Picture Credit: “Uyghur man at market” by Photography_1O1 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

You could be forgiven for being unaware of China’s Uyghurs as their plight is not well known. The Economist, 17th-23rd October 2020, pages 13/14, ran an article titled: ‘Torment of the Uyghurs’. It makes interesting reading. The full article is here.

The Uyghurs, alternately spelled Uighurs, Uygurs or Uigurs, are a Turkic-speaking minority ethnic group originating from and culturally affiliated with the general region of Central and East Asia. The Uyghurs are recognized as native to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China. They are considered to be one of China’s 55 officially recognised ethnic minorities. The Uyghurs are recognized by the Chinese government only as a regional minority within a multicultural nation. The Chinese government rejects the notion of the Uyghurs being an indigenous group.

Here’s what the Economist had to say at the beginning of their article:

The persecution of the Uyghurs is a crime against humanity. It is also the gravest example of a worldwide attack on human rights. The first stories from Xinjiang were hard to believe. Surely the Chinese government was not running a gulag for Muslims? Surely Uyghurs were not being branded “extremists” and locked up simply for praying in public or growing long beards? Yet, the evidence of a campaign against the Uyghurs at home and abroad becomes more shocking with each scouring of the satellite evidence, each leak of official documents and each survivor’s pitiful account.

In 2018 the government pivoted from denying the camps’ existence to calling them “vocational education and training centres”—a kindly effort to help backward people gain marketable skills. The world should instead heed Uyghur victims of China’s coercive indoctrination. Month after month, inmates say, they are drilled to renounce extremism and put their faith in “Xi Jinping Thought” rather than the Koran. One told us that guards ask prisoners if there is a God and beat those who say there is. And the camps are only part of a vast system of social control.

Martin Pollins
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