Geopolitics & World-affairs
Erasing Xinjiang — The Soul of Xinjiang Is On The Verge Of Collapse
Following the end of World War II, the entire world underwent ideological transformations. The Western countries lost control of the colonies they used to exploit for various resources like human resources, minerals, and markets.
Some sections of China experienced the same thing. Its Manchuria province was liberated from Japanese imperialism. The country gained independence, but it quickly devolved into a civil war between the Communist ideology of Mao Zedong and the capitalist philosophy of Chiang Kai-shek.
The civil war continued even after the conclusion of WWII until it concluded on December 7, 1949, resulting in a Communist triumph and subsequent control of mainland China. With the beginning of Communism in the country, the country adopted the ideology of expansionism.
With an expansionist mindset, China employs a program of diversion and trickery to dupe the authorities of Tibet and Xinjiang. Tibet came under the sovereignty of the People's Republic of China (PRC) after the Tibetan government signed the Seventeen Point Agreement, which the 14th Dalai Lama endorsed on October 24, 1951, but later repudiated because he had done so under duress.
In the case of Xinjiang, things were a little different. The territory was first conquered by communist China in 1949, and in 1955, Chairman Mao Zedong legally annexed it, designating it an "autonomous province."
After acquiring these regions, China began indoctrinating the populace by eliminating the region's religious and cultural ethos. The campaign started in Tibet, when the protest initially broke out in 1950, then in 1959, subsequently in 2008, and the subsequent self-immolation protest.
In Xinjiang, the process began with a bang at the beginning of the twenty-first century, when the province experienced uprisings against the Chinese Communist Government, as well as coordinated attacks on the Han Chinese who lived there.
Initially, Chinese authorities shut down the internet to prevent protests from spreading, as well as forcible confinement without charges, but later they opened internment (re-education) camps, popularly known as Xinjiang Internment (re-education) camps, officially called vocational education and training centers, run by the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party Provincial Standing Committee.
According to Human Rights Watch, China has been using these re-education camps to indoctrinate Uygurs, the natives of Xinjiang, and other Muslim populations in the region since 2017 as a part of "People's War On Terror," a policy announced in 2014 by the Chinese government under the garb of "Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism."
These camps have been and continue to be criticized by the governments of primarily democratic countries, as well as various human rights organizations, for alleged human rights violations such as grave mistreatment, rape, and torture, with some suggesting genocide.
Some 40 countries, including Canada, Germany, Turkey, Honduras, and Japan, have urged China to preserve the Uyghur people's human rights.
Using satellite imagery and other data, researchers from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute verified over 380 re-education camps, detention centers, and prisons in Xinjiang, with at least 61 expanded or modified in the last year. Since World War II, this is the largest mass detention of an ethnic-religious minority group.
These so-called re-education camps are an example of China's brutality towards the Uygur population, comparable to Nazi Germany's barbaric treatment of prisoners of war (POW). These camps were established in 2017 by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, and their operations were led by Chen Quanguo, a member of the CCP Politburo and the Chinese Communist Party Committee Secretary for Tibet between 2017 and 2021.
Adrian Zenz, a Xinjiang researcher based in Germany, discovered that construction spending on security-related facilities in Xinjiang climbed by 20 billion yuan (about $2.96 billion) in 2017.
Before launching the re-education camps, China first turned Xinjiang into a surveillance state by installing high-definition cameras in every nook and corner of the region's large and small cities. Later, they attempted to change the demography and ethnic makeup of the region by bringing in Han Chinese.
Now the region is dominated by 40% of Han Chinese. Furthermore, the government reinforced forces in the region to stamp out any revolt, as well as demolishing cultural markers such as mosques in the region and enforcing a ban on Muslim cultural festivals.
What Happened in re-education camps?
The Chinese authorities are using Uygurs inside and outside of these camps for cheap labor or forced labor, as seen in North Korea. The Chinese government employs these people to manufacture garments and other things for sale both inside and outside the country.
According to the New York Times, Chinese-manufactured face masks sold in the United States and other nations during the time of Covid were fabricated in factories that used Uighur labor.
There is little information on what transpired in the camps, but several captives who have since fled China have described brutal conditions.
In 2022, the UN Human Rights Office issued a report based on interviews with dozens of persons, including 26 detainees, that revealed "patterns of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" in the camps between 2017 and 2019."
Various exposés revealed that captives were compelled to pledge devotion to the CCP, renounce Islam, sing communist propaganda, and study Mandarin.
Some claim to have been subjected to prison-like conditions, with cameras and microphones recording their every move and remark. Others claimed they were abused and deprived of sleep during interrogations.
Women have spoken out about sexual abuse, including rape, and forced sterilization. Some released convicts considered suicide or witnessed others commit suicide.
The Chinese government also shattered the family system. After their parents were sent to re-education camps, children were forced to live in state-funded orphanages.
The Communist government also exploited these camps to force children of Uygur's parents to come home to their parents and risk incarceration, or stay overseas, separated from their parents and unable to contact them.
The Chinese government, on the other hand, says that the camps are merely vocational and training centers where inmates are taught employment skills. The Communist government has justified its actions by claiming that they are necessary to combat terrorism and extremism emerging from the Uyghur separatist movement.
Xinjiang is important to China's overly ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, and it also contains the country's largest coal and natural gas reserves. As a result, any secession in this region will be met with the same destiny from Chinese authorities.
The region is also critical for China to seize control of India's Aksai Chin region, which connects Tibet, Xinjiang, and the rest of China by road.
Following the exposure by several independent human rights organizations and the UN, China has faced harsh criticism from countries dominated by democracy, but they have justified and continue to justify their actions in the name of suppressing terrorism, which has primarily emanated from the East Turkistan Islamic Movement.
Countries that primarily practice Islam, such as Pakistan, have declined to condemn China's actions due to their reliance on the Chinese economy.