For what has thought to have been occurring for over a year now, millions of Uighur Muslims and those of other ethnic minorities have been forcibly placed into mass detention camps in and around Xinjiang and Kashgar, Western China, simply because of their Islamic faith. Chinese locals refer to the camps as re-education schools, giving the term, “going to school,” an entirely different meaning.
China has a long history with the “re-education through labor” systems. In 1981, the Chinese government locked up hundred of thousands to perform intensive tasks. The government abolished the system approximately five years ago, but the Xinjiang and Kashgar regions have been creating a new version of it.
The Muslims that are being detained and held in the camps are pressured to deny Islam by having to eat pork, drink alcohol, partake in laborious activities, and are forced to change their names. Also, the women are forced to marry traditional Chinese men. They aim to convert these Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities into a “Chinese speaking industrial workforce, loyal to the Communist Party and factory bosses”, according to officially publicized Chinese plans and the New York Times.
This idea is a form of ethnic cleansing, as China is making any efforts possible to control and indoctrinate the Muslim ethnic minority, which includes over 12 million people. Relatives of those that have entered the camps have continuously demanded videos of their family members as evidence of life, since those that are in the camps are not able to contact the outside world. Only certain documents are available to the public, keeping record of who is entering the camps along with some of their information. It is known that officials are expanding detention camps and increasing their surveillance methods, as stated by The Guardian.
Mt. Hebron senior Mallaika Majid said, “From an outside perspective I completely understand why different cultures and races perceive Islam in a certain way. But quite honestly, no one, including the Chinese government, should have the right to control and manipulate their own people.”
One of the reasons why this has not been talked about openly is because China has been avoiding or changing the subject when the topic came up. Recently, there has been evidence that China censored a TV report about these detention camps by suddenly cutting off the broadcast.
On the rare occasion that the Muslim inmates are shown on television, the government makes them look like “models of repentance, earning good pay – and political salvation – as factory workers”, according to The New York Times. In reality, the detainees are receiving little to no pay, and have barely any freedom. The Chinese Government is using positive propaganda to hide the barbaric efforts that are being made to eradicate the Uighur Muslim population.
Some of the topics that China puts out on the media include their advances in tackling global climate change and the spread of innovation and exports around the world. However, that does not mean that news about these camps has been completely lost.
“It’s a whole genocide that the western part of the world is not even talking about much. Word about celebrities spreads faster than this,” Majid said.
Many countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have been spreading awareness through posting on various social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and even holding protests. Residents in Turkey, specifically, have also been seen making great efforts to try and get the camps shut down. Officials from Turkey demanded Chinese authorities to acknowledge the human life of the Muslim Uighur minority and close the “concentration camps” that are holding them captive, calling on other countries as well as the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres to take steps towards ending the “humanitarian tragedy”. Many Uighur muslims have been in the camps for several months now, and the Chinese government shows no signs of ending the new “re-education through labor” system anytime soon.