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Guards at a ‘vocational skills education centre’ for Uighur people in Huocheng County, Xinjiang, 2018. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

It came as no surprise to me that I have been included on the list of those sanctioned by the Chinese government for vocal criticisms of the human rights abuses towards Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province. China is not big on freedom of speech.

In the “tit-for-tat game that is part of foreign relations, this action is of little consequence. On a personal level, I will be sad not to visit China again, as I have great admiration for many Chinese academics and human rights advocates with whom I have had contact. However, I have no assets to freeze, no investments and no secret property, and my legal work seeking to protect human rights will go on as before.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘China’s regime has built about 400 internment camps in Xinjiang: they describe these prisons as “re-education camps”.’ Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

In the dying days of the Trump administration, outgoing secretary of state Mike Pompeo declared that China was committing genocide against the Uighur Muslims. Yet there is no reason to believe he was sincere in his solidarity or his repugnance at state-sanctioned violence. That’s because, given Pompeo’s record, he’s clearly no friend of Muslims and no champion of human rights.

In 2014, he said the chief threat to the US “is from people who deeply believe that Islam is the way and the light and the only answer”. A year earlier, he used collective blaming to tarnish all senior US Muslims for the acts of two terrorist bombers at the Boston marathon.…  Seguir leyendo »

My Uighur Roots

The first time I truly realized I was Uighur was just three years ago, when I saw the now-infamous viral photo of rows of Turkic men in dark blue uniforms, sitting in a concentration camp in Hotan, Xinjiang, a so-called Uighur autonomous region in China. Scanning the prisoners’ despondent faces, I was startled by their familiar features. Prominent cheekbones, round eyes, aquiline noses. My face was in theirs.

This photo forced me to come to terms with an unsettling truth. Although I have lived in the United States my entire life, China’s forced assimilation policies still reached me. I’ve always known that my maternal grandmother was half Uighur, but my family has only ever identified as Chinese.…  Seguir leyendo »

During my first year living in Ürümchi, the capital of Xinjiang, I met Aynür (not her real name). It was 2007, and she described life in China as difficult but improving for Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking predominantly Muslim people. Aynür spoke both Uighur and Mandarin, and was proud of being “in-between cultures”. She described herself as a bridge between the Han majority, who make up about 90% of China’s population and the Uighurs, Xinjiang’s ethnic majority.

Aynür invited me to her home and we watched China’s national day celebrations – parades of tanks, warheads, and motorcades – on TV . Aynür could not understand my lack of amusement; the spectacle made her proud of China’s rapid development and hopeful that Xinjiang’s problems could be resolved.…  Seguir leyendo »

China Disappeared My Professor

I last saw my old professor Abduqadir Jalalidin at his Urumqi apartment in late 2016. Over home-pulled laghman noodles and a couple of bottles of Chinese liquor, we talked and laughed about everything from Uighur literature to American politics. Several years earlier, when I had defended my master’s thesis on Uighur poetry, Jalalidin, himself a famous poet, had sat across from me and asked hard questions. Now we were just friends.

It was a memorable evening, one I’ve thought about many times since learning in early 2018 that Jalalidin had been sent, along with more than a million other Uighurs, to China’s internment camps.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘All the trainees … have returned to society,’ said Xinjiang’s governor last year. An education centre near Kashgar, Xinjiang. Photograph: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

Since 2017, Xinjiang in China has been reeling from a brutal crackdown outlawing both public and private displays of Uighur culture or identity, not to mention political dissent. A cornerstone of this repression, and the foundation upon which all other coercive measures are built, is an intense and unparalleled carceral regime: a network of hundreds of political indoctrination camps, detention centres and prisons. This has forced the region’s inhabitants not only into obedience but also into a chilling silence.

By most estimates, about 10% of Uighurs and other Muslim nationalities in Xinjiang have found themselves arbitrarily detained in these camps.

While researching human rights in Xinjiang at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a non-partisan thinktank based in Canberra, I’ve spent two years scouring satellite imagery and working with journalists, researchers and survivors to locate as many of these secretive camps as possible.…  Seguir leyendo »

One of China’s ‘re-education’ centres in Dabancheng, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

When China imposed trade sanctions on Norway in 2010 for honouring the imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo with the Nobel peace prize, it spat out a word we weren’t used to hearing from propagandists for an atheist communist regime, but should get used to today. “It’s a blasphemy,” a party mouthpiece said.

Once, blasphemy was damning the faithful’s gods and sacred books. Now, criticism of the world’s largest dictatorship has become sacrilegious. You shouldn’t be surprised. As some of us tried to say in the 1990s and 2000s, the gap between the sacred and the profane was never as wide as religious sentimentalists and liberal multiculturalists believed.…  Seguir leyendo »

Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil posted to his millions of social media fans about the persecution of Uighurs in China. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

Arsenal star Mesut Özil tends to cause controversy on and off the pitch. That is why he should be applauded for speaking out about the plight of Uighurs in China and helping to raise awareness of one of the worst human rights atrocities of the modern era.

Özil posted to his millions of followers on social media on Friday about the persecution of Uighurs, condemning silence from Muslims on the issue. Özil is a Muslim who won the World Cup with the German national team before quitting international football amid claims of “racism and disrespect” over his Turkish heritage.

He is right to speak out.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters demanding freedom for Prof. Dilmurat Ghpur and Prof. Tashpolat Tiyh in Munich, Germany, on February 2

Sometime after he disappeared in 2017, Tashpolat Tiyip, a Uyghur leader, Communist Party member and the president of Xinjiang University, was reportedly sentenced to death in a secret trial

Apart from a leaked government film that accused him of ethnic "separatism", the Chinese state has provided no explanation for the geography professor's detention. Like hundreds of other Uyghur intellectuals, the government has made him disappear.

Tiyip was given a two-year suspended death sentence in September 2017. And as that deadline nears, Amnesty International has issued a statement warning that his execution may be imminent. More than 1,000 scholars from around the world have signed a petition from the American Association of Geographers asking the government of Chinese President Xi Jinping to stay Tiyip's execution and release him.…  Seguir leyendo »

European Companies Get Rich in China’s ‘Open Air Prison’

Many people around the world may just now be learning that around a million Uighur Muslims and other minorities have been locked up in extrajudicial internment camps in the region of Xinjiang, in western China. There is a reason for that: Xinjiang is remote and the Chinese government has expended considerable effort to keep the news hidden, from harassing foreign journalists to seizing family members of activists to censoring information within its own borders.

Herbert Diess, however, should have no excuse.

Mr. Diess is the chief executive of Volkswagen, which opened a plant in Xinjiang in 2013 that employs almost 700 local workers and can make up to 50,000 cars a year.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the video Op-Ed below, three Chinese citizens whose parents disappeared demand their release from China’s “re-education camps.” The government is estimated to have detained over one million people. The goal: to force China’s Uighur ethnic minority to assimilate.

China’s decades-long campaign against the Uighur minority has surged in recent years through the construction of hundreds of detention camps. Even outside of detention centers, millions of Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region live in a virtual prison. The surveillance state deploys sophisticated technology, including facial recognition tracking, compulsory apps that monitor mobile phones, and even DNA collection.

China has justified its actions as a fight against religious extremism within the predominantly Muslim ethnic minority.…  Seguir leyendo »

Uighur men after prayers at a mosque in the Xinjiang region of China in May. Credit Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Chinese government’s campaign of internment in the northwestern region of Xinjiang is extraordinary, by dint of its scale — but also, its contradictions.

Up to 1.5 million people from predominantly Muslim Turkic minorities — Uighurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz — have been arbitrarily detained in political re-education camps designed in part to make them renounce their religious beliefs.

At times, the Chinese authorities have portrayed this mass detention campaign as a “strict preventative measure” against violent extremist ideologies. At others, they have called it a benign “vocational training” initiative, comparing detainees to “boarding school students”.

But eyewitnesses — as well as the government’s own documents — reveal that these facilities are prisonlike internment camps that rely on intensive brainwashing procedures and forms of psychological torture.…  Seguir leyendo »

A protester at a rally in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, in support of ethnic Uighur Muslims in China. Uighurs in China are being forced into “re-education” camps for indoctrination. Credit European Pressphoto Agency, via Shutterstock

One of the darkest episodes of the 20th century was the gulag — the Soviet system of forced labor camps where dissidents were imprisoned in terrible conditions, often to perish. The camps were established by Lenin, expanded by Stalin and finally exposed to the world by the great Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, with his 1973 masterpiece, “The Gulag Archipelago”.

“Thin strands of human lives stretch from island to island of Archipelago”, he wrote, and “it is enough if you don’t freeze in the cold, and if thirst and hunger don’t claw at your insides”.

Today, Russia’s gulags are long gone, as is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that operated them.…  Seguir leyendo »

La vieja obsesión del Partido Comunista por tener el control absoluto

China ha creado una amplia red de centros extrajudiciales de confinamiento en la región occidental de Xinjiang, donde se obliga a los uigures y otras minorías musulmanas a renunciar a su cultura y religión, y se les somete a la fuerza a un régimen de reeducación política. Después de mucho tiempo de negar la existencia de este tipo de campos, el gobierno ahora ha decidido referirse a ellos como centros inofensivos de capacitación donde se imparten clases de Derecho, mandarín y destrezas vocacionales, una designación que bien se sabe es un eufemismo falso que emplean con la intención de evitar críticas por los tremendos abusos cometidos en contra de los derechos humanos.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mind Control in China Has a Very Long History

China has built a vast network of extrajudicial internment camps in the western region of Xinjiang, where Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are made to renounce their culture and religion, and are forcibly subjected to political indoctrination. After long denying the camps’ existence, the government now calls them benign training centers that teach law, Mandarin and vocational skills — a claim that has been exposed as a disingenuous euphemism and an attempt to deflect criticism for gross human rights abuses.

But the camps, especially their ambition to rewire people, reveal a familiar logic that has long defined the Chinese state’s relationship with its public: a paternalistic approach that pathologizes deviant thought and behavior, and then tries to forcefully transform them.…  Seguir leyendo »

An image from undated video footage of Muslims reading from official Chinese language textbooks at a training center in Hotan, in Xinjiang. The Chinese authorities recently acknowledged the existence of a vast network of indoctrination camps. Credit CCTV, via Associated Press Video, via Associated Press

“Citizens, please remain calm and relax, no one in the re-education camps will starve, be left in the cold, be punished or be forced to work.” With these words, an official from China’s Communist Youth League tried to reassure relatives and friends of members of predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities who had been taken to internment centers. The detainees were “infected by an ideological illness,” the official said, and the camps would “cleanse the virus from their brain.”

When the speech was delivered in October 2017, the camps were unknown even to some of the people they targeted, the roughly 11 million ethnic Uighurs and one million Kazakhs of Xinjiang, a nominally autonomous region in northwestern China.…  Seguir leyendo »