China Foreign Minister Wang Yi meeting the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Hussein Ibrahim Taha, in Islamabad, Pakistan, on March 22, 2022. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.
by Saleem Samad 4 September 2022
The United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) softly blames “China may have committed crimes against humanity in Xinjiang (former Turkestan province).
The human rights office releases a long-awaited report last week to expose China’s treatment of ethnic Uyghur Muslims and says ‘serious human rights violations have been committed in Xinjiang, home of 10 million Uyghurs.
Well, the bigwigs of the Chinese Communist Party in the capital Beijing calls the report ‘completely illegal and void’. China has forcefully denied any maltreatment in Xinjiang and issued a 131-page (nearly three times the length) in response to the 48-page UN report in which decried the findings as “based on the disinformation and lies fabricated by anti-China forces.”
Outgoing UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, who is former President of Chile says, China’s “arbitrary and discriminatory detention” of Uyghurs and other Muslims in its Xinjiang in the north-western region of China “may constitute crimes against humanity”.
The report came four years after the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) revealed that more than one million Uyghurs were being held in visible network of detention centres across Xinjiang.
Widespread persecution, discrimination and forcible confinement have occurred in Xinjiang. Besides Uyghurs, other ethnic Hui (Chinese Muslims), Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Tatars, Tahurs and Russians are also locked up in internment centres, while the world remains quiet.
In the internment camps, they face appalling human rights abuses from forced labour, coerced sterilisation, and the destruction of their culture and religious identity. It’s indeed a humanitarian crisis!
Throughout persecution since 2017, the international organisations within the UN have done little or less regarding the allegations of human rights abuses in China.
The Islamic world including the influential Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and powerful countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan remains conspicuously silent.
Except for European nations, Britain, Canada, the United States and Australia, the apologetic Muslim countries instead of rebuking the Chinese for the crime against humanity are the main beneficiaries of the Road and Belt Initiative (BRI) mega projects to keep them in good humour.
The Islamic countries and Muslim-majority nations deliberately do not wish to embarrass China for their appalling human rights abuse.
Apologetic media, international organisations and Muslim countries explain that it’s a “domestic issue”, their “internal affairs” and are “combating terrorism”.
Nevertheless, China extends its “golden heart” to the Muslim countries – also to the hard-line Islamic countries like Iran, Pakistan and Arab states.
In fact, all Muslim countries have a similar problem with their human rights record in compliance with the UN Charter of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In the 1971 blood war of liberation in Bangladesh, no Muslim country, Muslim leader or any Muslim aid agency helped the plight, agony and sufferings of the 10 million refugees. They either supported the marauding Pakistan military junta. Nor did they raise their hand while the military committed war crimes, genocide and rape as a weapon of war.
Similarly, the same Muslim community did not urge international bodies to protest the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina by warlord General Radovan Karadzic under the command of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.
After the military intervention of NATO, the civil war ceased. International Court of Justice indicts 161 individuals, including the warlords for crimes against humanity. No jubilation in any city in a Muslim country. No statement by Muslim leaders appreciating the initiative of The Hague verdict.
Leaked official documents in Chinese reveal for the first time the systematic use by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to justify the indefinite detention on trivial grounds of millions of citizens in heavily fortified internment centres across the province.
The leak exposes what appears to be a detailed and far-reaching system of state surveillance in Xinjiang, run by the provincial local government enables to target the Uyghurs, apparently Chinese citizens to the peaceful practice of their culture or religion.
Chinese official records, verified by a team of experts commissioned by rights groups and international media, show people are transported to detention facilities for simply “wearing a veil”, growing “a long beard” or performing “Muslim prayer”.
The Chinese government admits to locking up several million Uyghurs in “vocational education and training centres”, a mass “deradicalisation programme” targeting “potential extremists”.
Thousands of siblings, parents and kith and kin were victims of arbitrary detention after their relatives living in exile slammed Chinese authorities for human rights abuse and persecution of their loved ones.
Interestingly, Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi, formerly known as Dihua, has the world’s best-sophisticated surveillance system. Each person is under the authority’s radar 24/7 with a hi-tech CCTV network with audio equipment to spy on what they discuss on the street corners and hangouts.
The OHCHR said that “serious human rights violations have been committed” in Xinjiang in the context of the government’s application of “counter-terrorism and counter-‘extremism’ strategies”.
“There are credible indications of violations of reproductive rights through the coercive enforcement of family planning policies since 2017,” the OHCHR report said.
The punitive actions by the Chinese against the Uyghur “may constitute international crimes, in particular, crimes against humanity”.
The report recommended the Chinese government take prompt steps to release all those detained in training centres, prisons or detention facilities.
It is expected that the international community must take action or be ‘wilfully complicit’.
Several exiled Uyghur leaders, however, lamented that the report was the “bare minimum” which could be expected from the international community.
“The report will do little for the people (Uyghur),” a survivor of the internment camps in exile observed.
First published in The News Times, 3 September 2022
Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at <[email protected]>; Twitter @saleemsamad