View Full Version : Erasing a Culture: Uighur Re-education Camps in China

31-03-19, 03:15

My semester-long topic is about the Uighur re-education camps in China. Uighurs are a Turkish people, the vast majority of which reside in Xinjiang, a province in located in the far north western corner of China. The Uighur are considered one of the fifty-five ethnic groups that make up China. The Islamic religion and Turkish ethnic background shape the Uighur identity, as most Uighur practice Islam. In Xinjiang, there has been a long history of ethnic tension between the Han Chinese and Uighur, leading to a violent riot in 2009. The Chinese government, infamous for its censorship practices, actively monitors all communications in the region. An Uighur citizen suspected of conspiring against the Chinese government may be detained and sent to a “re-education camp” with no regard to his or her civil rights. According to CNN, more than one million Uighur have been imprisoned in these facilities. (Waston) While China is no stranger to having ethnic clashes or independence movements within it’s vast borders, people in the West are not as familiar with the Uighur people as they were the Tibetans.

Everyone knows that China is a major world power with a rapidly growing economy. It is the largest nation in the world both by size and population, making it a powerful political system in the international community. Amid reports of torture such a waterboarding taking place in these camps, international observers started pressuring China to allow UN inspectors see these buildings for themselves. However, Beijing adamantly these denies these claims of torture and asserts that these re-education camps are only in place to eliminate extremism among the Uighur diaspora. (Cumming-bruce) With China industrializing more and more, it is our responsibility as citizens of the world to make sure that we make sure China is aware that it is responsible of ensuring human rights among all of its population, just like all other nations. This topic is crucial to bring to light because the events in Xinjiang are rarely discussed. By discussing about the unjust practices being exercised to oppress the Uighur people, we can create a dialogue on holding China accountable to the human rights legislation upheld by the UN Charter.

Furthermore, the government also wants to ensure that less Uighur practice Islamic customs, barring citizens from giving their children Islamic names. (Watson) The People’s Republic of China has the greatest atheist population in the world, due to the Chinese government’s skepticism of religious practices. Many Uighur are not able to practice their religion freely in China, the constant surveillance that is enforced government has created a pressure cooker climate within in the region. After the July 2009 riots in Urumqi, the economic center of the Xinjiang region, the Chinese government has worked hard on making sure information is censored. After the riots, all communications in the area were cut off, making it impossible to access the internet or to make a telephone call. By doing this, China limits communication and open discussion about anything it deems inappropriate or to conflict with the government. In return, most Uighur feel disillusioned with the Chinese government. Uighurs utilize a different time zone to differentiate themselves from the rest of China. In the capital Urumqi, the time is completely different depending whether you consult a Han Chinese person or a Uighur individual.

On February 10th 2019, Turkey condemned China for the re-education camps in Xinjiang. The Turkish foreign ministry believes that these camps are not simply vocational camps as claimed by China. (Westcott) This came after a famous Uighur singer named Abdurehim Heyit had died in one of these camps, sending many Turkic ethnic groups into shock. Many Turkish people believe that they are also apart of the general Turkic population as a whole, therefore China’s actions in Xinjiang have been causing tension across Central Asia. In fact, many Muslim majority nations have recalled their country’s representatives from China, specifically citing the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uighur as the primary cause. The UN has also condemned the acts, demanding that China should allow the UN to inspect these facilities. (Cumming-bruce)

I hope by writing about this topic I can educate myself more on the tensions between the Han Chinese and the Uighur populations. What made me chose this topic was my interest in the Sinosphere in general and my fascination with how the Chinese government interacts with other political systems. I think it is important to inform potential readers about what we know goes on in these camps and what specific human right laws China may violating. It is important to ask whether or not the international community can actually enforce these international laws against China for its treatment against Uighur and how China will react in response. The oppression that the Uighur have faced is extremely concerning, as it is apparent that China’s goal is to force Uighur to give up their identity out of fear. The torture that goes on in these camps draw parallels to concentrations camps and it is crucial to draw to light of these human right violations. We as an international community need to make lengths to prevent genocide from happening and we should not make any exceptions for any individual nation who treats their own citizens in such a manner.