China: anti-Islam police state —and Muslim protest

A UN human rights committee this week raised the alarm about reports that China is holding up to a million Uighurs in what are being termed "counter-extremism centers" in the western Xinjiang autonomous region. Gay McDougall of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination raised the claims at a two-day meeting on China held at the UN's Geneva headquarters. McDougall termed the centers "political camps for indoctrination,”  and raised the prospect that Beijing has "turned the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp." Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have submitted reports to the UN committee detailing claims of mass detention. The World Uyghur Congress said in its report that detainees are held indefinitely without charge, and forced to shout Communist Party slogans. (BBC News, Reuters)

Beijing issued a sweeping denial of the claims. "There is no such thing as re-education centers," a senior Chinese Communist Party official told the New York Times.

But reports of a totalizing police state in Xinjiang continue to mount, even apart from the claims about the "re-education centers." Beijing has reportedly required the Islamic Association of China, which oversaw the current hajj to Mecca by Chinese Muslims, to see that all pilgrims wear GPS tracking devices at all times, to monitor their whereabouts while outside of the country. The devices also contain cards with personal identifying information to ensure that they can not be exchanged. (Taiwan News)

Yet such methods almost always prove counter-productive, leading to resentment that only further fuels the unrest that Chinese authorities are responding to.

Dramatic evidence of this was reported this week from Ningxia, another province with a large Muslim populaiton (although Hui, or Chinese-speaking Muslim, rather than the Turkic Uighurs). Hundreds of Muslims engaged in a multi-day standoff with police to prevent the newly built Weizhou Grand Mosque from being destroyed by authorities. Officials said it had not received proper building permits. But BBC News points to what may be an underlying political reason for the decision to demolish: "For centuries Hui Muslim mosques were built in a more Chinese style, and it appears that the new structure is viewed by the local government as an example of a growing Arabisation of Chinese Islam." After days of local protest, authorities on Aug. 12 backed down and agreed to postpone the demolition. (SCMP)

Imperial hypocrisy on Xinjiang —again

We have (repeatedly) called out the US for its hypocrisy in lecturing China over its treatment of the Uighurs, and it seems we now must do so again. Earlier this year the State Department threatened sanctions against China over the Uighir issue. (AP, April 18) That same month, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 69, otherwise known as the DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act (DNA Act), which authorizes and requires law enforcement officials to collect DNA samples and fingerprints from all persons who are arrested for and/or convicted of felony offenses. (Jurist, April 3) So the same methods of mass tracking and surveillance already well advanced in Xinjiang are seen in embryo in the United States as well.

UN rights experts urge China to release detain Uighurs

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged (PDF) the Chinese government Aug. 30 to release the Muslim minorities known as Uighurs from involuntary detention. The committee issued a report estimating up to one million Uighurs could be held in detention centers. (Jurist)

Pseudo-left betrays Uighurs (of course)

Well, this is all too predictable. The always annoying Ben Norton and his partner in propaganda Ajit Singh, writing on GrayZone, website of the odious Max Blumenthal, assert: "No, the UN Did Not Report that China has 'Massive Internment Camps' for Uighur Muslims." Says the introdek: "Media outlets from Reuters to The Intercept falsely claimed the UN had condemned China for holding a million Uighurs in camps. The claim is based on unsourced allegations by two independent commission members, US-funded outfits and a shadowy opposition group." Talk about dishonest claims! This is only narrowly correct in the sense that the claims were not "reported" by the UN; Gay McDougall of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was raising alarm about claims reported by others. Did Reuters and Intercept really say the UN "reported" the claims? The Reuters hed reads: "UN says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps." Nothing inaccurate about that. Only The Intercept hed, "One Million Muslim Uighurs Have Been Detained by China, UN Says," is technically not accurate.

The "shadowy" groups in question turn out to be Chinese Human Rights Defenders and the World Uighur Congress. We'd love to know what makes them so "shadowy." The text also disses them, baselessly, as "extreme right-wing." (It is Xi's ethno-supremacist regime that is more deserving of that epithet.)

This piece of pseudo-journalistic detritus also came out before the more formal Aug. 30 report released by the CERD (PDF), which states:

[T]he Committee is alarmed by:

(a) Numerous reports of detention of large numbers of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities held incommunicado and often for long periods, without being charged or tried, under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism. The Committee regrets that there is no official data on how many people are in long-term detention or who have been forced to spend varying periods in political "re-education camps" for even non- threatening expressions of Muslim ethno-religious culture like daily greetings. Estimates about them range from tens of thousands to upwards of a million.

Again, the CERD is technically not "reporting" anything. So way to move the goal post to try to let the Xi regime off the hook for massive human rights abuses, Ben.     

HRW: campaign of repression against Xinjiang's Muslims

The Chinese government has been engaging in a systematic campaign of human rights violations against Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang province, Human Rights Watch charges in a report issued Sept. 10. The report is entitled "Eradicating Ideological Viruses," a phrase attributed to Chinese authorities in Xinjiang.

The report presents evidence "primarily based on interviews with 58 former residents of Xinjiang, including 5 former detainees and 38 relatives of detainees."

According to HRW, "authorities have stepped up mass arbitrary detention, including in pretrial detention centers and prisons, both of which are formal facilities, and in political education camps, which have no basis under Chinese law." Even outside the detention facilities, Turkic Muslims are subjected to "such extraordinary restrictions on personal life that, in many ways, their experiences resemble those of the people detained." The report details constant surveillance, checkpoints, political indoctrination, and other administrative measures that restrict the freedom of Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang.

The Committee to Protect Journalists meanwhile issued a statement protesting the detention of Ilham Weli, an editor at Xinjiang Daily in Urumqi. Three other directors at the newspaper were also detained, all apparently without charge.

Uighur scholars among detained in Xinjiang

At least five ethnic Uighur professors from one of the top universities in Xinjiang are being held in "re-education camps," according to one of their former colleagues and an official with the school who confirmed their detentions.

Qutluq Almas, a former lecturer at Xinjiang University in Urumqi now exiled in the US, recently posted a message on social media saying sources inside the region had confirmed to him that literature professors Abdukerim Rahman, Rahile Dawut, Azat Sultan and Gheyretjan Osman were detained in January, while former language professor Arslan Abdulla was arrested later.

"According to credible information I have received, [Rahman] is currently held in a so-called 're-education camp,'" Almas said of the academic, who is in his 80s. "I don't know what his situation is at the moment." (RFA, Sept. 19)

China 'plots mass dispersal of Uighur Muslims'

The suspension of train ticket sales in the far west of China has fuelled speculation that the government has requisitioned the railways to move large numbers of Muslims detained as part of a huge anti‑terrorism and re‑education scheme to other parts of the country. (London Times)

Uighur intellectuals imprisoned for separatism

Two senior Uighur education officials in Xinjiang and a well-known writer who had disappeared from public view in early 2017 without explanation have turned out to be serving life sentences on separatism charges, Radio Free Asia's Uyghur Service reports.

The three men—former director of the Xinjiang Education Supervision Bureau Satar Sawut, writer and critic Yalqun Rozi, and former Xinjiang University President Tashpolat Teyip—vanished last year amid rumors they had run afoul of China's increasingly hard-line policies in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). (RFA, Oct. 10)

XUAR authorities have meanwhile written the detainment camp system into law, calling them "vocational training centers," aimed at combatting extremism through "thought transformation." Chinese authorities had previously repeatedly denied claims that the camps exist. (CNN, Oct. 11; BBC News, Oct. 10)

China's Xinhua news agency quoted You Quan, head of the Communist Party's United Front Work Department, which oversees ethnic and religious affairs, saying that the "sinicisation" of Xinjiang must continue. "The party’s leadership over religious work must be upheld," You said, adding that "the infiltration of religious extremism must be guarded against." (The Guardian, Oct. 13)

Another Uighur scholar detained

Authorities in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have arrested a prominent Uyghur scholar in a case believed linked to the publication of a book deemed "problematic" following its translation and release five years ago, Uyghur sources say.

Gheyret Abdurahman, the 52-year-old deputy head of the Linguistics Department at the Academy of Social Sciences of Xinjiang, was arrested in March and joins four other Academy members now in police custody, sources told RFA's Uyghur Service.

Gheyret's arrest was linked to his translation of a novel, The Red Sorghum Clan by Chinese Nobel Literature laureate Mo Yan, a source in the region told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity. The translation was published in 2013 by the Kashgar Publishing House, over 600 of whose titles are now considered politically sensitive by Chinese authorities. (RFA)

Update on Weizhou mosque

This month, an NPR reporter drove through Weizhou, which is now guarded by checkpoints on the only road leading in and out of town. The mosque is closed, its main dome and minarets replaced with tiled Buddhist-style pagodas, and its entrances blocked by scaffolding.