The United Nations has put its seal on reports of Chinese atrocities in Xinjiang. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has released its investigative report confirming China’s iniquities against the indigenous Uyghur population in the Xinjiang Province, or the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) as it is officially known.
Though the report is still conservative in estimates, putting the number of Uyghurs and other ethnic Muslim minorities in re-education centres, that most analysts equate to concentration camps in Nazi Germany, to around one million, and prefers not to call the treatment genocide, it still becomes a testimony to Chinese atrocities in Xinjiang.
The UN system, with China as its part, represents the most credible global organisation with 193 countries as its members. The multilateral body works to ensure peace, security, and economic cooperation. The organisation traces its genesis to 1945, after the Second World War, and with its international character and one of the four purposes of its existence that says that it will work towards respect for each other’s rights and freedoms, China faces a difficult time ahead in convincing others to believe in its fake Xinjiang development propaganda. On its part, Beijing has vehemently denied the verity of the report.
The OHCHR formally submitted its request to China on March 17, 2021, asking for documents on Xinjiang that could prove the critics wrong and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) right but got no reply. Before writing this report, it went through a lot of data, research, and investigation that it found credible. The UN body also interviewed 40 victims (24 women and 16 men; 23 Uyghur, 16 ethnic Kazakh, and 1 ethnic Kyrgyz).
Chinese atrocities against Uyghurs have continued ever since the CCP took control of the area in 1949 but it saw its severe version after the 2009 Urumqi riots that China equates to terrorism. Urumqi is Xinjiang’s capital city. China accuses Uyghurs of launching thousands of terrorist and separatist attacks there between 1990 and 2016. The country accuses Uyghurs of killing a large number of “innocent people and Chinese police officers", or Han Chinese people.
In 1949, when the CCP took over Xinjiang’s control, Uyghurs were 76% of the population of the region while the Han Chinese were just 6.7%. Cut to the latest Chinese Census of the region, and the share of Uyghur population has reduced to 45% while Han Chinese are now 42% of the population of the province. The CCP has made migrating and settling Han Chinese people, 90% of China’s population, to Xinjiang one of its policy tools (the Great Leap West) and has increased its pace in recent years. The main focus is controlling the area through Han Chinese people with Han police and a Han administration.
“Urumqi is a Han bastion", described by the Economist in a January 2020 report. The Encyclopaedia Britannica reflects on how it happened: “Culturally, Urumqi largely remains a Uyghur city, in spite of the fact that Han Chinese constitute the great majority of the population—especially with the increased influx of Han since the 1990s.”
The OHCHR report quotes the figure of over a million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in detention centres based on the estimation of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2018. But British Daily ‘The Sun’ says the crisis runs even deeper. Quoting a leaked document from Beijing, the newspaper says mass internment camps existed even in 2014 and around eight million Uyghur and other Muslim minorities have already been forced through the system. According to one Uyghur activist, Rushan Abbas, over three million Uyghurs have been detained in the camps.
China uses these camps for religious suppression and demographic assault.
Xi Jinping had given a call in 2015 – “Sinicise Islam" – and 2022 is the deadline. Detention centres, in fact, have become the only home for multitudes of Uyghurs with reports of disappearances. If you are a religious Uyghur, a Chinese detention centre is your place. Uyghur Muslims are barred from following most Islamic traditions and rituals.
For Beijing, every Uyghur is potentially a terrorist or a sympathiser. Maisumujiang Maimuer, a Chinese religious affairs official, asserted in 2017, “Break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins. Completely shovel up the roots of ‘two-faced people’, dig them out, and vow to fight these two-faced people until the end.”
China is breaking their lineage, their roots, in the name of equating the religion followed by Uyghurs with terrorism. One cannot be a pious Muslim in Xinjiang. Men can’t keep big beards. Full-head covering for Uyghur women is not allowed. Observing the Holy month of Ramadan is banned for Uyghur officials and students. Uyghur Muslims cannot eat Halal food and the Chinese government has prepared a list of religious names that they must avoid while naming their children. Some investigative reports have pointed out that Uyghur Muslims were forced to eat pork and drink alcohol while they were in camps.
According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s September 2020 investigative report, Xinjiang province had 380 such detention centres and prisons. These centres have one major agenda, to control and reduce the Uyghur population through mass sterilisations. According to German scholar Adrian Zenz, the Chinese forced sterilisation policy could cut up to 4.5 million Uyghur births in future.
Uyghur Muslims are also used for the notorious organ-harvesting business of China. The OHCHR, in June 2021, said it received worrying reports about minorities like Uyghurs being targeted for this purpose. The Herald Sun Daily came out with an investigative report in October 2021 that said Uyghur livers were available for as cheap as $160K.
With detained Tibetans, they are used for forced labour. ASPI’s investigative reports say China transferred 80,000 Uyghurs out of Xinjiang between 2017 and 2019. An investigative report from BuzzFeed says over 1,500 Chinese companies are located near or inside Uyghur detention centres in Xinjiang to use Uyghurs as forced labourers. An analysis by the US Department of Labour says, “It is estimated that 100,000 Uyghurs and other ethnic minority ex-detainees in China may be working in conditions of forced labour following detention in re-education camps…Many more rural poor workers also may experience coercion without detention.”
Uyghur lives, in fact, have similar treatment, inside or outside camps. The Han Chinese would like to see them in detention centres. China controls how their houses would be. They are monitored 24×7 and questioned and requisitioned on roads. Their religious places are almost gone. According to Radio Free Asia, Chinese authorities had destroyed 70% mosques in the region till July 2020. It is corroborated by Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP), a Washington DC-based advocacy organisation. It says China destroyed 10,000 to 15,000 mosques and religious places between 2016 and 2019.
The UN report may fall short of calling it so, but this is certainly an institutionalised genocide.