Currently, it seems like a few large countries constantly make news headlines, and China is no exception. A story that has been only mildly talked about for the past few years is now coming into the light again, revealing more details about the Uyghur Muslim concentration camps.
The Uyghurs are an ethnic minority that resides in northwestern China, in the region of Xinjiang. The Uyghurs have a long history in China, with records of their mention dating back to the year 300 AD. They first rose to power in the mid-8th century in the area that is now Mongolia. One of the major Uyghur cities is the city of Xinjiang, located near the border between Russia and China. In the mid-late 1900s, large numbers of Han, ethnic Chinese, began settling into the region. Since then, tensions have been extremely high between the two groups with protests and even a violent outbreak in 2009, resulting in the death of 200 people. Since this outbreak “Chinese authorities responded by cracking down on Uighurs suspected of being dissidents and separatists. The authorities’ actions included shootings, arrests, and long jail sentences until 2017, when the Chinese government-initiated a thorough crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang” (Britannica).
Traditionally, the Uyghur are practicing Muslims, a religion that China has been trying to outlaw for years. Because of this, China has resorted to unthinkable “voluntary education and training camps.” In reality, these are concentration camps. Of course, China has denied such claims with China’s UK ambassador claiming them to be “fake news” (BBC). However, other released documents “show how inmates are locked up, indoctrinated and punished” (BBC). The leaked documents include a memo that dictates that these camps should be run as high-security prisons, with strict discipline and no chance of escape. Some orders within the memo include “Never allow escapes, increase discipline and punishment of behavioral violations, promote repentance and confession, make remedial Mandarin studies the top priority, encourage students to truly transform” (BBC). Additionally, these concentration camps also function as labor camps, in which the Uyghur people are forced to do strenuous labor under terrible conditions. The United States has responded by blacklisting dozens of Chinese organizations, ensuring that the Chinese companies are banned from purchasing and importing U.S. products.
Per the Chinese government’s view of the Muslim Uyghurs as a threat to China and claims that they threaten society by holding extremist views, the government of Xinjiang has passed laws that prohibit men from growing long beards, women from wearing veils, while also destroying dozens of mosques.
The millions of Uyghur people live in a world of chaos that most people could not dream of. With a government that is oppressing them, both physically and socially, these people face a new threat or complete surrender every day. The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would prohibit certain imports on Xinjiang, as well as impose sanctions on those involved in the violation of human rights. Proposed by Senator Marci Rubio and Representative Jim McGovern, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is a great step in the right direction to shed light on the entire situation. On an international scale, more than 25 nations within the UN have issued statements urging China to immediately stop these labor camps. However, given China’s incredibly dominant role within the international sphere, such a voluntary step appears highly unlikely. In fact, over 30 countries, from various different continents, have commended China for its commitment to human rights. Despite this, there is still heavy opposition of the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghurs within the U.S., as well as many within many other dominant countries within the UN.
Data leak reveals how China ‘brainwashes’ Uighurs in prison camps. (2019, November 24). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-50511063
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Uighur.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 3 Aug. 2020, www.britannica.com/topic/Uighur.