What I'm Reading About China's Uighur Concentration Camps

Tuesday, February 12, 2019


The Chinese government has described the detentions as a job training program aimed at providing employment opportunities for some of the country’s poorest people. But a list of more than 100 detained Uighur scholars compiled by exiles includes many prominent poets and writers, university heads and professors of everything from anthropology to Uighur history.
The removal of high-profile Uighur scholars familiar with the Chinese government, and the country’s education and legal systems, is aimed at erasing not only the group’s unique ethnic identity but also its ability to defend such traditions, said a Uighur professor now living in Istanbul who asked not to be identified because of possible risks to family in Xinjiang.
Turkey Demands China Close 'Concentration Camps' Holding Muslim Uighurs | Cagan Koc
The detention and “re-education” of as many as 1 million minority Muslim Uighurs in China’s far west has been condemned by human rights groups and prompted calls for sanctions from U.S. lawmakers, who reject China’s assertion that the camps are voluntary education centers that help purge “ideological diseases.”
Turkey calls on other countries and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to take steps to end the “humanitarian tragedy” in Xinjiang, Aksoy said.
China’s brutal crackdown on the Uighur Muslim minority, explained | Jen Kirby for Vox
Uighurs speak their own language — an Asian Turkic language similar to Uzbek — and most practice a moderate form of Sunni Islam. Some activists, including those who seek independence from China, refer to the region as East Turkestan.
Once situated along the ancient Silk Road trading route, Xinjiang is oil- and resource-rich. As it developed along with the rest of China, the region attracted more Han Chinese, a migration encouraged by the Chinese government.
But that demographic shift inflamed ethnic tensions, especially within some of the larger cities. In 2009, for example, riots broke out in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, after Uighurs protested their treatment by the government and the Han majority. About 200 people were killed and hundreds injured during the unrest.
The Chinese government, however, blamed the protests on violent separatist groups — a tactic it would continue to use against the Uighurs and other religious and ethnic minorities across China.
Related:
The Exhibitionist: A guide to the Laogai Museum | Jessica Goldstein for Washington Post
Mao Zedong, inspired by the Soviet gulag model, instituted the Laogai system of forced labor in China in 1949. The Chinese Communist Party does not officially acknowledge the Laogai camps, which continue to operate.
“Reeducation through labor” The museum describes how prisoners in the Laogai are physically and psychologically coerced into accepting Communist Party ideology. “Laojiao,” which means “reeducation through labor,” is a type of administrative detention. Prisoners can be held for up to four years without formal conviction or judicial due process.
Former inmates of China’s Muslim ‘reeducation’ camps tell of brainwashing, torture | Simon Denyer for Washington Post
Inmates had to learn the national anthem and red songs, he said, as well as slogans condemning the “three evil forces” of separatism, extremism and terrorism. “There were so many things to recite, and if you couldn’t recite them, they wouldn’t allow you to eat, sleep or sit,” he said. “They brainwash you; you must become like a robot. Listen to whatever the party says, listen to the party’s words, follow the party.” Some inmates committed suicide, Bekali said. In one report, RFA quoted a Chinese official as justifying the widespread detentions in blunt terms. “You can’t uproot all the weeds hidden among the crops in the field one by one — you need to spray chemicals to kill them all,” the official was quoted as saying. “Reeducating these people is like spraying chemicals on the crops. That is why it is a general reeducation, not limited to a few people.”
China's Hidden Camps | BBC News
There is no mention of the grounds on which the students have been chosen for this “study” or how long the courses last.
But there are clues.
The interviews sound more like confessions.
“I have deeply understood my own mistakes,” one man tells the camera, vowing to be a good citizen “after I get home”.
The main purpose of these facilities, we're told, is to combat extremism, through a mixture of legal theory, work skills and Chinese language training.
That last item shows that whatever you want to call them - schools or camps - the intended target is the same.
The facilities are exclusively for Xinjiang's Muslim minorities, many of whom do not speak Chinese as their mother tongue.
‘Reeducating’ Xinjiang’s Muslims | James Millward for The New York Review of Books
Since 1949, Chinese policies have tended to undermine indigenous Uighur Islam and to enforce, through the party-controlled Islamic Association of China, an idealized version of Islam modeled in part on Sunni practice as promoted by Saudi Arabia. Besides reflecting Beijing’s diplomatic ties with Riyadh, these policies may echo a traditional Chinese notion, derived from experience with Buddhistic millenarianism, that religions have safe “orthodox” and dangerous “heterodox” expressions. Although the CCP has since reversed course and rails against the dangers of “Arabization,” it has not revised its intolerance of Sufi practices in Uighur Islam. By repressing Uighur culture and discriminating against Uighurs, and inadvertently promoting a version of Islam more in line with Saudi practice, the PRC government has increased the attractiveness to Uighurs of Salafi ideas from outside while undermining indigenous defenses against such an ideology. Rahile Dawut, an internationally renowned ethnographer and scholar of Uighur culture and religion at Xinjiang University, could have explained this to Chinese authorities—but she was disappeared in late 2017, another victim of the current mass internment.
China’s Gulag for Muslims | Mustafa Akyol for The New York Times Opinion
There are three answers [to Muslim lenience towards China]. One is that coziness with China, the world’s second-largest economic power, pays. Moreover, China does not shy away from offering its economic assistance as hush money.
A second reason for Muslim silence is that the Chinese government crackdown on Uighurs is based on a premise that law and order can be restored by eradicating enemies of the government and traitors within a society. This is authoritarian language that most Muslim leaders understand well. It is their own language. The third reason is that most Muslims who are likely to feel solidarity with their oppressed coreligionists think of the oppressors as “the West,” defined as the capitalist, hedonist, Zionist civilization led by the Great Satan. These Muslims, particularly the Islamists, believe that all of their coreligionists should unite with other anti-Western forces — a stance that evokes Samuel Huntington’s prediction of a “Confucian-Islamic” alliance against the West in his 1993 article in “Foreign Affairs” titled “The Clash of Civilizations?”

At a loss for words ATM. Heart is heavy.
LC

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