By Samantha Loomes
HOTAN, China – In the far west of the region sits a stretch of land surrounded by guards and barbed wire: a prison at the edge of the desert under the guise of a haven. In reality, it is a place that traps the Uighurs community, a minority who practices the religion of Islam. The aim? To brainwash them into forgetting their faith, through being forced to learn Chinese, to listen to lectures, sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party and write “self-criticism” essays. “No one goes in and no ones goes out, unless of course you’re successfully indoctrinated,” according to a former detainee.
The Uighurs are a Muslim ethnic minority mostly based in China’s Xinjiang province which is part of Mongolia and was subsumed into the People’s Republic of China in 1949. They make up around half of the population there. Since the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001, this group has been considered a threat to Chinese security. In 2009, following riots in the region, the Chinese authorities began mass detentions in camps. The claims about their entrapment have been circulating for months but the fact that the plight of the Uighurs is still not well known. Human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported to the UN committee in which they claim that there have been cases of mass imprisonment. The Uighurs are also forced to display patriotism in which they swear allegiance to China’s president Xi Jinping. The World Uyghur Congress said in its report that, “detainees are held indefinitely without charge, and forced to shout Communist Party slogans.”
According to Amnesty International’s Nicholas Bequelin told ‘The Intercept’, The Chinese government is currently “engaged in a mass brainwashing operation that requires the detention of hundreds of thousands of people, arbitrarily, outside of any legal framework, in order to subject them to intense political indoctrination, in the hope that this will make them into a more compliant and loyal political entity,”
The reports claim that the Uighurs have been tortured and starved.
Most of these “prisoners” are being detained despite never having committed a crime. They are charged without ever receiving legal representation, and this is all according to China because they are supposedly battling religious extremism.
The Chinese government denies the existence of these camps. They are the detainees whose very existence China denies.
A senior diplomat at the US State Department, Laura Stone, states that thousands of people have been held in these “re-education centres”. Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, then responded by saying, “everyone can see that people of all ethnicities in Xinjiang live and work in peace and contentment and enjoy peaceful and progressing lives”.
To be clear, the Chinese have launched vicious crackdowns against the Uighurs on several occasions since 9/11 and any attempts by Uighurs to gain greater freedom from Beijing have been brutally stopped in their path. It is in this way that the Chinese do “assimilation.”
Hua, the Chinese spokeswoman, stated that China’s human rights record is far better than the United States’.
“If China’s policies on ethnic minority groups and the equal rights enjoyed by them are viewed without bias and prejudice, the conclusion will be drawn that China’s policies and record in this regard are actually far better than the U.S.,” she said.
“These U.S. lawmakers have no right to make these unwarranted accusations on ethnic minority issues against China,” Hua added. “I would like to advise those U.S. lawmakers, who are paid by taxpayers’ money, to focus on doing their job and serving Americans. This, instead of poking their noses in other countries’ domestic affairs, acting like some ‘human rights judge’ to make groundless accusations, or even threaten to impose unreasonable sanctions.”