China’s Uighur persecution: ethnic diversity is a challenge to Beijing

Ziabari, Kourosh, and Hayes, Anna (2019) China’s Uighur persecution: ethnic diversity is a challenge to Beijing. Fair Observer, 25 March 2019.

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Uighurs are a Turkic people native to Central and East Asia and one of the 55 ethnic minorities officially recognized by the government of China. Over 11 million Uighurs live in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in the northwest of China, making up around 45% of the local population. The majority of Uighurs practice Sunni Islam.

Xinjiang is a historically restive region, and after the 9/11 attacks, Chinese state media started to single out Uighurs as terrorists, separatists and extremists, branding them as China’s number one enemy within. According to the Hong Kong-based group the Uyghur Human Rights Project, Uighurs lead "predominantly secular lives," which contradicts the Chinese government’s justification of the crackdown against the minority in the name of "de-extremification."

Beijing’s repressive measures, however, come against the backdrop of reports that Chinese Muslims from Xinjiang have joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The alleged connections between Uighur Muslims and global jihadist groups, as well as a number of attacks both inside China and against Chinese targets abroad attributed to Uighur militants, has been used to legitimize the violence against the Uighur community. The Chinese authorities have banned beards, forbade religious training for children and denied the families the right to give their children names with religious meaning.

Numerous human rights group have reported that around a million Uighur Muslims are being kept by the Chinese government in internment camps where they are subject to “re-education” programs aimed at forcing them to renounce their religion. The psychological indoctrination programs in these camps include studying communist propaganda and expressing thanks to President Xi Jingping. The authorities have allegedly used waterboarding and other torture techniques against the inmates. The Chinese government denies these allegations.

Earlier in 2019, the mistreatment of Uighurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang region came up at the UN Human Rights Council’s main annual session in Geneva, despite China having lobbied extensively to avoid accountability and keep the issue under the radar. Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that "the magnitude of abuses allegedly occurring in Xinjiang demand uncompromising scrutiny," noting that investigating the plight of the Uighur Muslims was a test of credibility for the UN.

In this edition of The Interview, Fair Observer talks to Dr. Anna Hayes, a senior lecturer of political science at James Cook University in North Queensland, Australia, about the violations of human rights in China’s Xinjiang region and the international community’s response to the plight of the Uighur Muslims.

Item ID: 59159
Item Type: Article (Commentary)
Keywords: Xinjiang, Uyghur, Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, BRI
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This article is available Open Access via the publisher's website.

Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2020 23:00
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1606 Political Science > 160606 Government and Politics of Asia and the Pacific @ 60%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1606 Political Science > 160607 International Relations @ 20%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210302 Asian History @ 20%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940111 Ethnicity, Multiculturalism and Migrant Development and Welfare @ 40%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950404 Religion and Society @ 40%
94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9404 Justice and the Law > 940401 Civil Justice @ 20%
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