Despite China’s denials, its treatment of the Uyghurs should be called what it is: cultural genocide



Uyghurs in Australia are pressing Canberra to take a firmer stance with China on its treatment of the Muslim minority. Thus far, Australia’s response has been relatively muted.
Tracey Nearmy/AAP

James Leibold, La Trobe University

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In China’s far western region of Xinjiang, Chinese Communist Party officials are persecuting one of the worst human rights abuses of our time, what I labelled an act of cultural genocide in last week’s ABC Four Corners report.

Pressure is mounting on the Australian government to go beyond statements of concern and challenge China over its treatment of the Uyghur minority, particularly those Australian citizens and permanent residents being held in the vast network of “re-education camps” in Xinjiang.

Two Australian Uyghur men are meeting federal politicians in Canberra today to push for the government’s assistance in helping family members trapped in China.

Australia was one of 22 countries to sign a recent letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressing concern about the “arbitrary detention” of Uyghurs, but otherwise, its response has been muted.

In recent days, the Chinese government has defended its actions with a dubious propaganda report claiming that Uyghurs were historically forced to become Muslims and have been an integral part of China for thousands of years.

China repeatedly makes false and anachronistic claims like this about the ancient unity of the “Chinese people,” which includes ethnic minorities like the Uyghurs. Its aim is to project modern notions of sovereignty, nationhood and fixed borders back through history.

In reality, the 11 million or so Uyghurs are an indigenous Turkic-speaking people who have inhabited what they call “East Turkestan” for over a millennium. Along with the Tibetans, the Uyghurs have born the brunt of China’s settler colonial project, which seeks to assert its control over remote regions that are closer to Moscow and Tehran than Beijing.

Since March 2017, the Chinese government has interned over a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in massive, prison-like camps (including possibly 17 Australian residents), where they are subjected to coercive ideological remoulding.

Detainees are forced to denounce their religion, forbidden to speak their language, and taught how to adopt the norms of China’s Han ethnic majority, while praising President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party for salvation.

In their own words, party officials are “washing brains” and “cleansing hearts” in order to “cure” those bewitched by extremist thoughts. In Xinjiang today, non-Han thoughts and behaviour are pathologised as deviant and thus in need of urgent transformation.

What is genocide?

A litany of words and phrases have been used to describe this process. The Chinese government calls the camps free “vocational education and training centres” where Uyghurs willingly learn Chinese language and employment skills in order to assist with their “rehabilitation and reintegration”.

Scholars, journalists and rights defenders have spoken about cultural and religious “persecution” in Xinjiang, arguing the party-state’s policies amount to mass ethnic cleansing, cultural re-engineering, forced assimilation, brainwashing, or even ethnocide.

In August 2018, Gay McDougall, the vice chair of UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, referred to Xinjiang as a “no-rights zone”.

Yet, I believe the scale, sophistication and intent of China’s policies in Xinjiang merits a stronger description.




Read more:
The world has a hard time trusting China. But does it really care?


The term genocide was coined by lawyer Rafael Lemkin in 1944 in reaction to Nazi Germany’s coordinated strategy to annihilate the Jews, gypsies and other non-Aryan peoples. Four years later, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, with Australia one of the first counties to ratify it. The People’s Republic of China ratified it in 1983.

The convention defines genocide as

acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group

It also obligates signatories to punish those who engage in genocidal acts through a “competent” domestic or international penal tribunal.

Whether genocide includes only physical acts or can extend to attacks on cultural heritage has elicited intense debate, but for Lemkin, the term includes

drastic methods aimed at the rapid and complete disappearance of the culture, moral and religious life of a group of human beings.

Genocide also requires specific intent. In the words of political scientists Kenneth J. Campbell, genocide is a

premeditated, calculated, systematic, malicious crime authorised by the state’s political leaders.

This is exactly what Communist Party officials did when they authorised and then legalised the mass internment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in “concentrated transformation-through-education centres,” ripping more than 10% of the population away from their communities so they could be deliberately re-programmed.

Various methods for erasing culture

Yet, facts arguably matter more than words when it comes to China’s policies in Xinjiang.

We now have ample evidence (including internal party documents) of the deliberate efforts to destroy Uyghur culture and identity. Everyday actions like avoiding pork, speaking Uyghur, wearing a headscarf or praying quietly are now labelled “manifestations of religious extremism,” or what party officials call “malignant tumors” requiring urgent excising in a radical form of cultural surgery.

In the city of Kashgar, for example, a party document highlights the need to sever the lineages, roots and cultural connections of Uyghurs in order to eliminate the fountainhead of potential extremism.

German researcher Adrian Zenz has uncovered evidence of the party’s efforts to separate Uyghur children from their parents in state institutions, where they can be assimilated and indoctrinated by officials. In these institutions, cultural, religious, and linguistic knowledge is intentionally ruptured.




Read more:
Explainer: who are the Uyghurs and why is the Chinese government detaining them?


In some parts of Xinjiang, mosques and shrines are being bulldozed, while others are transformed into empty sites guarded by facial recognition cameras and imams on the party payroll.

In the name of strengthening “bilingual education”, Chinese is now the language of instruction across Xinjiang, from preschool to university. The use of Uyghur language, script, signs and pictures prohibited. Speaking Uyghur is now considered unpatriotic and can get one sent off for re-education.

Perhaps most disturbing, inter-ethnic marriages are being actively promoted to slowly breed out Uyghurness, with cash and other material inducements offered to Han men who take a Uyghur bride.

One can find numerous videos and messages promoting Han-Uyghur inter-marriage on Chinese social media, asserting Xinjiang is now safe and home to many beautiful and eligible Uyghur women who would appreciate a doting Han husband.

Finally, the Chinese government has intensified its family planning regime in Xinjiang to slow the growth of the Uyghur population and eliminate what party officials call “low quality births”.

Beginning in 2017, the region adopted a uniform two children policy that nullified preferential rules allowing rural Uyghur women to have additional births. In the past, Uyghur women were given 3,000 RMB (roughtly A$620) to forgo a third birth and agree to some sort of “long-term contraceptive measure.”

The Communist Party’s calculated war on Uyghur identity is quite literally tearing families and communities apart, while the rich tradition of diversity and tolerance in China is left in tatters.

The resilient nature of culture and memory means that attempts at genocide, thankfully, are rarely successful. Yet the pain they inflict is real.The Conversation

James Leibold, Associate Professor of Politics and Asian Studies, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Explainer: who are the Uyghurs and why is the Chinese government detaining them?



File 20190214 1751 167ofht.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Many Muslim minorities in China, particularly the Uyghurs, are arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned.
from shutterstock.com

Anna Hayes, James Cook University

The Uyghurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims from the Central Asian region. The largest population live in China’s autonomous Xinjiang region, in the country’s north-west. The Uyghurs are one of a number of persecuted Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, including the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgyz and Hui.

The region’s name suggests the Uyghurs have autonomy and self-governance. But similar to Tibet, Xinjiang is a tightly controlled region of China.

Many Uyghur communities also live in countries neighbouring China, such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. An estimated 3,000 Uyghurs live in Australia.

China’s President Xi Jinping has overseen a hardline approach towards Muslim minorities living in Xinjiang, especially the Uyghurs. In recent years, the government has installed sophisticated surveillance technology across the region, and there has been a surge in police numbers.

Muslim minorities are being arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned. It’s estimated around one million Uyghurs have been detained in what China calls “vocational training centres”.

These are purpose-built detention centres, some of which resemble high-security jails. A recent ABC investigation found 28 detention camps had expanded across Xinjiang as part of China’s program of subjugation.

There is growing evidence of human rights violations inside the centres as well as reports of deaths in custody and forced labour.

Members of the Uyghur diaspora have been reported as requesting “proof of life” from Beijing over disappeared family members back in Xinjiang. The Guardian recently reported an estimate that 80% of Uyghurs in Australia would have a relative who has disappeared into the camps.




Read more:
What China’s censors don’t want you to read about the Uyghurs


History of discrimination

The People’s Republic of China annexed Xinjiang in 1949. At this time, it was estimated the Uyghur numbered around 76% of the region’s population. Han Chinese – the country’s majority ethnic group – accounted for just 6.2%, with other minority groups making up the remaining total.

Since 1949, Han migration to the region has diluted the ethnic ratio. Official statistics show the population is now made up of 42% Uyghurs and 40% Han.

The largest population of Uyghurs live in China’s Xinjiang province, in the country’s north-west.
from shutterstock.com

Beijing does not recognise the region as a colony. But the 1949 annexation represents colonisation to Xinjiang’s Muslim minorities and segments of the population have resisted Beijing’s rule. Many refuse to speak Mandarin, while others campaign for independence.

Beijing regards any discontent or criticism of the Chinese Communist Party to be threatening. Minority dissent is treated as a danger to state security. This is even if it involves moderate voices calling for improvements in health, education and employment.

To Beijing, territorial integrity is of utmost importance. It does not tolerate any expression contrary to the official position that Xinjiang has always been part of China.

Beijing has long considered Xinjiang and the Muslim minorities such as the Uyghurs to be “backward”. During the Communist Party’s Great Leap Forward (1958-1962), ethnicity and religion were singled out as both “obstacles to progress” and “backwards custom”.

Brutal crackdowns in the 1980s and 90s led to significant numbers of Uyghurs fleeing China to seek asylum.




Read more:
China’s Uyghur re-education centres in Xinjiang will not produce a loyal and obedient population


Current situation

Repeated attempts at rapid and forced assimilation, discriminatory and oppressive policies, and a cycle of what commentators have labelled “repression-violence-repression” have led to periodic protests across Xinjiang.

In extreme cases, acts of terrorism – such as the Kunming train station attack – have been carried out both inside Xinjiang and in other parts of China.

In recent decades, Beijing has recast the Uyghur ethnic group as a terrorist collective. This has allowed Beijing to justify its transformation of Xinjiang into a surveillance state. There has also been a marked rise of Islamophobia across China.

Some Uyghurs have been employed by the state to spy on other Uyghurs, reporting any suspicious or illegal behaviour. This includes if someone has given up smoking, refuses to drink alcohol or even if a Uyghur refuses to watch Chinese news broadcasts.

Beijing’s surveillance includes face and voice recognition, iris scanners, DNA sampling and 3D identification imagery of Uyghurs. These were introduced following Xi’s 2016 appointment of Chen Quanguo as Xinjiang Party Chief. Chen’s previous appointment was in Tibet, where he implemented similar control measures over the Buddhist population.

Beijing claims the detention centres across Xinjiang are for “vocational training”, but a US Congressional hearing on the camps and subsequent report characterised them as “political re-education” centres. The education involves daily indoctrination into Communist ideology and attempts at eradicating minority culture, language and religion.




Read more:
Patriotic songs and self-criticism: why China is ‘re-educating’ Muslims in mass detention camps


Recent reports have identified more than 100 Uyghur intellectuals including writers, poets, journalists and university professors are now among those detained. The persecution of intellectuals, who speak out against oppression, and continue traditional practice, occurs even if they are moderate in their views and working towards reconciliation.

In 2014, Beijing arrested Ilham Tohti, an economics professor who rejected separatism and promoted reconciliation in Xinjiang. He is currently serving a life sentence after being falsely accused of being a separatist.

Pressuring the Chinese government

Xinjiang is geographically important to China’s Belt and Road initiative – a development strategy involving infrastructure and investments in Europe, Asia and Africa. This could provide an avenue for the international community to apply diplomatic pressure in the way of sanctions. Another option is suspension of, or withdrawal from, existing Belt and Road agreements.

Outside countries have a duty to intervene and force Beijing to comply with international human rights.The Conversation

Anna Hayes, Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, James Cook University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

China: Persecution News Update


The links below are to articles reporting on persecution news from China.

For more visit:
http://www.chinaaid.org/2015/06/guangdong-rehabilitation-center.html
http://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/attack-06232015182353.html
http://backtojerusalem.com/home/breaking-news-chinese-government-meeting-with-underground-leaders/

China Releases Uyghur Church Leader from Prison


Osman Imin freed after two years; concerns remain over incarcerated Alimjan Yimit.

LOS ANGELES, November 24 (CDN) — A Uyghur Christian in China’s troubled Xinjiang region was released last week after serving two years in a labor camp for alleged “illegal proselytizing” and “leaking state secrets,” according to Compass sources.

House church leader Osman Imin (Wusiman Yaming in Chinese) was freed on Wednesday (Nov. 18), sources said. Authorities had called for a 10-15 year prison sentence for Osman but significantly reduced the term following international media attention.

An outspoken leader of the Uyghur church in the northwestern region of China, Osman was first arrested in 2004 and kept at a detention center in Hotan, southern Xinjiang. Local sources said his arrest was almost certainly related to his church work.

There he was chained to a metal bed in winter and frequently beaten while interrogated. Osman was released on bail on Nov. 18, 2004, but bail was canceled in October 2006. On July 26, 2007, he was again placed under supervised house arrest and finally detained by police on Nov. 19 of that year on the charge of “revealing state secrets.”

Authorities denied him access to a lawyer, and in June 2008 a court rejected his appeal without explanation.

Authorities eventually moved him to the labor camp outside Kashgar. While in prison Osman was forced to work 12 to 15 hours a day, and his health quickly deteriorated. He was reportedly suffering malnutrition throughout his confinement.

Osman and his wife Nurgul have two young daughters.

Still in arbitrary detention in the region is another Uyghur Christian, Alimjan Yimit (Alimujiang Yimiti in Chinese). Officials initially closed the foreign-owned business Alimjan worked for in September 2007 and accused him of using it as a cover for “preaching Christianity.” He was then detained in January 2008 on charges of endangering state security and was formally arrested on Feb. 20, 2008 on charges of “inciting secession” and leaking state secrets.

Court officials returned Alimjan’s case to state prosecutors in May 2008, citing lack of evidence. Last May 21, government sources told Alimjan’s mother that the Public Security Bureau (PSB) in Kashgar planned to quietly sentence him to three years of re-education through labor, thereby circumventing the court system.

Under Chinese law the PSB, which originally filed the case against Alimjan, may authorize such sentences without approval from the court or other state agencies.

Court authorities have returned Alimjan’s case to state prosecutors, citing lack of evidence for charges of “leaking state secrets” and “inciting secession.” Family, friends and work colleagues have insisted that Alimjan is a loyal citizen with no access to state secrets, and that his arrest was due largely to his Christian faith and association with foreign Christians.

In Xinjiang’s politically charged environment, Alimjan’s family and friends fear he could face execution if he were wrongly linked with alleged Uyghur separatists.

Sources said there appears to be a concerted effort to shut down the leadership of the Uyghur church in a restive region where authorities fear anything they cannot control. The region of ethnic Uyghurs has come under a government crackdown the past two years as long-simmering tensions erupted.

Disputes over ownership of Xinjiang’s land and rich mineral resources have led to resentment between Uyghurs – native to Xinjiang – and Han Chinese. Religious differences are also an issue, with a vast majority of Uyghurs practicing Islam, while most Chinese are officially atheists or follow Buddhism or syncretistic folk religions. Only a handful of China’s estimated 10 million Uyghurs are known to be Christians.

As part of authorities’ apparent effort to clamp down on Christianity, they have disbarred several lawyers involved in the defense of Uyghur Christians, including Alimjan’s attorney, Li Dunyong. He was effectively disbarred at the end of May when Chinese authorities turned down an annual application to renew his law license.

Zhang Kai, another Beijing lawyer who had defended Alimjan, suffered the same fate.

Authorities failed to renew licenses for at least 15 other lawyers who had defended civil rights cases, religious and ethnic minorities and political dissidents, according to watch group Human Rights in China.

Report from Compass Direct News