A second holocaust

Inside the greatest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century

Evan Hull, Co-Section Editor

It is no secret that most of the world is suspicious of the Chinese government and their social policies. Since the Chinese Communist Party took over China after the Chinese Civil War in 1949, it has been known to suppress its own people through events like the Great Leap Forward and the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which are well documented tragedies in history. However, in the present day, a little known human tragedy is ongoing in the Xinjiang province of China: The genocide of Uighur Muslims.

Dating as far back as the 1950s, there have been repressive policies instituted by the Chinese government against the Uighur minority population. Some of these policies include encouraging a mass migration of Han Chinese to the Xinjiang province. While mass migration isn’t a bad thing whatsoever, that policy was found to encourage repression of Uighur cultural identity. This is similar to what happened to prominent Buddhist figures in Tibet, including the Dalai Lama, who was forced to escape Tibet as a result of repressive policies instituted by the Chinese government. However as time went on, tensions rose on Ramadan in 1997, when 30 suspected extremists were rounded up and executed. In 2009, a riot broke out in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi, which led to over 100 deaths. As a result, Uyghur extremists coordinated attacks on civilians, including a car bomb at a street market in 2014 in response to those oppressive policies.

However in 2017, reports started coming from Chinese state media reporting many Uighur Muslims were detained at police checkpoints and sent to various “reeducation camps” throughout the Xinjiang region. Converted from old schools, and even some purpose-built, these various camps around the country have held up to around 30,000 Uighurs at one time. However as of 2019, the number of camps in Xinjiang province has risen to around 1,000. According to independent researcher Adrian Zenz, I’m increasingly viewing evidence that would indicate that my original estimate of at least one camp per administrative unit between township and prefecture levels, which adds up to 1,200, was accurate. I’m increasingly moving in the direction that it’s over 1,000 camps,” said Zenz. Zenz also estimated that throughout the course of three years, around 1.5 million people, mainly Uighur Muslims, have been detained in those camps because they don’t conform to Chinese ideals or that they are suspected of being a part of separatist groups fighting for Xinjiang’s independence.

The main reason why the Chinese government is getting so much criticism for putting Uighur Muslims in these so-called “re-education camps” from the international community is because the conditions and the treatment of which the detainees are being held in. According to former detainee Karyat Samarkand in an interview with the Washington Post, most of which are Muslim, have been forced to drink alcohol and eat pork, which are haram in Islam, meaning they are strictly forbidden to be consumed. As a result of these reports, many from the international community have severely condemned China for their actions against the Uighur Muslims, comparing it to a genocide or even a second holocaust. On July 8, 2019, 22 countries from the U.N., including France, Germany and the U.K., released a joint statement condemning China’s mass imprisonment and surveillance policies. In the U.S., on May 27, 2020, Congress passed the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, condemning China’s actions and placing sanctions on trade and visa restrictions on senior Chinese Communist Party officials, including the top official of the Xinjiang province, Chen Quanguo.

 One of the greatest, if not the greatest, humanitarian crises is taking place right now in China. Uighur Muslims are being forced into conditions that are comparable to the Nazi concentration camps of the Holocaust. It is time for the U.N. to take action, before more senseless deaths occur at the hands of the Chinese government.

Prisoners at a re-education camp in Xinjiang province, China (Xinjiang Bureau of Justice WeChat Account)