We cannot accept slavery and genocide
I am not speaking about past slavery with African Americans, but current day slavery happening in China, right now. If you are unaware, the Communist Party of China, has been enslaving the Uighur population, most of which is Muslim. However, this did not begin yesterday, this has been going on for a few years now.
Human rights groups say that more than a million Uighurs have been placed in what China terms "re-education camps". Frighteningly, there is evidence that China is using the Uighurs for forced labour and forcibly sterilizing the women. These atrocities are of such magnitude that the international community deemed it genocide.
Who exactly are the Uighurs?
The Uighurs are an ethnic group of people who are culturally and ethnically close to Central Asians. They have their own language which is said to be similar to Turkish. This group of people number close to 12 million, mostly Muslim and reside in north-western China in the region of Xinjiang, officially known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Though 12 million may seem like a sizable population, Uighurs make up less than half of the Xinjiang population. Moreover, with the rise of mass migration into the region, the Uighurs feel that their way of life is in danger.
What has been happening?
A report by the New York Times stated that in 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping had warned Uighurs - “We must be as harsh as them and show absolutely no mercy”. This statement is scary by itself, however, the plans enacted were much worst than many expected. These plans included the erasure of Islam from China, controlling population growth and forced labour.
The erasure of Islam in China
Unbelievably, China has confirmed its five year plans to sinicize (bring under Chinese influence) Islam (2018-2022), attempting to redefine the practice of the religion and align the beliefs of Muslims with the Communist Party of China’s policies. This is exactly why China terms the settlement that they are detaining the Uighurs in "re-education camps".
Even though this five year plan was created for 2018-2022, this "sinicization" effort started years prior. As reported by the Washington-based Uighur Human Rights Project (UHRP), China destroyed between 10,000-15,000 Uighur mosques and religious places in the years 2016-2019. Additionally, Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that since 2017, “30% of important Islamic cultural sites (sacred shrines, cemeteries and pilgrimage routes) have been demolished, with an additional 28% damaged or altered in some way”.
The Chinese government is stripping the religious freedoms from the Uighurs and actively prosecuting them for their faith. To go as far as to destroy places of worship as well as cemeteries is, by no uncertain term, utterly despicable.
Controlled population growth
As most of us are aware, China has a reputation for controlling population growth, mainly with the past "One Child" policy. However, in this instance, China is forcibly sterilizing Uighur women or forcing them to go through stringent birth control measures such as drug use.
German anthropologist, Adrian Zenz, produced a study in 2020 which found that in 2018, 80% of China’s IUD placements happened in Xinjiang, a province containing only 1.8% of China’s total population. Additionally, the sterilization surgery rose by a magnitude of seven in Xinjiang’s Uighur dominated areas, while the national rate declined.
Zenz also reported that growth rates fell by 84% in the two largest Uighur prefectures between 2015 and 2018, and declined further in several minority regions in 2019. For 2020, one Uyghur region set an unprecedented near-zero birth rate target: just 1.05 per mille, compared to 19.66 per mille in 2018. This was intended to be achieved through was they call "family planning work". However, clearly, they do not want the Uighurs to build their families.
Detainment and forced labour
We now arrive at, what I believe to be, the most egregious of the crimes against the Uighurs, detainment and forced labour. Over a million Uighurs have been forced into theses "re-education camps" or as the rest of the world knows them, concentration camps. Not only are they forced into these camps, striped of their religious freedoms but they are also forced to work, which I call, slavery.
The Washington, DC–based nonprofit research institute C4ADS states that over 1500 Chinese companies are located near or inside Uighur detention camps in Xinjiang. The sole purpose of establishing these works near or inside the concentration camps seems to be to use the detained Uighurs as labour.
20% of the total cotton traded internationally is produced by forced labour
Furthermore, a BBC report details how the Chinese government views labour as a way to transform the "outdated ideas" of Xinjiang’s minorities and create the government's idea of "proper" Chinese citizens. The report also highlights that 20% of the total cotton traded internationally is produced by forced labour of Uighur Muslims and other minorities of the region. The report indicts that approximately half a million Uighur Muslims and other minorities are forced into cotton fields, each year.
These shocking statistics only shed a partial light on the absolute horrors that these people are facing, at the hands of the Chinese government. They are being forced to work against their will and then told it is for their benefit. Meanwhile, corporations continue to line their pockets at the expensive of the liberties of the Uighurs.
Biden's Inconsistent Messages
As the self-proclaimed leader of the free world, most of the world expects America and its President to stand for justice and freedom. However, Biden has not been consistent when it comes to condemning these injustices.
In February 2020, Biden excused the literal slavery and genocide as "cultural differences" and said he would not speak against it. He says this very clearly in the video below.
This, I believe, is totally unacceptable. To disregard what is happening, to millions of Uighurs in China, is shameful. We may all be different, different races, speak different languages, have different cultures but we are all human. We cannot turn a blind-eye to the atrocities that we can see are happening in our world today.
However, Biden has since reversed course, urging world leaders to take a stand against China, at the G7 in June 2021. While this is a step in the right direction, this comes six months after Trump declared the treatment of Uighurs to be "genocide". Why is Biden only now speaking against atrocities that even Trump condemns? How many Uighurs were subjected to human rights violations during Biden's silence? Will he continue to speak out?
We simply cannot ignore or be inconsistent in condemning blatant human rights abuses, the "sinicization" of Islam, sterilization of women and forced labour. We must raise our voices and demand action from our politicians and world leaders, demand change, for the betterment of humanity.
Buckley, C, Ramzy, A., (November 16, 2019),‘Absolutely No Mercy’: Leaked Files Expose How China Organized Mass Detentions of Muslims, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/16/world/asia/china-xinjiang-documents.html
Killing, A., Rajagopalan, M. (January 4, 2021) We Found The Factories Inside China’s Mass Internment Camps, Buzzfeed News, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/alison_killing/xinjiang-camps-china-factories-forced-labor
News18 (June 19 2021), 'Show Absolutely No Mercy': Six Tools of Xi Jinping to Scale up Uighur Genocide in Xinjiang, https://www.news18.com/news/world/show-absolutely-no-mercy-six-tools-of-xi-jinping-to-scale-up-uighur-genocide-in-xinjiang-3865508.html
Patranobis, S. (January 2019), China plans to bring Islam on socialist lines in 5 years, https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/china-plans-to-bring-islam-on-socialist-lines-in-5-years/story-0S2lUSAGtTu9RAWgVv1UrN.html
Sudworth, J. (n.d), China’s ‘tainted’ cotton, BBC, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/extra/nz0g306v8c/china-tainted-cotton
Zenz, A. (July 2021), Sterilizations, IUDs, and Mandatory Birth Control: The CCP’s Campaign to Suppress Uyghur Birthrates in Xinjiang, https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Zenz-Internment-Sterilizations-and-IUDs-UPDATED-July-21-Rev2-2.pdf
© 2021 Daveed Gittens