What is Happening to the Ughyur Muslim Population in China
By Reschelle Peetam
This Human Rights Crisis Has Been Ongoing For Years...Why Haven’t We Noticed?
Human Rights Crisis in Xinjiang, China
Despite recent coverage of the detainment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, the rights and lifestyle of this ethnic minority have been restricted for several years. In 2017, China’s President Xi Jinping declared that religious affiliations should conform to socialism and be Chinese in orientation. Further back, in 2014, university students in Xinjiang claimed to be banned from fasting during the Holy month of Ramadan, according to BBC.
Who are the Uyghur Muslims?
Uyghur Muslims form a Turkic Islamic minority in the Western Xinjiang region in China, consisting of approximately 11 million members. In the early 1900s, the Uyghur people achieved a brief period of independence but were promptly brought under the rule of the Chinese communist party in 1949. Today, Xinjiang is a large self-governing region but still subject to restrictions from the Chinese government.
What is the Chinese Government Doing to their Uyghur Population?
In August 2018, a UN committee was notified about the formation of what seemed to be a large internment camp in the region of Xinjiang. During the same month, a Chinese official at a UN meeting denounced these claims. However, many other reports made by human rights groups began to circulate–stating that the detained Uyghur Muslims were forced to criticize or condemn their faith. Many were also pressured to learn Mandarin, pledge their loyalty to the Chinese president, and partake in biometric tests against their will. In addition to these inhumane acts, Chinese officials enforced constant surveillance of those detained, through the use of cameras equipped with facial recognition, as well as QR codes placed on doors.
In response to accusations, China has stated that they are merely combating “ethnic separatism” and criminal activity related to terrorism. Despite a ban preventing media from entering the region, reporters from BBC were able to acquire evidence via satellite imagery and other means regarding the implementation of the camps and the prominence of police presence surrounding them. Recent claims in 2020 have also surfaced regarding the mass sterilization of Uyghur women, which the Chinese government also denied.
What is the World Doing in Response?
The pandemic has proven to be a large barrier in combating the gross human rights abuses in Xinjiang. A U.S congressional committee has emphasized restricting or imposing penalties on those involved with the crisis through the Trump administration. In July 2020, the UK. Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, issued a warning stating that China could be sanctioned for the blatant injustice against the Uyghur people. After the reports of forced sterilization surfaced, IPAC (Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China) urged the UN to investigate the situation in the Xinjiang region based on a growing pile of evidence regarding the demolition of cultural sites, imprisonment and more.
What Can We Do to Help?
You may have seen many Instagram posts circulating about the detainment of Uyghur Muslims. Using your platform is a great way to amplify Uyghur voices and spread awareness of the current situation. As consumers, we can also aid in boycotting companies that exploit Uyghur labour. Although this can be difficult to do, we can demand more transparency in supply chains for several companies. If you are interested in donating, the Uyghur Human Rights Project is working to support those whose rights have been compromised in these camps. A closer alternative is The Human Concern International, a charity based in Ottawa. As always, research beforehand to ensure that your money is handled correctly.
No matter what the situation, you CAN make a difference.
Human Concern International:
Uyghur Human Rights Project:
Hughes, Roland. “China Uighurs: All You Need to Know on Muslim 'Crackdown'.” BBC News,
BBC, 8 Nov. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-45474279. Accessed 3 Oct.
“The Uighurs and the Chinese State: A Long History of Discord.” BBC News, BBC, 20 July
2020, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-22278037. Accessed 3 Oct. 2020