The Uighurs, a Muslim Turkic ethnic group of approximately 11 million people, have a complex history in China. They are primarily concentrated in Xinjiang, a place that has been involved with separatist movements, rioting, protests, and police crackdowns. China blames ETIM for the unrest caused in Xinjiang.
According to the UN Security Council, “The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is an organisation which has used violence to further its aim of setting up an independent so-called ‘East Turkistan’ within China. Since its establishment, ETIM has maintained close ties with the Taliban, Al-Qaida and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.”
Previously, Uighurs successfully had their autonomous state 𑁋 the Islamic Republic of East Turkistan (IRET) for a brief moment in history. It was founded in 1933, but it dissolved after a year.
In 2014, Uighurs working as civil servants were banned from fasting in Ramadan by the Chinese authorities. Over the years, testimonials have been published by former inhabitants of the region and researchers claiming that the Chinese government is violent against this ethnic minority.
Does China ethnically cleanse Uighurs?
Adrian Zenz, a German anthropologist, reported that two of the largest Uighur prefectures witnessed an 84% decline in this ethnic minority’s growth rate between 2015-18.
On 3rd September, ITV interviewed a female doctor who revealed that she had performed forceful birth contractive operations on Uighur women. “Young women were fitted with contraceptive devices; pregnant women would have to have an abortion, then sterilisation. We even inserted birth control implants into women’s upper arms to prevent pregnancy,” said the doctor.
Amnesty International and Meiji University co-hosted an event where Mehrigul Tursun, a Uighur woman in exile, spoke about her ill-treatment in the Uighur detention camp, recalling how she was tortured. She confessed that she had witnessed the deaths of nine detained women. After her exile, doctors from the USA discovered that she had been sterilised 𑁋 a result of having been given unknown medications and injections in the centre.
China has consistently denied mistreating the Uighurs
CCP claims that the centres are actually ‘re-educational and training’ centres for religious extremists; it says that the centre provides vocational courses and a chance to reflect on the detainee’s wrongdoings so that terrorism in the region is effectively combated.
How has the World responded?
The Western World has been increasingly vocal about the alleged mistreatment of Uighurs. In June, President Trump signed legislation that called for sanctions against China because of its unjust treatment towards them.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry retaliated by releasing a statement saying, “We again urge the U.S. side to immediately correct its mistakes and stop using this Xinjiang-related law to harm China’s interests and interfere in China’s internal affairs.”
130 British lawmakers have signed a letter to the Chinese ambassador condemning China for ethnically cleansing china.
Although there isn’t a global consensus. In 2019, several countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia came out supporting China at the UN. There are speculations that some strategically placed Muslim countries also have an allegiance with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after signing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an ambitious infrastructural project to boost economic growth across Asia. This alleged alliance along with their economical ties makes them unlikely to dissent against China.