Xinjiang, China’s northern province, has been at the center of the country’s horrific detention camps of Uyghur Muslims in recent years. Human rights groups claim that more than one million Muslim Uyghurs are being held in these camps, with accounts of intimidation, forced conversions, torture, and death a common occurrence in the camps.
These detention camps are now being called the largest mass incarceration of racial or religious groups since the Holocaust itself. Worryingly, the world remains largely silent.
China claims the crackdown on Uyghur Muslims is to help prevent terrorism and dangerous foreign influence, explaining its human rights abuses as a necessary means to stop Uyghur Muslims from posing a threat to the unity of the country.
With access to Xinjiang province highly limited, many Uyghur refugees abroad have little or no information on family and loved ones who remain trapped inside the province. Across the province China has installed camera networks with facial recognition software to track possible dissidents, forcing residents to be under constant state surveillance.
There is also immediate imprisonment for any Uyghur accused of being under “foreign-influence” or being slightly Islamic, which can include anything from having a beard to praying in public. Once inside these mass detention camps, Uyghur Muslims can be subject to anything from forced confessions to terrorism, physical torture, or even death.
Earlier last month, only two countries spoke out against the human rights abuses being committed by China towards the Uyghur minority at the UN Human Rights Council, the UK and Turkey, with the rest of the world remaining silent. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt remained in complete silence over China’s creeping genocide during his July 2018 trip to China. Major Western countries, who for so long have remained quiet about China’s numerous human rights violations, from Tibet to the treatment of journalists to now the Uyghurs, continue to cozy up to China’s trade deals and political partnership despite clear evidence of atrocious violations of basic human rights within the country.
Even more worryingly, Muslim majority countries such as Egypt, Malaysia, and Pakistan are being pressured by China to deport Uyghur students back to China so they may be “re-educated” in these detention camps and assessed for possible links to “terrorism”. Muslim-led countries, who should be at the forefront of defending the rights of Uyghur Muslims within China, have clearly sidelined human rights for economic and political gain.
As China continues to detain innocent Uyghurs in what is now being called the largest mass incarceration since the Holocaust, it remains to be seen when the world will wake up to one of the most horrific cases of human rights violations in modern history.