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Call to China on Uighur Rights

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    2nd Nov, 2021

Context

Forty-three countries have called China to ensure full respect for the rule of law for the Muslim Uighur community in Xinjiang province.

Background

  • Recently, concerns have been raised in the Uighur Autonomous region over the existence of a large number of networks of political re-education camps where over a million have been arbitrarily detained.
  • There have also been allegations of human right violations against Uighurs, which includes torture, forced sterilisation and using them as forced labour.

Analysis

About Uighur Muslims:

  • They are a predominately Muslim minority Turkic ethnic group, whose origins can be traced to Central and East Asia.
  • They primarily the lives in autonomous region of Xinjiang. It is officially known as Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR).It shares boundaries with eight countries, which includes Pakistan, Russia, Afghanistan and India.
  • A significant number of Uighurs lives in central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
  • Before Islam (it came to the region in the 10th century), the Uighurs embraced Buddhism, Shamanism, and Manicheism.
  • The language that they speak is similar to Turkish and Uighur Muslims find themselves culturally and ethnically closer to Central Asian nations.
  • China recognizes them as a regional minority and does not consider them as indigenous groups.

A declaration has been signed by 43 countries, including the United States, several Asian member states and European members.

Key points from the declaration:

  • It vehemently accuses China of human right violation and ethnic cleansing against Uighur Muslims.
  • A similar declaration was made public in 2019 and 2020 by Britain and Germany in which China has been condemned for its policies in Xinjiang province, and has been accused of carrying out genocide.
  • It has asked China to allow immediate and unfettered access to Xinjiang for independent observers, which includes UN High Commissioner and its office.

How China is violating Human Rights?

  • Diluting and Dissolving Uighur Culture
  • Violation of family life
  • Extreme Physical and Mental Abuse
  • Destruction of Cultural Heritage Sites
  • Forced Labour
  • Detention without due process
  • Forced Sterilisation and intrauterine device insertions
  • Forced and gender-based violence

Why is China detaining Uyghurs in Xinjiang now?

  • Chinese officials see Uighurs Muslims as a person with extremist and separatist ideas, and they view the camps as a way of eliminating threats to China’s territorial integrity, government, and population.
  • President Xi Jinping warned of the “toxicity of religious extremism” and advocated for using the tools of “dictatorship” to eliminate Islamist extremism.

Economic factors involved:

  • Xinjiang region is an important link in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. To eradicate any possibility of separatist activity in the region to ensure its safe development it resorts to such method.
  • Human rights organizations have observed that the economic benefits of resource extraction and development are often disproportionately enjoyed by Han Chinese (China’s ethnic majority), and Uighur people are increasingly marginalized.
  • Arbitrarily detained have been forced to work in factories close to the detention camps.
  • A report from Strategic and International Studies says that forced labour is an important element of the government’s plan for Xinjiang’s economic development, which includes making it a hub of textile and apparel manufacturing. China described the policy as “poverty alleviation.”

Response of China:

  • China has denounced the declaration and termed it as “lies” and “a plot to hurt China”.
  • It is on the contrary rejecting all the criticism, rather it has appreciated the progress its people have made in the region.
  • Beijing accuses the U.S. of “ethnic cleansing” against Native Americans and accused France of committing “crimes against humanity” in its former colonies.
  • It claims that to cure the extremist thoughts of Uighurs and their radicalisation it has formed ‘Educational centres’ and ‘Vocational Training centre, which imparts vocational skills.
  • According to China, its policies towards the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities living in Xinjiang are necessary to “fight extremism” and promote upward economic mobility for the impoverished ethnic group.
  • China dismisses the charges of mass sterilisations as baseless and allegations of forced labour are completely fabricated.

Persecution of Uighurs:

  • Economic prosperity has come to Xinjiang, but it has brought with it in large numbers the majority Han Chinese.
  • They have cornered better jobs and left Uighurs in a state of vulnerability. This resulted in sporadic violence, in 2009 killing 200 people, mostly Han Chinese.
  • Uighur Muslims have suffered from abuses which include, persecution, forced detention, intense scrutiny etc.

Global Response:

  • UN officials have demanded access to the re-education camps.
  • The European Union has called on China to respect religious freedom and change its policies in Xinjiang.
  • Human rights organizations have urged China to immediately shut down the camps and answer questions about disappeared Uyghurs.
  • The United States had imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials and blacklisted more than two dozen Chinese companies and agencies linked to abuses in the region.
  • The United States banned cotton and tomato imports from the region.
  • The United Kingdom will fine companies that fail to guarantee their supply chains do not use forced labour.
  • The European Union is working with China on an investment agreement that does not include provisions on forced labour.

Conclusion:

China needs to adopt multiculturalism and give Uighurs Muslims rights at par with its ordinary citizens. It should release the political and religious prisoners from prisons and detention camps. All the countries must urge China to immediately stop the persecution of Uighur Muslims.

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