First Independent Report that Claims Evidence to Uyghur Ethnic Cleansing

  • China’s uneven population distribution is its greater threat.
  • Xinjiang is rich in oil and gas.
  • Massive genocide and atrocities are being carried out against Uyghurs.
  • First report that proves the Chinese claims wrong and sheds light on the horrific scenes inside the concentration camps.

Context

People’s Republic of China occupies a large area on the map of the world with some massive geographical constraints. China, country with a population of 1.3 billion people (according to a 2019 consensus by United States Census Bureau), suffers a population distribution issue.

China’s population density problem has consistently been a nuisance for its leaders as about 94% of its total inhabitants are concentrated on the East side of the country that only makes up 43% of the total Chinese land. This concentration of population in a small patch of land raises the populace density up to 280/km2. As the congestion in these areas increase, so does the problems regarding pollution, housing, infrastructure development and uneven funds placements rise as well.

Figure 1: Population Density Map of People’s Republic of China. (Kızıloğlu, 2009)

The reason for this concentration of population is mostly because of the busy shipping channels of the East China sea that clutches the world’s busiest seaport, Port of Shanghai. Many Chinese businesses are associated with the Port of Shanghai, as China’s economic boom is solely because of the low wage workers who manufacture the same product in lesser costs and ship it to other parts of the world. This concentrated urbanization and industrialization of Eastern cities of the country has brought in an influx of migrants who relocate in order to find jobs and security. (Wikipedia, 2021)

While the Eastern end of the People’s Republic is getting overpopulated, a major concern for the Chinese leaders is the negligence of the Western areas. This ignorance of the Western provinces has plunged the residents in complex that is erupting in the form armed secessionist and separatist movements in Tibet and Xinjiang since the early 60s and 90s, respectively.

Xinjiang and Tibet are two provinces that have honed an anti-Chinese sentiment for a very long time. The late 60s Dalai Lama issue with India provoked the Sino-Indian war of 1962 while the rise of Islamic radical movements like East Turkistan Islamic Movement or ETIM (also referred to as TIP or TIM) have instigated bombings and killings in the past as well. (Small, 2015).

Figure 2: Protesters hold an East Turkestan flag during a demonstration in Berlin to protest against deadly riots in China’s North Western region of Xinjiang, July 10, 2009. (Beina Xu, 2014)

China has consistently tried to get a hold of this worsening situation with a good cop, bad cop approach. In late 90s, China tried to suppress the rising separatism with leaning towards more friendly policies towards Uyghur but that tactic failed. After that, Chinese officials have kept a hardliner stance towards the Xinjiang issue. (Castets, 2007)

Enter: The Bad Cop

The suppression of a separatist movement is not a new thing but the method that the Chinese have chosen is an extreme one. In 2017, satellite imagery picked up a peculiar structure in Xinjiang, much like a school. This was no school in fact, this was a re-education camp that was created indoctrinate the Uyghur Muslims in Xingjian to learn the ways of Han Chinese.

          

               

Figure 3: Satellite Imagery of Concentration Camps. (Zhang, 2018)

At first, the Chinese denied the allegations but soon after, several satellites started picking up extensively fortified facilities in Kashgarh and Urumqi. Not only that, the size of these facilities started to grow as the Uyghur population started to decline. Later on, the Chinese referred to them as ‘Training Centres’ for unemployed Uyghurs to teach them skills and languages so that they can perform shoulder-to-shoulder with the Han Chinese for the betterment of the People’s Republic. But the people who have been to these camps, they tell a horrifying tale of physical torture, psychological pressure and sexual assaults.

Figure 4: An image from a Uyghur re-education camp in Xinjiang. (Gorynski, 2020)

While most people are referring to this as an act of genocide or ethnic cleansing or mass murder, the Chinese are stern on their position of “Vocational Centers”. On March 10, first independent report has been made public that gives us a better insight into this complex scenario.

The Report Breakdown

According to an independent study by more than 50 global experts on international law, genocide and the China region, the Chinese Government’s alleged activities in Xinjiang have violated every article of the United Nations Genocide Convention.

Approximately 2 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are estimated to have already been placed in an extensive network of detention centers throughout the country, according to the US State Department, where prison inmates claim to have been indoctrinated, sexually assaulted and sometimes even forcefully sterilized. China rejects reports of human rights violations, claiming that facilities are important to avoid religious violence.

The UN Genocide Convention was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1948 and provides a specific definition of what constitutes a “genocide.” Article II of the Convention states that genocide is an effort to commit actions “with the intention of destroying, in whole or in part, a geographical, cultural, racial or religious community.” There are five cases in which genocide will take place under the Convention:

  • Killing members of the group.
  • Causing substantial bodily or emotional damage to members of the community.
  • Intentionally inflicting conditions of life designed to cause their physical degradation in whole or in part.
  • Implementing laws designed to discourage births within the group.
  • Forcefully moving children of the group to another group.

While violating just one act in the Genocide Convention would constitute a finding of genocide, the Newlines report reveals that the Chinese government has fulfilled all criteria with its actions in Xinjiang.

According to the Report, “China’s policies and practices targeting Uyghurs in the region must be interpreted in their entirety, which is intended to kill the Uyghurs as a nation, in whole or in part.” Although, no specific sanctions or punitive measures are laid down in the Convention for States or Governments determined to commit such atrocities. However, according to the Newlines report, all other 151 signatory nations have an obligation to act under the convention.

The report examines all five interpretations of genocide laid down in the Convention in order to identify whether the accusations against the Chinese Government meet each particular requirement. Thousands of eyewitness testimonies from Uyghur exiles and official documents from the Chinese government were among the evidence considered by the authors of this report.

Figure 5: UN fails to put pressure on China to shut down its Detention centres. (Khan, 2020)

As per the document, somewhere around 1 million and 2 million people have reportedly been apprehended by the Chinese government in as many as 1,400 extrajudicial detention centres across Xinjiang since 2014, when a campaign was launched to presumably target Islamic extremism. Beijing has claimed the crackdown was necessary after a series of deadly attacks across Xinjiang and other parts of China, which China has categorized as terrorism. The report also details allegations of sexual assaults, psychological torture, attempted cultural brainwashing, and an unknown number of deaths within the camps.

The study also related a sharp decline in Uyghur birth rates throughout the region, a decrease of around 33% from 2017 to 2018, due to the supposed introduction of the official Chinese government policy for sterilisation, pregnancy termination and pregnancy prevention, which in some cases pressured women to do so without their approval while the Chinese officials have confirmed the drop in the birth rate to CNN but claimed that between 2010 and 2018 the Uyghur population of Xinjiang increased overall.

Figure 6: Uyghur, China Muslim Population: Victims of Inhumane Treatment. (News, 2020)

During the repression, Uyghur culture, history and literature textbooks were reportedly banned from classes for Xinjiang schoolchildren, the report said. In the camps, the inmates were forcefully educated Mandarin and identified as being punished if they objected or were unable to speak.

The Chinese government has repeatedly defended its actions in Xinjiang, saying citizens now enjoy a high standard of life. The concentration camps, which Beijing calls “vocational training centers,” are portrayed by officials and the state media as part of both the poverty reduction effort and a widespread deradicalization program to fight terrorism. (Ben Westcott, 2021)

Analysis and Implications

Xinjiang is a large province in Western China that holds immense reservoirs of oil and gas, as well as several other mineralogical reserves. Speaking from an analyst’s point of view, the province of Xinjiang is a valuable strategic asset for China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project that is considered to be the flagship initiative of President Xi Jinping.

The main routes for OBOR cut across Xinjiang and into the Central and South Asian states. For instance, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC is the segment of OBOR that originates from Kashgar and enters Pakistan via Khunjrab Pass in the Karakorams and reaches Gawadar seaport in South of Pakistan. CPEC was designed in such a way that it brings in a linear pattern of urbanization along the CPEC route that cuts across the most sparsely populated areas in both, China (Xinjiang) and Pakistan (Balochistan). The province of Xinjiang also acts as a buffer zone between China and Central Asia shielding it from an invasion by foreign hordes.

This strategic and economic importance of Xinjiang keeps the Chinese government at its toes. Any insurrection in this region or any secessionist sentiment will never be tolerated by the Chinese.

The UN Genocide Convention signatories definitely have an obligation to take action on the massive re-education campaign launched against the Uyghurs but because of China’s veto power in the UN general assembly, this issue can be far from its peaceful resolution.

Bibliography

  • Beina Xu, H. F. (2014, 09 04). Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/east-turkestan-islamic-movement-etim
  • Ben Westcott, R. W. (2021, 03 10). CNN. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/03/09/asia/china-uyghurs-xinjiang-genocide-report-intl-hnk/index.html
  • Castets, R. (2007, 01 17). Open Edition Journals. Retrieved from journals.openedition.org: https://journals.openedition.org/chinaperspectives/648#bodyftn34
  • Gorynski, M. (2020, 07 18). Wonkbridge. Retrieved from https://medium.com/: https://medium.com/wonk-bridge/huawei-the-uyghurs-a-story-in-trade-and-terror-bcfd89cae703
  • Khan, K. (2020). Change. Retrieved from https://www.change.org/: https://www.change.org/p/united-nations-un-end-the-torture-of-millions-of-uighurs-muslims-held-in-china-s-concentration-camps
  • Kızıloğlu, O. (2009). Pinterest. Retrieved from https://www.pinterest.com/: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/423479171183883585/
  • News, T. K. (2020, August 12). The Knight News. Retrieved from https://www.theknightnews.com/2020/08/12/uyghur-china-muslim-population-victims-of-inhumane-treatment/: https://www.theknightnews.com/2020/08/12/uyghur-china-muslim-population-victims-of-inhumane-treatment/
  • Small, A. (2015). The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics. London: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd.
  • Wikipedia. (2021, 01 01). Wikepedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org?: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xinjiang_conflict#East_Turkestan_Islamic_Movement
  • Zhang, S. (2018, 05 20). Medium. Retrieved from https://medium.com/: https://medium.com/@shawnwzhang/list-of-re-education-camps-in-xinjiang-

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