As the United States House of Representatives recognised the Armenian Genocide in a historic vote in October 2019, silence loomed beneath the echoes of the Uyghurs’ suffering. The Xinjang Uyghur Autonomous Region is been home to Turkish ethnic minorities, namely Uyghurs and Kazakhs. These minority communities were perceived as a threat to the Chinese State and therefore, similar connotations had been used by the Young Turks towards its Christian minorities, the Armenians, during 1914, of which the genocide had been the ultimate result.
However, marginalisation remains an inherent factor in the first stage of purification. Since the 1990s, the Chinese Government has pushed for ‘bilingual education’, but it was prioritising Mandarin, while the Ugyhur language wasn’t given any importance. On the other hand, Uyghurs have been forbidden to give their babies names that might have any religious connotation as the State opines that such names encourage religious fervour. It was in 2014 when the Chinese Government waged the ‘Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism’ under the leadership of Party Secretary Chen Quanquo. As a result, fanguiju, who are cadres from government agencies, had been deployed and stationed in villages with a Turkish population and were subjected to regular surveillance.
The Turkish minority officials have been accused of being disloyal to the Government as the Chinese authorities argue that these men engage in corruption, with then detention and imprisonment as the end road. The terminology of ‘separatism’ has been evoked as the Chinese authorities believe that the Turkish ethnic minorities have been proliferating pan-Islamism. Exercising border control is a major objective of this campaign as Xinjiang authorities in 2016 started to recall passports of the targeted group.
The Human Rights Watch has documented the directive of the authorities to collect biometrics, including DNA samples, fingerprints as well as iris scans of the targeted group. The freedom to practice one’s own religion, in this case Islam, has been curtailed. Firstly, any form of appearance that is believed to display religious fanaticism and disseminate religious extremist has been banned. Muslims are now required to restrict halal to only a certain set of products. Adding to this, religion is not allowed to be taught in school curriculum, along with prohibition of practice of the religion taught by parents to their children. Children are neither allowed to participate in religious activities, nor leave school for any religious reasons.
The history of introducing the Strike Hard Campaign can be traced back to 1990s, when armed confrontation between Uyghurs in Baren township, northwest of Kashgar, led the Chinese authorities to tighten control over the Uyghur area. As the Soviet Union collapsed, new Central Asian Republics emerged, stirring up fears of ethno-nationalist ambition in Xinjiang. A list of 75 behavioral indicators of religious extremism was published, naming the symptoms that are regarded as unusual by the State.
The Baluntai government in north-central Xinjiang gives us an insight into the implementation of the campaign. The government exercises control over buying of matchsticks and lathes in the fear that they might get used for weapon-making. The government also orders its officials to subject three generation of relatives who have been detained previously as well as collect information on the family’s income as well as family members who have been staying abroad.
The Shanghai Corporation Organisation, comprising Kazakhstan, Kygyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia, Uzbekistan as well as India and Pakistan, supported the measure to suppress Uyghurs from advocating their independent Uyghur nation. This measure included monitoring their activities and deportation. Detention centres have been built, although the terminology used for these centres is ‘educational camps’ or ‘vocational training centres’, created for the betterment of its people and teaching Mandarin.
This has led the United States to opine in the United Nations that China must stop detaining the Uyghurs. To this, China’s UN Ambassador, Zhang Jun, warned the gathering that such a comment is not beneficial for the ongoing trade talks between the two countries. It is believed that US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jingping would be signing an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. The United States’ accusation is perceived as interventionist and an attempt to interfere in China’s internal matters, which are nonetheless ‘baseless’ on behalf of the former, as the latter aims to eradicate terrorism, separatism and radicalisation by opting for forced assimilation as its method.
One could therefore be using the nomenclature of ethnic cleansing as resettlement of Uyghurs is taking place throughout the region of Xingjing. Such a measure by the Government is nothing but a violation of Human Rights and must be brought to an end. Trump’s administration has successful blacklisted 28 Chinese entities, including video surveillance from Hikvision and artificial intelligence companies such as Megvil Technology and SenseTime. The United Nations has also decided to curb visas of Chinese officials until repression of Uyghurs and other Muslims is not stopped.
Mike Pompeo has opined that these detention camps are similar to Hitler’s concentration camps where the Jewish population was killed recklessly by the Nazis. On the other hand, China’s intent has not yet been established, although it cannot be denied that the Turkish ethnic minority groups have been killed, but to use the nomenclature of a ‘genocide’ would require establishing China’s intent as annihilation of the Turkish minorities, whereas Recap Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, termed the event as a form of genocide in 2009.
But since 2012, Turkey has viewed itself as a potential ally of China. prohibiting itself from criticising on the issue of the detention camps and Islamophobia. China justifies these detention camps by saying that the camps have been built to counter terrorism, and describes Islam as a religion that gives birth to extremist ideologies.
However, China is not the only country that houses detention camps. After the declaration of National Register of Citizens in Assam, many of the state’s people were identified as foreign nationals after the list got released on 31st August, 2019. The criteria for this list had been for the applicant to have his name in the first NRC in 1951 or in the electoral rolls up to 24th March, 1971.
Assam is home to six detention camps that are run out of six district jails. The horror of the fate of those suffering in Assam and China’s detention camps must be countered by countries who are voicing protests against such grotesque measures by the existing government as Human Rights are being violated and the population is being forced to get ‘cleansed’ for the betterment of the nation, in case of China. The horrifying history of the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust is known to all and has taught us that these incidents must not be repeated again. The rights of citizens must be protected and humanity shouldn’t get destroyed in the greed for power.