Chinese detention of Uyghurs affects millions

Medha Prodduturi, Forum Editor

In an effort to establish control over the region of Xinjiang, China has detained about a million Muslim Uyghurs, a number that continues to increase. Uyghurs are Turkic Muslims living in far west China, particularly in the Xinjiang region. China has claimed that Uyghurs and other Muslim groups are undergoing “re-education camps,” but there is growing evidence proving otherwise.

Along with Uyghurs, the region of Xinjiang attracted a Han majority, a migration encouraged by the Chinese government. Due to the government’s partial treatment of the Hans, a group of Uyghurs protested and killed 200 people — mostly Han Chinese —  in 2009. This gave the Chinese government an excuse to justify its detaining of millions of innocent Uyghurs. The government has claimed that it’s trying to limit separatism based on religion and ethnicity. At the UN meeting, China has defended the purpose of these camps saying they are training centers intended to stop extremists.

However, UN and media reports show the harsh treatment in these “training” centers. Inmates are forced to criticize Islamic beliefs and declaim Communist Party propaganda songs. They are being forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, both prohibited by Islam. Detainees are kept in isolation without water and sleep. Former detainees have said they weren’t allowed to sleep and would be beaten for hours. Uyghur people are obligated to abandon their culture, language, and their lives back home. Yet, little is being done to help them.

Despite all inhumane actions, China still sits as a permanent member of United Nations. It either denies the existence of these actions or simply claims they are “educational.” To make it worse, the world has turned a blind eye to what is happening in Xinjiang. Their hesitation to speak out is due to close relations with China and the fear of social and economic consequences. Moreover, China has kept tight control over its media, limiting the information receive.

Uyghurs are running out of time to save themselves. Their lives built in Xinjiang are being destroyed. And they will continue to do so unless we act. Many organizations are already taking steps to help, and it is important that other countries of the world, the U.S. included, do the same. For example, The International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation recommends ways we can help Uyghurs in China: starting an event in your community, writing to local leaders, etc. Uyghurs in China are in need of international support, and any little action can have a great impact.