The Declaration of Human Rights plays a vital role in the contemporary globalized world to maintain peace and prosperity among the states and inside a state. It also helps promote the creation of friendly relations among nations and helps protect the rights of the minorities in a state; protects them from discrimination. Moreover, the Member States in collaboration with the United Nations have undertaken to foster mutual respect and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
However, in western China a large minority are silenced as they’re brutally subjugated by the state. Extreme surveillance, accounts of torture and the detention of up to a million Uighur is all part of what seems to be China’s attempt at eradicating the Uighur identity from its borders.
Descendants of Turkic peoples, the Uighur are part European and part Central Asian. They inhabit Xinjiang or East Turkestan as it was historically known. It’s a beautiful culture that China exploits to boost tourism while also suppressing the people who make it.
The Uighur follow Sunni Islam and want independence from China. China has been trying to change this for decades. Back in 1949, Mao Zedong’s Communist Party took control of China, after a deadly five-year civil war and immediately invaded a disputed Xinjiang to prevent Russia from taking over it. Religion was considered incompatible with communism and so a crackdown quickly began on all expressions of faith. Uighurs were punished for praying in public and found their mosques demolished or used for other purposes.
With the help of government money, China’s dominant Han ethnicity began to migrate to the region in the 1950s. They built settlements and set up the most successful businesses in Xinjiang. The Han now make up about 39% of the population, which is steadily increasing. Poorer Han across China routinely move west to work for the Bingtuan; a paramilitary group that takes over land and resources taken from Uighurs by the government, established in 1954 by Mao to defend Xinjiang from Russia. However, Russia became less of a threat but the organization grew. The Bingtuan administrative divisions enforce the government’s anti-Uighur policies whilst they profit from their annexed land and resources. Xinjiang is extremely rich in fossil fuels. These are transported to China’s manufacturing hubs. It’s a multi-billion dollar process where everyone benefits except the Uighurs, who are excluded from many employment opportunities and in some areas make only 12 dollars a month. This oppression and discrimination against the Uighurs caused an uproar within.
In the 1980s and 1990s separatist groups coordinated unsuccessful revolts against China. More recently in 2009 over 200 people were killed in riots in the capital, Urumqi. And in 2017 three knife wielding attackers killed 5 people in Guma, southern Xinjiang. The government now stuck QR codes on the front doors of the Uighur homes and all household tools that could be used as weapons including knives. A handful of Uighurs have also been recruited by violent groups like Al-Qaeda, giving China a chance to justify their actions against them as fighting terrorism. But the authorities are keeping the Uighurs under strict surveillance and treating any expression of Uighur identity as part of what they call the ‘three evils’: Separatism, Terrorism and Religious Extremism. Uighur women have been banned from wearing a headscarf and young men are not allowed to grow long beards, fasting is prohibited, as are certain names for new-borns, and parents are forbidden from providing their own children with Islamic and Uighur education, youth under 18 are not allowed in mosques during sermons and the Quran itself must be approved by the state, meaning that the text is altered to fit the Communist Party’s ideology. The Hajj pilgrimage is also not permitted as there’s restricted freedom of movement. Many passports were seized in 2016 when Chen Quanguo was given authority over Xinjiang.
Xinjiang is today, essentially a well-funded police state in which the Chinese government uses advanced technology, propaganda and fear of imprisonment to control the actions and thoughts of the Uighurs. The Uighurs that are found to be “not safe” are sent to prison or to “re-education camps”. Human rights groups report that there are over a million Uighurs in these internment camps. People put here are accused of extreme behaviors such as marrying in a religious ceremony, refusing to watch state television or even a slight change in routine such as purchasing more food than usual. They are not charged with any crime and cannot meet with lawyers. Sessions in the camps include praising president Xi Jinping, studying communist propaganda and criticizing their own Uighur language, culture and religion. The lights reportedly remain on 24/7, while Uighurs are kept in overcrowded rooms, given very little food, and forced to march in their cells while thanking the Communist Party. They are even forced to take re-education tests, which, if failed, lead to torture and possible death. Other than this, it is reported that China for so many years has been harvesting the organs (hearts, kidneys, lungs and skin) of the religious minorities of Uighurs and Falun Gong religious group.
China’s extreme violent behavior in Xinjiang towards Uighur Muslims leads to the violation of Human Rights. According to the United States Declaration of Human Rights, articles 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13(i and ii), 16, 18, 19, 20, 22, 24, 25 etc. are being violated by China. Some of the main articles state that every individual has a right to freedom, life, security, liberty, recognition; right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, to education and no one should be tortured or subjected to any sort of cruelty, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment. As mentioned above China is torturing the Uighurs, giving them no rights to their life or religion.
However, China denies any breach of human rights and bin Salman has not only overlooked the misery of the Uighurs but called this ethnic cleansing as ‘counter-terrorism’ and ‘de-extremism’. This statement from the ruler of one of the strongest Muslim states is utterly disappointing yet not surprising at all, since in the past the Crown Prince has supported actions against Muslims, supporting Donald Trump and the travel ban.
But according to WikiLeaks, China successfully lobbied Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others to prevent them from releasing statements on the treatment of Uighur after the Urumqi riots in 2009. That may explain the lack of global condemnation. However this global silence may have an economic reason as well. China is in the preliminary stages of the multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road initiative. It’s an ambitious infrastructure project that spans over 50 countries and aims to make it easy for the world to trade with China, mostly through Xinjiang, the home of the Uighurs. China could be indirectly buying the silence of many of these nations. The countries involved will receive loans in the millions of dollars to develop structures, roads, railways and pipelines. This may be enough to make them turn a blind eye to the Uighurs.
Moreover, recently nearly two dozen countries at the United Nations confronted China, expressing outrage at the persecution of Uighurs. States like United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany, Denmark, Japan, France, Albania, Belgium, Finland, Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania shared concerns regarding China targeting ethnic Uighurs and human rights violations in Xinjiang. The United Kingdom has also insisted china to give access of the detention camps in Xinjiang to the United States immediately where millions of Uighur Muslims and other Muslim minorities are prisoned without any trial.
After so many years, China’s violent behavior towards Uighur has not changed and yet grown, forcing the Muslims to eat pork or drink wine; using different ways to brainwash the Muslims etc. This is another holocaust that no one is talking about it. Buying the silence of the world gives China acceptance to continue this ethnic oppression and oblivion of the Muslim world to the agonies of the world is a devastating blow for humanity. However, this issue has started to rise in the UN and in the international arena but it needs some effective action to take place immediately.