Uighur Muslim crackdown expands to Beijing and Shanghai

Uighur Muslim crackdown expands to Beijing and Shanghai
Whistleblowers report a new stage in the repression of Uighur identity has begun, in cities far from Xinjiang, writes CJ Werleman.
6 min read
08 April, 2019
The plight of the Uighurs has been raised around the world [Anadolu]
"If I provide you with video and photos of how they treat the Uighurs here in Beijing, will you write about it without mentioning my name?" It was a private direct message on Twitter from a Pakistani expatriate, who asked to be referred to only as Khan.

"I'm working in Beijing and I don't want them [government] to destroy my career for speaking against injustice."

After giving Khan my assurances I wouldn't disclose his identity, we spoke by VPN, and I've since published our conversation on the podcast I host.

Khan told me he has lived in China for the past four years, relocating there to complete his Masters of Business Administration, but staying there to manage the business he and his Han Chinese wife operate together, along with their Uighur Muslim business partner who holds a 50 percent stake in the company.

"I've seen your many reports on China's crackdown on Uighur in Xinjiang, and I have also read many others, but no one is talking about what the government is doing to them in Beijing and other cities outside of Xinjiang," he explained in his initial messages.

Although alarming, an absence of Western media reporting on China's human rights violations against Uighur Muslims in the country's major cities is not surprising given the government's unilateral control over the news media, alongside its ruthlessly efficient command over the internet and denial of social media, which together have played a major contributing role in why the international community has been reticent to condemn China's brutal repression of its Muslim minority.

Simply, China has been successful in denying the world the kind of horrific imagery that would or could ordinarily spark a global movement of opposition.

They are not even allowed to book a hotel room anywhere in China... Their only sin is that [their] ethnicity is mentioned on their ID card

What we do know for certain, however, is China's actions in the predominately Uighur province of Xinjiang, or what was independent East Turkestan for a brief moment until China placed the territory under its control in 1949, brings back into the view the worst crimes committed against persecuted minorities, which some have described as "cultural genocide".

Now, however, at least according to Khan and other sources, China has extended its repressive policies to Uighur Muslims who live well outside Xinjiang, a territory the government sees as critical to successfully executing its "One Belt, One Road" economic strategy.

"My very good [Uighur Muslim] friends [Beijing] live each day, under fear from weekly checking of their house by a bunch of [government] officers… They are not even allowed to book a hotel room anywhere in China. It's disturbing because they are graduates from Peking University," Khan told me. "Their only sin is that [their] ethnicity is mentioned on their ID card."

Khan explained to me how every Chinese resident and citizen must have their government-issued ID card with them at all times, with harsh penalties, including prison time, meted out to those caught without it. What distinguishes a Uighur from non-Uighur citizens is the placement of a small black dot in the middle of a series of Chinese language characters found under the name of the ID card holder.

By design, this black dot is to make it easy for those in the public and private sectors, including law enforcement officers, hotel managers, transport operators and even private landlords, to see that the person holding the card is a Uighur.

Khan told me how on a recent overnight business trip to Qinhuangdao with his Uighur business partner, he booked two rooms at a hotel using the US-owned online travel booking service Hotels.com. After arriving at the hotel, Khan handed over both his identification and Visa card to the receptionist to check in.

A moment later, he was handed a key to his room, but when his colleague handed over his credentials, the receptionist took a close look at his ID card, and then explained she had to step out quickly to "speak with the manager".

Ten minutes later, the hotel's general manager returned to advise that their had been a "mistake" and that the hotel was "overbooked," before requesting Khan's room key back and handing him a cash refund for the booking cost.

After arguing to no avail with the hotel manager, the pair stepped outside onto the street and made a booking with another hotel, again for two rooms, but using a different booking site.

To their shock and growing fear, the exact same thing that occurred to them while trying to check-in at the first hotel happened to them at the second, and then again at a third, with all three hotels refusing them a place to stay for the night, despite holding a booking confirmation for all three.

So, Khan called the police.

Every time a Uighur now travels by train or plane, he is stopped and interrogated, and asked why he is going from here to there

But when an officer from the nearby precinct showed, he advised the pair that the hotels had acted correctly in denying them a room, because the government had passed a "secret" law that prohibits hoteliers, landlords, and employers from providing accommodation or employment to Uighur Muslims.

"The best thing you can do is move on and go back to Beijing," the police officer told Khan.

Khan then explained to me further how he has seen with his own eyes how life for Uighur Muslims has changed dramatically for the worst in the past two years: "Every time a Uighur now travels by train or plane, he is stopped and interrogated, and asked why he is going from here to there."

According to Khan, every Uighur outside of Xinjiang must report to his or her nearest police station every month to update their address and purpose of stay, even those such as his partner who has lived in Beijing for eight consecutive years. Each visit is followed up by a weekly home visit from five or six officers, who search the property for any sign the Uighur still actively practices Islam.

Khan sent me a video showing me how and where in his own home he hides the prayer mat that belongs to his Uighur business partner, and explained how his Uighur friends are now choosing to not teach their young children anything about Islam or the Prophet Muhammad for fear they'll mention something about their religious faith at school, which might prompt a "tip off" from administrators to government authorities.

Evidently, it appears China's effort to ethnically cleanse China of its 12 million Uighur Muslim citizens is taking place in two parts: First, erasing their culture and identity in Xinjiang, and then, secondly, removing them from other areas within the country to face the instruments of cultural cleansing at home - internment camps, harrassment and 24/7 surveillance.

CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman