May 18, 2018


Uyghurs: Victims of 21st Century Concentration Camps (Mehmet Tohti, May 18, 2018, The Diplomat)

Camouflaging the concentration camps that hold more than a million Uyghurs is simply not enough to hide the tragic reality that Uyghurs are facing today.

Yes, concentration camps - it is now time to label these "re-education centers" with a term that best fits the situation. According to the Britannica dictionary definition, concentration camps are "internment centers for political prisoners and members of national or minority groups who are confined for reasons of state security, exploitation, or punishment, usually by executive decree or military order." This describes the situation in Xinjiang exactly.

China has put more than a million Uyghurs into these concentration camps, where they are held without charge or any terms of release. This has been going on for over a year now, since the arrival of new Communist Party boss of the region, Chen Quanguo, in late 2016.

Uyghurs are Turkic people and the main inhabitant of the region, their ancestral homeland for millennia. China entered the region known by Uyghurs as East Turkistan in 1949 and declared the founding of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on October 1, 1955. The newly-created Xinjiang accounts for one-sixth of China's total land mass.

During nearly six decades of annexation, China has pursued a policy of assimilation and changed the demographics of the region. In 1950, the ethnic Han population (the majority group, by a massive margin, in China) accounted for only 5 percent of Xinjiang residents. That jumped to over 40 percent in 2009, including an influx to the Chinese paramilitary Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. Uyghurs are now minorities in their own homeland.

As of 2017, the Uyghur language has been banned from schools in Hotan prefecture. In addition, a religious crackdown has morphed into a total ban of Islam, with the bold move of demolishing thousands of mosques (including "nearly 70 percent of the mosques" in Kashgar city) and the confiscation of religious books, including the Holy Quran.

China's repression campaign gained momentum by hijacking the 9/11 tragedy. Beijing played the terrorism card against Uyghurs and intensified its crackdown by labeling all civil disobedience and discontent as part of the "three evils" (terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism). Since then, tens of thousands of Uyghurs have been sentenced to death or life imprisonment. One of them is Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen from Burlington, Ontario who has been serving a life sentence in a Chinese jail since 2006.

The Chinese ambition for global expansion is becoming uncontrolled, and the Uyghur homeland has become China's springboard to Central Asia and beyond, because of its direct borders with eight countries in addition to its enormous energy resources. Xi Jinping's ambitious "Belt and Road Initiative" looks to further cement China as the dominant power in Asia, Africa, and Europe with trade initiatives and infrastructure investment that passes through Xinjiang.

As a result, Uyghurs are seen as a barrier to Xi's ambition. China requires the absolute silence of Uyghurs on their historic land to advance its plan. The current use of concentration camps as a tool of collective punishment of Uyghurs should be understood in this context.

Concentration camps were unanimously condemned by the world community in the last century.

Israel keeps Gaza residents 'caged in a toxic slum': U.N.'s Zeid  (Reuters, 5/18/18) 

Israel has systematically deprived Palestinians of their human rights, with 1.9 million in Gaza "caged in a toxic slum from birth to death", U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said on Friday. [...]

"Nobody has been made safer by the horrific events of the past week," he said. "End the occupation, and the violence and insecurity will largely disappear."

Posted by at May 18, 2018 5:36 AM