Xinjiang Genocide in China


Libby Engebretson

This infographic shows the horrific statistics currently occurring against the Uyghur ethnic group of China.

Recently Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state for the Trump administration, declared the acts from the Chinese government against the Uyghur people a “genocide.” This event is occurring in the Xinjiang region of China, which is geographically the most western region of China, located near eight other Muslim-dominated countries.

The Turkic Uyghurs make up the majority ethnic group, of whom predominantly practice Sunni Islam. The Xinjiang region has been occupied by this ethnic group for thousands of years, which is why the Uyghurs have fought for control from the Chinese Communist Party.

Additionally, Xinjiang is one of the most resource-dense areas in China, holding much of the country’s oil reserves. Because of this, having control over the Xinjiang region and the Uyghur people is crucial for China’s imperial power.

Why is the Chinese government committing atrocities against the Uyghur people? To answer this, it is important to understand the historical context between the Chinese state and the Uyghur people.

Beginning before World War II, the Uyghur people have fought for independence, leaving their relationship with China incredibly complex. While the Uyghur people have had alliances with China in the past, in recent times that has not been the case.

Zhao Lijian, the foreign ministry spokesman of China, has denied allegations of neglect to the Uygur people.

In fact, according to the U.S- China Economic and Security Review Commission, China alleged that the Uyghur people rejected assimilation with Bejing, and have committed acts of terrorism against the Chinese Communist State.

As tensions between these two groups have intensified, the Uyghur community has used rebellion as a form to fight their cultural oppression.

“The CCP has regularly utilized the threat of international terrorism to justify harsh restrictions against the Chinese Uyghur community,” according to the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

In response to the Uygur terrorist attacks, the Chinese government has established “re-education camps,” in order to enforce strict control across the Uygur people.

The Council of Foreign Affairs has noted that The People’s Republic of China has imprisoned more than 1 million Uyghur people since 2017. In these “re-education camps,” people are subjected to religious restrictions, forced labor, brainwashing, and in some cases abuse and torture.

Activists have demanded that the UN investigate claims of “genocide” against the Uyghur people, citing criteria of article two, in the 1948 UN treaty, “imposing measures intended to prevent birth within the group.” This is attributed to the significant evidence of mass sterilization, forced abortions and sexual assault.

“Han Chinese men from the east are being brought into the homes of female Uyghur women as a way to try and cleanse the population and mix with the Han Chinese. Most of the women do not know these men and so there is not only genocide but also rape on a large scale,” Model UN representative Patrick McCabe said.

Additionally, Chinese officials have imposed laws that make it difficult for 11 million Uyghurs living in Xinjiang to practice Islam.

“I think the root of the issue is the emphasis in China on people being the same. And because of their authority to an authoritarian state, This idea of ‘other” is very dangerous,’ AP World History teacher Michelle Naylor said.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the Chinese are, “reportedly subjecting them to interrogations, torture, and sexual abuse.”

“Re-education camps are intended to impose the Chinese theory of government onto people who don’t want it. The Uyghur people are absorbing Chinese propaganda, as part of the government’s plan to have the Uyghurs assimilate into the dominant Chinese society” Dr. Spencer Holmes, a contributor for the University of Minnesota said.

One of the most challenging aspects of this oppression is the immense “control” the Chinese government has over the Uyghur people, because of advancing technology.

The Chinese government has instituted, “voice recognition software, facial recognition software and cameras in Uighur villages- in order to track their movements. American companies came up with the facial recognition and voice recognition software originally, but then China has purchased those technologies and are either using them to track these people or capture their data,” Naylor said.

While foreign influence can have a significant impact on this crisis, it is apparent that other factors are contributing to the lack of media representation and change regarding this civil rights injustice. Both Naylor and Holmes agreed that economic dependence on China has complicated the matter of intervening.

While there is not much students can personally do to contribute to change, you can donate to the Uyghur Human Rights Project, One Nation UK, or the Uyghur Refugee Relief Fund. Uyghurs that have contact with people outside of the country are detained, so please consider taking action with these reputable organizations