The Uyghurs are a predominantly Muslim, Turkic ethnicity who live in China’s North-Western Xinjiang Province traditionally known as East Turkistan. In recent years, however, the current government of China has stepped up its repression of this community, destroying traditional neighborhoods and rounding up well over a million men and sending them into concentration camps for “re-education” and forced labor. The disappearance of so many (some say as many as three million are affected) has created a palpable atmosphere of fear in the region and extending to the Uyghur community in the United States.
In the last decades of increased globalization, western companies have become complicit in the repression of the Uyghur people. Some US companies have been found purchasing clothing made by slave labor in the region and the tech sector has been implicated in the vast surveillance system imposed on cities in Xinjiang.
As the Washington Post editorial board observed: “All who believe in the principle of “never again” after the horror of the Nazi extermination camps and Stalin’s gulag must speak up against China’s grotesque use of brainwashing, prisons and torture.” (Link)
The destruction of the Uyghur culture and community has many of the hallmarks of genocide. As with the Chinese repression of Tibetan Buddhists, Chinese destruction of traditional Muslim culture has been developing over time (Link) only to reach a level of large scale destruction (Link)
It is deeply disappointing that many Muslim countries have failed to take action; indeed, several have explicitly endorsed its policies (Link) towards the Uyghur! It is truly unfortunate that China has convinced some leaders that the repression of Uyghur is justified by security concerns (Link) In other cases, as with Pakistan, it appears that debt related to development under China’s Belt and Road project may be a factor in reining in necessary condemnation. The Uyghur suffer and the world looks on.