslim majority countries as well as non-Muslim countries in the world. A joint statement on human rights abuses in China is composed by diplomats of the UK and co-signed by mostly western democracies such as Switzerland, the US, Australia, and others. It is worth noting that none of the Muslim majority countries dared to condemn China’s atrocities against Muslim culture and people. The report by Human Rights Watch indicates that the genocidal Chinese regime engages in suppression of any efforts for human rights well beyond its borders. The Chinese government uses its political power to oppose any investigations of human rights abuses and crimes around the world.
There is a strong need for decisive actions from the United Nations (UN) to stop the Uyghur genocide. None of the developing countries in Asia or elsewhere in the world can even speak up against China because of the economic consequences of such action. Meanwhile, the UN has the power and neutrality supported and backed by humanity. Uyghur genocide is not a “domestic affairs” issue as China presents it. The blatant and unpunished human rights abuses have far-reaching implications on humanity and human value in the world. I am confident that the actions taken by the UN will be widely supported by people around the world who are not represented by authorities.
Aziz Abdullaev (PPS ’23) is a Public Policy Undergraduate at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. This piece was submitted as an op-ed in the Spring ’22 PUBPOL 301 course. This content does not represent the official or unofficial views of the Sanford School, Polis, Duke University, or any entity or individual other than the author.