China's Unending Repression of Uyghur's Awaits the World's Attention

China's Unending Repression of Uyghur's

Awaits the World's Attention

Human rights organizations say up to 1 million ethnic Muslims in Xinjiang have been detained in camps where they are subjected to political indoctrination and pressured to give up their religion.


By Muaz Muddassir Qasmi

China is the largest populated country in the world with near about 1.38 billion people within the country. Han community is the largest community in the country; rather they constitute the world's largest ethnic group, making up about 18% of the global population. China is composed of 56 ethnic groups.

After the founding the People's Republic of China in 1949, people who lived within the borders of the new state were divided into 56 ethnic groups based on relatively ambiguous criteria, such as shared language, territory, history and traditions. In this group 10 are recognized as Muslims minorities. They are as follows respectively according to the population. They are: Hui, Uighur, Kazakh, Dongxiang, Kyrgyz, Salar, Tajik, Uzbek, Bonan and finally Tatar.

Han Chinese is the largest ethnic group in China among the existing groups with the account for 91.59 % of the overall population. This community has the sole authority in ruling the country. Muslims are near about 22 million or 1.6% of total population of China.

More about 11 million of them are Uyghur Muslims who reside in Xinjiang with making up around 45 percent of Xinjiang's population. Earlier it was the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang, but in 20th century, the large-scale Han Chinese, have shifted to Xinjiang. As a result Uyghur are no longer in majority. Since then they have been suffering religious persecution. Han Chinese are great threat to the Uyghur minority.

Uyghur Muslims are the devastated, oppressed and the most subjugated community in “Republic of China”. They are Turk Muslims who reside in Xinjiang, the western area of China. They are considered ethnically and culturally related to areas of middle Asia; their language is almost similar to Turkish language. 

Xinjiang is the largest state of China; its border line touches many countries such as India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Magnolia.  It is an independent and self reliant state like Tibet. It is ruled independently and segregated from Beijing But many restrictions and limitations are imposed over it from the central government. Uyghur Muslims have long accused Chinese authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.

According to the “The Diplomat” report published on  December 28, 2019. Human rights organizations say up to 1 million ethnic Muslims in Xinjiang have been detained in camps where they are subjected to political indoctrination and pressured to give up their religion.

There is a long history of Uygur being targeted by the Han Chinese, the ruling community in the country.

According to a report, in the onset of 20th century, Uyghur had liberated themselves from China for a short span of time. However, in 1949 Communist Party of China (CPC) had managed to get full control over them.  Over the last decade, many Uyghur leaders have been tarred with false allegations of being terrorists by the government.

According to the report of “The Observer” published on 07/01/2015, the China government forced the students to break fasts in the sacred month of Ramadan.  The report says” While the world's Muslims and those inside China has the right to fast during Ramadan; at the University of Medicine in Xinjiang they force Uighur students to eat melons. They threaten those who refuse, saying that they'll take their diplomas away”. 

This is of course is the violation of human rights, and even a violation of the Chinese constitution itself. What is the meaning of freedom of religion which is assured in the Constitution of each democratic country? The report further reveals the truth of freedom for religion in China's Xinjiang. “The authorities in the Xinjiang region are increasingly clamping down on the religion of Islam and its followers. This food handout is just one of many examples in which China has tried to pressurize the country's Uyghurs”.

Though the horrific oppression of the Communist Party of China against the Uyghur Muslims is being condemned, still the government continues its terrifying clampdown against the oppressed community. 

The American news paper, The New York Times (NYT), has revealed the inhumanity against the children of Uyghur Muslims in its report published on Dec. 28, 2019.  According to the report, the government has forcefully sent half a million children of Muslims Uyghur to boarding schools. Those children are also among those whose parents are already detained by the government.

The NYT mentioned a heart breaking story of a first grade student who was sent to boarding school. “The first grader was a good student and loved by her classmates, but she was inconsolable, and it was no mystery to her teacher why she was treated in such a way.”

“The most heartbreaking thing is that the girl is often slumped over on the table alone and crying,” he wrote on his blog. “When I asked around, I learned that it was because she missed her mother.”

The mother, he noted, had been sent to a detention camp for Muslim ethnic minorities. The girl's father had passed away, he added. But instead of letting other relatives raise her, the authorities put her in a state-run boarding school — one of hundreds of such facilities that have opened in China's far western Xinjiang region.

Muslims in China are not new, rather they reside within the country since the seventh century when the delegation from the Middle East came to meet the then Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty. Most probably it was Hazrat Sa'ad bin Waqqas (raz) who also visited China during the rule of third caliph Hazrat Uthman (raz).  Since that time Muslims in a small group had been living peacefully in the country segregated from the Han Chinese majority for about five centuries.

However, in the 13th century, Muslims approached China in large numbers. During this time, Muslims had good relations with the Chinese state. Unfortunately, these relations began to change in the 18th century when the state tried to exert more direct control over territories where the majority of Muslims lived.

Between 1966 and 1969, during the period of the Cultural Revolution, mosque were vandalized, copies of the Qur'an were set on fire. Muslims were prohibited to go to perform hajj. The following of religious customs was banned.

The tension has increased after 9/11 and reached to high level in 2009 when there was an ethnic riot between Uyghur and Han Chinese throughout Xinjiang in which almost 200 people were killed in Ürümqi, the capital city of Xinjiang.

As per the report the riot erupted in July 2009 after the two Uyghur Muslims were killed during the clash with Han Chinese in a factory. Since then the Chinese state has increased the restrictions and imposed the limitations on the movement and culture of Uygur Muslims and other Muslim minorities.

As per the report of “The Conversation” published on May 24, 2019, the clamp down by the Chinese government has extended to other Muslims minorities over the last few months. The report says in this way; “In the past 18 months, these tensions have been exacerbating by the unlawful incarceration of Muslims living in the Uyghur region of western China. A campaign that started with the Uyghurs is now being extended to Kazakhs and others. There is mounting evidence that the Hui, too, are facing increasing restrictions”.

The NYT report also says that “As many as a million ethnic Uyghurs, Kazakhs and others have been sent to internment camps and prisons in Xinjiang over the past three years, an indiscriminate clampdown aimed at weakening the population's devotion to Islam. Even as these mass detentions have provoked global outrage, though, the Chinese government is pressing ahead with a parallel effort targeting the region's children”.

“Nearly a half million children have been separated from their families and placed in boarding schools so far. The ruling Communist Party has set a goal of operating one to two such schools in each of Xinjiang's 800-plus townships by the end of next year.  The party has presented the schools as a way to fight poverty, arguing that they make it easier for children to attend classes if their parents live or work in remote areas or are unable to care for them. And it is true that many rural families are eager to send their children to these schools, especially when they are older.

“But the schools are also designed to assimilate and indoctrinate children at an early age, away from the influence of their families”, according to the planning document, published in 2017. “Students are often forced to enroll because the authorities have detained their parents and other relatives, ordered them to take jobs far from home or judged them unfit guardians”.

Now the question is that is it enough only to condemn China for the oppression and its inhuman treatment with the Uyghur Muslims? When it is the absolute violation of human rights, then where is UNO? Is it not its duty to prevent China from its ruthless use of iron force?

Over the last few years it is only seen that when the stunning facts of the brutality of China were revealed by any media, few nations along with the UNO come forward and fulfilled their duty uttering some words of condemnation. Is only a statement by China that it is our internal matter considered sufficient for the nations who show their concern over the threatening behavior of China with Uyghur Muslims?

Where are the nations that always seem to hold flag of human rights? Are they being neglected because the exploited are Muslims and the oppressors are powerful, militarily and economically? These are the questions which must be answered. They are the touchstone for the utility of UNO.

The depressing aspect of it is that the Pak government, which was expected to raise its voice for the right of Uyghur and other minority Muslims, seemed to be overawed by the economic might of China. It has many business interests with that country and so does not want to harm its economic interests.

The writer is teacher at MMERC, Mumbai