Muslims in China- What is going on with them? - Seeker's Thoughts

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Muslims in China- What is going on with them?

Eight hundred thousand to two million Uighurs and other Muslims including ethnic Kazakhs and Uzbeks, have been detained since April 2017, according to experts and government officials.

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Outside of the camps, the eleven million Uighurs living in Xinjiang have continued to suffer from the decades-long crackdown in Chinese authorities.

Most people in the camps have never been charged with crimes and have no legal avenues to challenge their detentions. 

The detainees seem to have been targeted for a variety of reasons, including traveling to or contacting people from any of the twenty-six countries China considers sensitive, such as Turkey and Afghanistan; attending services at mosques, and sending texts containing Quranic verses. 

Often, their only crime is being Muslim, the human rights group said, adding that many Uighurs have been labeled as extremists simply for practicing their religion.

Hundreds of camps are located in Xingjian. Officially known as the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, the northwestern province has been claimed by China since the communist party (CCP) took power in 1949. 

Some Uighurs living there refer to the region as East Turkistan and argue that it ought to be independent of China. Xinjiang takes up one-sixth of China’s landmass and borders eight countries, including Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Reuter’s journalists, observing satellite imagery, found that thirty-nine of the camps almost tripled in size between April 2017 and August 2018; they cover a total area roughly the size of 140 soccer fields.

 Similarly, analyzing local and national budgets over the past few years, Germany-based Xinjiang expert Adrian Zens found that construction spending on security-related facilities in Xinjiang increased by 20 Billion Yuan around $2.96 billion in 2017.

In August 2018, a UN committee heard that up to one million Uighur Muslims and other Muslims groups could be being detained in the western Xinjiang region, where they’re said to be undergoing “re-education” programmes.

The claims were made by rights groups, but China denies the allegations. At the same time.

China had been deliberately separating Muslim children from their families, faith, and language in its far western region of Xinjiang.

At the same time as hundreds of thousands of adults are being detained in giant camps, a rapid, large – scale campaign to build boarding schools is underway.

Records show that in one township alone more than 400 children have lost not just one but both parents to some form of internment, either in the camps or in prison.

Formal assessments are carried out to determine whether the children are in need of “centralized care”.

Alongside the efforts to transform the identity of Xinjiang’s adult, the evidence points to a parallel campaign to systematically remove children from their roots.

China’s tight surveillance and control in Xinjiang, where foreign journalists are followed 24 hours a day, make it impossible to gather testimony there. But it can be found in Turkey.

In a large hall in Istanbul, Dozens of people queue to tell their stories, many of them clutching photographs of children, all now missing back at home in Xinjiang.

In 60 separate interviews, in wave after wave of anxious, grief-ridden testimony, parents and other relatives give details of the disappearance in Xinjiang of more than 100 children.

What have the Chinese authorities said?

The Chinese authorities said the Uighurs are being educated in “vocational training centers” in order to combat violent religious extremism. But evidence shows that are being detained for simply expressing their faith – praying or wearing a veil- or having overseas connections to places like turkey.
Who are the Uighurs?

The Uighurs are mostly Muslims, and number about 11 million in western China’s Xinjiang region.

They see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to central Asian nations, and their language is similar to Turkish.

But in recent decades, there’s been a mass migration of Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority) to Xinjiang, and the Uighurs feel their culture and livelihood are under threat.

Where is Xinjiang?

It’s in the far west of China and is the country’s biggest region. As an autonomous area, it – in theory at least- has a degree of self-governance away from being. Uighur Muslims make up under half the region’s roughly 26 million people.

What is the reason behind this? What were the concerns of the Chinese government?

The Chinese government has come to characterize any expression of Islam in Xinjiang as extremist, a reaction to past independence movements and occasional outbursts of violence.

 The government has blamed terrorist attacks on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a separatist group founded by militant Uighurs, in recent decades.

Following the 9/11 attacks, the Chinese governments started justifying its actions toward Uighurs as part of the Global War on Terrorism. It said it would combat what it calls – “the three evils” ---- separatism, religious extremism, and international terrorism – at all costs.

In 2009, rioting in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, broke out as mostly Uighur demonstrators protested against state-incentivized Han Chinese migration in the region and widespread economic and cultural discrimination.

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Nearly two hundred people were killed, and experts say it marked a turning point in Beijing’s attitude toward Uighurs. In the eyes of Beijing, all Uighurs could potentially be terrorists or terrorist sympathizers.

During the next few years, authorities blamed Uighurs for attacks at a local government office, train station, and open-air market, as well as Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The government also feared that thousands of Uighurs who moved to Syria to fight for various militant groups, including the self-proclaimed Islamic State, after the outbreak if civil war in 2011 would return to China and spark violence.

Are the economic factors involved in this crackdown?

Xingjian is an important link in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a massive development plan stretching through Asia and Europe. Beijing hopes to eradicate any possibility of separatist activity to continue its development of Xinjiang, which is home to China’s; largest coal and natural gas reserves. Human rights organizations have observed that the economic benefits of resource extraction and development are often disproportionately enjoyed by Han Chinese, and Uighur people are increasingly marginalized.

Many people who were arbitrarily detained have been forced to work in factories close to the detention camps, according to multiple reports researchers from the center for strategic and international studies say forced labor is an important element of the government’s plan for Xinjiang’s economic development, which includes making it a hub of textile and apparel manufacturing.

What is the current situation in China?

China is pushing to turn Muslims minorities into an army of workers

Villagers from Muslim minorities should be pushed into jobs, willing or not. Quotas would be set and families penalized if they refused to go along.

Such order is part of an aggressive campaign to remold Xinjiang’s Muslim Minorities – mostly Uighurs and Kazakhs – into an army of workers for factories and other big employers. Under pressure from authorities, poor farmers, small traders and idle villagers of working-age attend training and indoctrination courses for weeks or months and are then assigned to stitch clothes, make shoes, sweep streets or fill other jobs.

These labour programs represent an expanding front in a major effort by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to entrench control over this region, where these minorities make up about half the population. They are crucial to the government’s strategy of social reengineering alongside the indoctrination camps, which have held 1 million or more Uighurs and Kazakhs.

The labour bureau of Qapqal ordered that villagers should undergo military-style training to convert them into obedient workers, loyal to employers and the ruling Communist Party. “Turn around their ingrained lazy, lax, slow, sloppy, freewheeling, individualistic ways so they obey company rules,”

The government describes the labourers as volunteers, though critics say they are clearly coerced. Official documents, interviews with experts, and visits by The New York Times to Xinjiang indicate that local plans uproot villagers, restrict their movements and pressure them to stay at jobs.

Experts say those harsh methods can amount to forced labour, potentially tainting the global supply chain that uses Xinjiang workers, particularly for cotton goods. Japanese retailers Muji and Uniqlo say they have used cotton from the region, while Walmart has bought goods from a company that until recently used workers from Xinjiang.

The labour programs operate in parallel with the indoctrination camps in Xinjiang that have drawn condemnation from Western governments. Camp inmates also receive job training, and officials say that many will be sent to work in factories.

The government’s goals are sweeping. One plan issued in 2018 called for putting to work 100,000 people from the poorest parts of southern Xinjiang, a heavily Uighur area, by the end of 2020. The government recently said that target was met a year ahead of schedule. By late 2023, another plan says, Xinjiang wants 1 million workings in its textile and garment industries, up from about 100,000 in 2017.

What’s the world’s stand on this Issue?

Much of the world has condemned China’s detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang. The UN human rights chief and other UN officials have demanded access to the camps. The European Union has called on China to respect religious freedom and change its policies in Xinjiang. And human rights organizations have urged China to immediately shut down the camps and answer questions about disappeared Uighurs.

Notably silent are many Muslim nations. Prioritizing their economic ties and strategic relationships with China, many governments have ignored human rights abuses. In July 2019, after a group of mostly European countries—and no Muslim-majority countries—signed a letter to the UN human rights chief condemning China’s actions in Xinjiang, more than three dozen states, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, signed their own letter [PDF] praising China’s “remarkable achievements” in human rights and its “counterterrorism” efforts in Xinjiang. Earlier in 2019, Turkey became the only Muslim-majority country to voice concern when its foreign minister called on China to ensure “the full protection of the cultural identities of the Uighurs and other Muslims” during a UN Human Rights Council session.

In October 2019, the United States imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in” the detention of Muslims in Xinjiang, marking the toughest step by any major government to date. It also blacklisted more than two dozen Chinese companies and agencies linked to abuses in the region—including surveillance technology manufacturers and Xinjiang’s public security bureau—effectively blocking them from buying U.S. products.

Human Rights Watch has advocated other actions the United States and other countries could take: publicly challenging Xi; sanctioning senior officials, such as Chen; denying exports of technologies that facilitate abuse; and preventing China from targeting members of the Uighur diaspora. Activists have also called on the United States to grant asylum to Uighurs who have fled Xinjiang.

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