China can no longer cover up its Uighur Muslim oppression

China can no longer cover up its Uighur Muslim oppression
Comment: More and more evidence of China's repressive policies and crackdown on Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang is coming to light, writes CJ Werleman.
5 min read
09 Nov, 2018
Roughly 10 million Uighurs live in Xinjiang, nearly half of the province's population [AFP]
The more China tries to deny credible claims it is carrying out a campaign of cultural ethnic cleansing in East Turkistan, the more absurd its denials and smearing of Uighur Muslim activists and journalists have become.

More than a year ago, I reported on China's repressive policies and crackdown in Xinjiang, after several Uighur Muslim refugees shared with me the experiences of how their loved ones had been persecuted. Since then, China has seemingly orchestrated a campaign to smear me and my reporting, labeling me as an "anti-China propagandist."

More recently, China's deputy ambassador in Pakistan, Mr Lijian Zhao, absurdly claimed I was "notorious in China" for what he described as "anti-Chinese activities" after reports - independent of me - claimed Chinese government officials were forcing interned and detained Uighur Muslims to eat pork and drink alcohol within its "re-education camps".

Zhao also attacked former Pakistan ambassador to the United States, Mr Hussain Haqqani, as a person "without a soul and nationality," who is "joining a groundless attack against China."

As international and media pressure on China mounts, its denials of Uighur Muslim repression become increasingly shrill, desperate and contradictory, a reality underscored by the fact it continues to shift the goal posts in its effort to pour water on credible claims.

Chinese denials of Uighur Muslim repression have become increasingly shrill, desperate and contradictory

In August, China said claims it was holding upwards of one million Uighur Muslims were "completely untrue," adding, "Xinjiang citizens, including the Uighurs, enjoy equal freedom and rights."

Barely a month after making these statements, however, China reversed its denials and admitted it had established so-called "re-education camps", but only to encourage "vocational skill education training centres" to "carry out anti-extremist ideological education."

Clearly, China's about face doesn't go far enough, and nor does its admission come close to describing the measures it has implemented to destroy the indigenous culture of what was an independent sovereign nation state for a brief period four-year period ending in 1949.

Islam has been banned, as have Muslim sounding names, mosques, Islamic texts and beards that appear, well, too Muslim-like, while hundreds of refugees or former detainees have described how they were forced to recite patriotic slogans, sing revolutionary songs, study Chinese President Xi Jinping's writings, and consume pork and alcohol.

One Uighur Muslim refugee in Australia told me of how Chinese authorities imprisoned his wife when she tried to join him in Sydney

Uighur Muslim refugees and activists I've interviewed have also described how China uses torture against those who resist its Communist-Atheist indoctrination methods. One man told me of how his wife - who had stomach cancer at the time - was detained and subjected to "cold water" torture methods before she eventually died of illness associated with pneumonia.

Another Uighur Muslim refugee in Australia told me of how Chinese authorities imprisoned his wife when she tried to join him in Sydney, adding that they now plan to sell the couple's one-year-old child on the adoption market.

These stories are corroborated by literally hundreds and thousands of personal testimonies gathered by a myriad of human rights groups, international aid agencies, and non-governmental organisations.

Moreover, a comprehensive investigation by the BBC found hard evidence that China is doing to Uighur Muslims exactly what Uyghur Muslims have been claiming for the past year or so. By using satellite imagery and putting a team of investigative reporters on the ground, the BBC discovered a "huge amount of extra activity that has so far gone unnoticed by the outside world".

"What we suspected to be a big internment camp, now looks like an enormous one," observed the authors of the BBC report. "And it is just one of many similar, large prison-type structures that have been built across Xinjiang in the past few years."

When I spoke with Abdugheni Sabit, a Uighur Muslim activist based in the Netherlands, he told me that while the media routinely claims upwards of 1 million Uighur Muslims are detained in these prisons for Communist-Atheist indoctrination, he believes the number to be closer to 3 million detainees.

"Despite the government's denials, the most compelling evidence for the existence of the internment camps comes from a trove of information from the authorities themselves," notes the BBC. "Pages of local government tendering documents inviting potential contractors and suppliers to bid for the building projects have been discovered online by the Germany-based academic, Adrian Zenz."

In a recent interview, Zenz alleges that where China once only targeted vocal Uighur separatists, it's now trying to "round up entire percentages of the population," which is the "reason why they're having to use all kinds of facilities, and build new ones, convert existing ones, and it's also the reason why there's no consistent practice, because they themselves are being overwhelmed".

From personal testimonies to satellite images to leaked videos to Chinese government documents, the evidence against China's denials of repressive policies against 12 million Uighur Muslims is both overwhelming and stunning. It makes a mockery of Chinese government officials who deny, obfuscate, and smear those who are exposing the truth in East Turkistan.

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

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.