China’s take on Uighurs – An unacknowledged Campaign of brutal Suppression –
The suppression of Muslims in the western Province of Xinjiang in China recently sparked
immediate attention when some classified official documents came into light that show the
evidence of the China’s Mass detention Camps in the name of “Re-educating Uighur Muslims”.
Not only did it receive widespread criticism from across the world, but many nations condemned
the actions of china.For a long time now, the Chinese government has outrightly denied any such
allegations stating they are mere accusations and that they are established only to cure muslims
from their extremist thoughts.
Who are Uighurs and why are they being targeted?
Uighurs are the Turkic Speaking ethnic majority in Xinjiang, and they are 10 Million in number.
It is an autonomous region in China’s northwest that borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and
Mongolia. It has been under the control of China since 1949 and was also renamed as the New
Frontier or Xinjiang. The Uighur Muslims and most practice a moderate form of Sunni Islam. In
1933 and 1944, the community did try to gain independence but those republics were
Around the 1950s, soon after the establishment of the Uighur Autonomous region, the Chinese
government encouraged the Han Chinese(Majority ethinc group of china) to move to Xinjiang.
The Migration thus started resulted in the presence of a vast majority of Han Chinese in the
region and thus the rivalry Started. In the 1990s, Uighurs began to protest against the oppression
and unlawful treatment. However, the response of the Chinese government cannot be appreciated
as it began to launch violent police action to curtail the protests and suppress the Uighurs. After
2001 terrorist attacks in the USA, the Chinese government utilized it as a reason to justify its
violence and hence claimed the response to the protest as a fight against Global Terrorism.
In july of 2009, a Massive protest broke out between the Han and Uighur Communities that
resulted in at least 200 people being killed, most of whom claimed to be Han Chinese. This
angered the government and ever since, they started to increase the surveillance on the Uighur
community besides cracking down violently. The Uighurs in the later years were subjected to
killings, prison and various other forms of torture.
Brutality in the name of RE-EDUCATION
More than one Million Uighurs, which constitute sound 10% of the Community are prosecuted
by the Chinese government as a part of their Deradicalisation and removal of extremist ideas
strategy. The Deradicalisation camps are operated under high surveillance and are mostly
maintained in high secrecy. They are subjected to Mass detentions, forced assimilations, and
torture. The situation is as serious as it gets. They are made to give out their DNA and Biometric
Samples as a Part of the Surveillance.
The Deradicalisation according to the Chinese government aims at prohibiting activities like
sporting beards, fasting during the Ramzan festival, dressing differently from the majority
(traditional dressings) , sending Eid greetings, praying “too often”, or not knowing Mandarin.
Men are made to shave their beard and are prohibited from giving Muslim names for their
babies. The children are being taught to stay loyal to china. Most of them are sent to boarding
schools and are driven towards becoming civil servants and serving china. Many of these people
who maintain relations with 24 sensitive countries are put under extra surveillance. The
Detainees are mostly given training after completing the vocational indoctrination and are often
placed to work at industries which are mostly of forced labour in nature.
The reports of torture are often bought out to the public by the former detainees. A former inmate
told the BBC: “They wouldn’t let me sleep, they would hang me up for hours, and they would
beat me. They had thick wooden and rubber batons, whips made from twisted wire, needles to
pierce the skin, pliers for pulling out the nails. All these tools were displayed on the table in front
of me, ready to use at any time. And I could hear other people screaming as well.” (source: The
Indian Express, BBC)
As Per the Economist, the city is divided into squares with allotted numbers of people who are
thoroughly kept under surveillance and are tracked of their movements across the city through a
police station in each square. Several check posts where the people are scanned are located.
Confiscation of phones and passports to curtail travel and passage of information is seen
regularly. The facial technology and artificial intelligence enables the officials to track the
constant movement of the people which makes it clear that “Privacy” is a term long forgotten in
What does the leaked documents talk about?
The Documents unveiled the detail of the official policies pertaining to the deradicalization
camps. The documents are said to be issued by the Political and Legal Affairs commission and
contain guidelines for the operation of the camps, security protocols, ways to contain and control
detainees for the purpose of deradicalisation and curriculum along with the criteria of the camp.
The documents also outline the guidelines that set out policies for identifying and rounding up
Xinjiang citizens targeted for deradicalization. Other than this, the documents were also
identified to contain information regarding the usage of technology and intelligence to monitor
and collect information into a database called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform on the
basis of which many mass arrests were made in China.
How is the world Responding to this brutal Suppression?
Of all the nations that did respond, the United States has condemned the acts of Chinese
government through a great response. The country has laid sanctions on many entities and
industries that are said to be in touch with the region of Xinjiang or aiding the Chinese
government in operation of these Camps. More than 20 Nations have condemned the act of the
government and have urged the UN to end the Mass Detention Program. Some countries have
expressed their will to accept these muslims as refugees. The European Union has asked China to
respect the freedom of Religion.
Although many countries have come forward, some countries do not intend to comment on the
issue. In a rather Unexpected way, many muslim majority countries have not condemned or
responded to the recent events which shows their prioritization of economic and commercial ties
oveerriding the religious issues. Infact, Countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have praised
the achievements of China in Xinjiang to counter terrorism. Many countries operate their
business ties with the industries in the region while some stated that their business ties does not
have anything to do with the detention camps.
Besides the evidence and world wide condemnation of the Deradicalization camps that speaks
volumes about the urgency to stop the detention, the Chinese government rather does not
comment or state any interest to stop these camps. The government simply calls these camps a
measure to restore Xinjiang into a Beautiful and Peaceful region. It also says that the religion
stays unaffected through these camps and the liberty to follow their own religion still exists. On
several grounds the fact that these muslims are being subjected to unprecedented forms of
toruture and are being violated of their Human Rights alongside religion is to be taken into
There is an Urgency to save Uighurs from completely disappearing. This can be done through
Proper protocols and actions by the international organizations like the United Nations and
several others in the aspects of Human Rights and Religious Freedom. It also takes countries to
respond and condemn the act for better good.
Author: Mudunuri Navya, Research Associate, Center for Human Security Studies