China’s Uyghur Detention Camp Crisis

By: Ranya Merchant — International and National News Editor

The US Department of State recently put out a statement condemning China’s Uyghur Detention Camp Crisis, which is one of the largest cases of mass incarceration in history. 

In Xinjiang, China, over 3 million Muslim citizens are being held against their will in concentration camps. The Muslims being targeted are the Uyghur Muslims, a Turkic ethnic group originating from Northwest China. There are approximately 400 suspected facilities that have been in operation since about 2017— although, Uyghurs have been victims of China’s oppression since the early 1940’s when the idea of communism was popularized.

 Over the years, the Chinese government has stolen Uyghur land, used malware and cameras to spy on Uyghurs, and almost completely destroyed Uyghur culture and way of life. Xinjiang law enforcement has been caught beating, torturing, and killing Uyghurs in the facilities that the Chinese government claims to be “vocational re-education centers.” Other common activities in these camps include studying communism, praising China’s president, Xi Jinping, and berating the Uyghur religion.

“The situation is much, much worse than what is being reported. The Uyghur people have disappeared. Death is everywhere right now,” said Dr. Erkin Sidick, a Uyghur American who is the President of the Uyghur Projects Foundation and senior advisor to the World Uyghur Congress. 

 According to the Associated Press, “there is also substantial proof of China forcing the sterilization of Uyghur women to prevent the population growth of Muslims. In Xinjiang, hundreds of thousands of Uyghur women are “regularly subjected to pregnancy tests, intrauterine devices, sterilization, and even abortion. While the use of IUDs and sterilization has fallen nationwide, it is rising sharply in Xinjiang.”

“The intention may not be to fully eliminate the Uyghur population, but it will sharply diminish their vitality,” said Darren Byler, an expert on Uyghurs at the University of Colorado.“It will make them easier to assimilate into the mainstream Chinese population,” he added.

“It’s genocide, full stop. It’s not immediate, shocking, mass-killing on the spot type genocide, but it’s slow, painful creeping genocide,” said Joanne Smith Finley, who works at Newcastle University in the U.K. “These are direct means of genetically reducing the Uyghur population,” she added. 

According to the New Statesman, “China’s Uyghur detention camps may be the largest mass incarceration since the Holocaust.” Despite this, not many people are aware of this issue due to China’s strong control over media. Furthermore, many foreign leaders have failed to address the severity of the situation at all.

However, the United States Department of State put out a formal statement on January 19, 2021, declaring that the Chinese government is committing genocide. “I have determined that the People’s Republic of China, under the direction and control of the Chinese Communist Party has committed genocide and crimes against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups,” said United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo who works under the Trump Administration. 

This statement came as a bit of a shock to some as President Donald Trump has made alleged statements in the past suggesting that he supports the building of concentration camps in Xinjian.

In 2019, John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser disclosed in a memoir that the president told Xi Jinping, in a private meeting, to keep building internment camps in Xinjiang, “which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.” Bolton also wrote that Mr. Trump had made similar remarks on a trip to China in 2017.

Additionally, many people are upset with the Trump administration’s decision to make a formal statement so late. Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “This is an action that the Trump administration should have taken years ago, not as it is walking out the door — and not having given China a green light for its concentration camps, as Ambassador Bolton alleged.”

Regardless, many Uyghurs have expressed gratitude for the decision, saying that it is a sign of hope. 

“Today’s determination of genocide is a signal of recognition to the long-suffering of victims and survivors of the Chinese government’s internment camps, like my brother Ekpar, and millions of Uyghurs,” said Rayhan Asat, a lawyer in Washington whose younger brother is imprisoned in Xinjiang. 

“It is the starting point on the road to justice, freedom, and accountability for these atrocities,” she added. 

“This gives us hope that those who have attempted to water down what is happening with the destruction of our people can no longer hide their complicity,” said Ziba Murat, a Virginia resident whose mother, Gulshan Abbas, is imprisoned.

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