Human Rights Violations In Xinjiang, China

Executive Summary

Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China is undergoing some problems. These issues’ origins can be associated with some of CCP’s policies, such as the strike hard campaign that intensified after September 2001, Xinjiang’s geopolitical location, and the rich energy resources it possesses. Today, Uyghur people confront obstacles such as re-education camps, lack of equal education and working rights, family separation, discredit on social media, spreading disinformation on the policies toward them, declining birth rate, and violations against women. At the end of the paper, I will recommend some solutions to prevent the obstacles mentioned.

Purpose

This paper aims to understand human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China. XUAR (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) is located in the North-west of China and has borders to Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Uyghur Turks participated in Islam in 1300 and became an autonomous republic both in 1933 and 1944. Since 1990, people in XUAR have been increasingly undergoing such human rights violations by experiencing a form of genocide, restrictions on freedom of worship and education, rape, and more. These problems have their origins in ethnicity, religion, and some related policies of CCP (Chinese Communist Party). China’s policies that impact Uyghurs are the strike hard campaign, Belt and Road Initiative and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

A strike hard campaign

At the beginning of 1996, the CCP declared a strike-hard campaign to deal with separatism, extremism, and terrorism. Although China also declared a multinational state after the meeting of the SCO, after September 11, 2001, tolerance for minorities declined, and human rights violations started to be covered in the name of ‘’Islamic terrorism’’. (Davis, Uyghur Muslim Ethnic Seperatism in Xinjiang, China, 2008)

Moreover, Sino-American relations had a significant impact on China’s attitude towards its minorities. Under the administration of George W. Bush, the USA moderated its attitude toward China, and Barack Obama sustained this positivity during his administration. Two sides have been had pragmatic cooperation. What makes them considerable regarding the Xinjiang issue is stability in Asia-Pacific and fostering global peace and prosperity to deal with terrorism. (Sutter, 2018)

That is, certain behaviors cannot be attributed exclusively to certain groups, as this would cause contribute to prejudices against them. For example, black people are not troublemakers, women do not lack of capability to be educated or in business life, and Muslim people are not terrorists. In 2004, at SCO, President Hu Jianto emphasized China’s fight against the three evils [1] in his speech, and he also mentioned that terrorism is not automatically related to specific ethnic groups and religions, which did not to be said for XUAR’s sake but fear that Xinjiang separatism will gain support from transnational Muslim extremists. (Davis, Uyghur Muslim Ethnic Seperatism in Xinjiang, China, 2008) After all of these, the issue presented to the world became whether China or XUAR is under violence, and Uyghur people became the subject to leeriness suspicion, unemployment, theft, and troublemakers from the standpoint of Chinese society.

Energy

Xinjiang has abundant resources such as gas and oil that enable China to be independent of outside energy. Moreover, Xinjiang is a gate that connects China to Central Asia, where is the road of Belt and Road Initiative and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. (Chai, 2018) Current president Xi Jinping’s neo-nationalist approach shaped Belt and Road Initiative and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road projects which includes 60 countries, worth 7 billion dollars, and expected to enhance China’s global trade potential and its connection to the rest of the world. In addition to restricting Western influence in Asia, Xi particularly desires to limit the influence of the United States. (Chai, The evolution of China’s political ideology, 2018)

Critical Analysis

Uyghur Turks have to deal with aspects of being Uyghur in China each day, and there is no escape for them. From “minor” right violations to the executions, they experience coercive China in every sphere of life. For instance, on June 26, 2009, more than 600 Uyghurs were beaten in Hurui Factory, and 20 of them died; in Yarkent, Chinese school president raped Uyghur female students. In addition, media did not cover this incident. Besides, mosques in Xinjiang were closed to the entrance, and people who attempted to go to a mosque got flagged. Muslim Uyghurs who want to fast (Islamic worship) were forced to drink water in their workplaces to ensure their worship’s abandonment. (Yuvarlak Masa Toplantısı: Doğu Türkistan ve Uygur Türkleri: Dünü, Bugünü ve Yarını, 2009) There are several examples we know which are less than we do not know. I will focus on three contemporary affairs that authorities should consider to seek solutions.

First of all, Uyghur Turks are not permitted to leave their country. Any attempt about this ends in re-education/internment camps where the Chinese government denies its existence and people’s connection to their families is entirely corrupted. Since there is restricted access to the region, it is hard to reach publicly available data about these camps -their existence is already ignored. Nevertheless, thanks to The Xinjiang Data Project by ASPI (Australian Strategy Policy Institue), I could access detention facilities in the Xinjiang region. (The Xinjiang Data Project , 2021) Re-education camps had their roots in 1950 when the government constituted reform through labor and re-education through labor. As an extension of these establishments, in 2000, the CCP initiated transformation through education that aimed to provide classes for Falun Gong followers and drug addict rehabilitation, then has transformed into de-extremification campaigns towards Uyghur Turks, which increased in 2014. (Zenz, 2018)

Furthermore, several individual experiences describe the challenges and suppressions in re-education camps. For instance, people who attempt to study or work abroad are under the family separation threat by being jailed in re-education camps. If you were Uyghur Turk who wants to study or work abroad -there are no facilities for them neither in China nor in Xinjiang- the Chinese government would threaten you with your relatives if you do not come to Xinjiang. However, if you decide to come back to Xinjiang for your relatives’ sake, re-education camps will be where you find yourself. Besides, when people are taken to these camps, their families are not informed, so the facility they are taken to is unknown. When family members try to communicate, they use words such as school to study for re-education camps, five years old for five years, and hospital for an internment camp. Another problem that Uyghurs face is that when they are abroad and ask help from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they do not get a response. Uyghur people generally choose Turkey to study or work, and some so many people get neither answer nor help from Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Amnesty International, 2021)

Secondly, the Chinese government has a significant effort on social media to abuse human rights violations. It diminishes access to data on the Xinjiang region and promotes its policies in Western societies. CCP has two approaches while doing this: amplification and disinformation. It has been observed that since early 2020, CCP’s use of US-based social media platforms has increased to criticize and smear Uyghur victims.

(Albert Zhang, Strange bedfellows on Xinjiang The CCP, fringe media and US social media platforms) Monthly mentions of Xinjiang by Chinese diplomatic and state media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, 2014 to 2020

Moreover, the government and some suspicious accounts consciously refute Uyghur suppression, promote Chinese policies, and discredit Uyghur people. To illustrate, The Xinjiang Audio-Video Publishing House has funded a marketing company to create videos depicting Uyghurs as supportive of the policies. There is also a fringe media outlet named The Grayzone, of which the top 12 stories of 2020 include accusations on Xinjiang people. What makes The Grayzone worth examining is that China’s Foreign Ministry spokespersons and World Health Organization Communications Director Gabby Stern retweeted its tweets so many times. Another social media account that The Xinjiang Audio-Video Publishing House has funded his Youtube channel called ‘昶宇文化 Changyu Culture.’ These Youtube channels and Twitter accounts vary, and it is clear that they are created only to discredit Uyghurs and promote Chinese policies. (Albert Zhang, 2021)

(Albert Zhang, Strange bedfellows on Xinjiang The CCP, fringe media and US social media platforms)

Finally, CCP administers coercive birth control, and there is a possibility of genocide. Han Chinese were migrated to Xinjiang to provide Chinese dominance in the region, and the one-child policy was flexible for them. Between 1950 and 1990, the number of Hans in Xinjiang enhanced from 10 percent to 40 percent. (Başkent Üniversitesi Stratejik Araştırmalar Merkezi , 2009) In April 2017, CCP released a strike hard campaign against illegal births, so in the Xinjiang region, birth-rate declined by 48.7 percent between 2017 and 2019, which is slightly higher than in Japan where this circumstance identified as a national crisis. When it comes to “birth control” in Xinjiang, China sees red and does not mercy Uyghur women. CCP engages in violence after early detecting pregnant women in Xinjiang and causes disposal of them. (Nathan Ruser, 2021)

(Leibold, 2021)

Conclusion

Since 1990, people in XUAR have been increasingly undergoing human rights violations. CCP’s policies determine the fate of the region. Strike hard campaign is one of these policies, which was initiated to deal with three evils and has more impact on XUAR after September 11, 2001. Also, Sino-American cooperation and their decision to foster global peace and prosperity to deal with terrorism legitimated China’s suppression. There are radical Islamic groups in the region, and their terrorism is attributed to Uyghur citizens. Moreover, China’s projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and its dependence on abroad in terms of energy made Xinjiang a target region since it has rich resources such as gas, oil, and connection to Central Asia. In the contemporary world, Uyghur people still have obstacles, and I focused on three of them. Firstly, Uyghur Turks do not have many facilities to work or study, so they want to go abroad. However, this is forbidden, and when they turn back, CCP takes them to the re-education camps where they are separated from their families. Secondly, the Chinese government’s use of US-based social media platforms has been increasing, and they promote Uyghur suppression by amplification and disinformation. Also, the Chinese government’s units and specific world organizations discredit Uyghur people by re-tweeting funded anti-Uyghur posts. Finally, in Xinjiang, the birth rate of Uyghur people desperately declines, and pregnant women are under the violence of the Chinese government to have a miscarriage.

Recommendations

On re-education camps

In my opinion, one of the main reasons why people of Xinjiang want to go abroad to study or work is that they do not have such a chance in their mainland. They are already labeled as troublemakers or terrorists, so they cannot find a place in society for themselves.

· Uyghur people should obtain an equal chance to study and work in Xinjiang.

· Uyghur people should be allowed to leave their country without the prospect of re-education camps. CCP should close all detention facilities. Re-education camps’ existence does not have justification, and it is clear that they do not make a coincidence with humanity.

· Foreign Ministry Officers in other countries should pay attention to asking for help and have an apparent attitude toward human rights violations in China.

On CCP’s social media use

Suspicious social media accounts that include hate speech, discrimination, and human rights violations are blocked by social media platforms. However, some of them still promote China’s policy towards XAUR and have clear support from government units and some world organizations.

· Authorities should stop creating a perception of the Xinjiang region with disinformation.

· Social media platforms should have more elaborated detection systems for hate speech, misinformation, and discrimination. Also, even authorities’ posts should be blocked if necessary.

· CCP not only discredits Uyghur people but also diminishes to access data of the region, so the government of China should make data on Xinjiang available. If there are no violations and everything is perfect, just as they share on social media, it should not be a problem to share the data about the region.

On family planning

· CCP should immediately regulate birth-rate in Xinjiang, and the region should become distant from the threshold of genocide

· If there is a child policy in China, the Chinese government should apply this policy equally in a specific region.

· Women in Xinjiang’s prospect of being violated due to their pregnancy should stop. It is not acceptable to have a miscarriage because of ‘birth control’ violations.

· Some world organizations, such as UNHCR, should examine the declining birth rate in the region and violence against women and be mobilized as soon as possible.

References

Albert Zhang, D. J. (2021). Strange bedfellows on Xinjiang: The CCP, fringe media and US social media platforms. Australian Strategic Policy Institute International Cyber Policy Centre .

Amnesty International. (2021). Hearts and Lives Broken: The Nightmare of Uyghur Families Seperated by Repression . London: Amnesty International.

Başkent Üniversitesi Stratejik Araştırmalar Merkezi . (2009). Doğu Türkistan ve Uygur Türkleri: Dünü, Bugünü ve Yarını. Ankara: Başkent Üniversitesi Stratejik Araştırmalar Merkezi .

Chai, W. C.-l. (2018). The Evolution of China’s Political Ideology From Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping . In T.-K. C. Chang, Routledge Handbook of Asia in World Politics (p. 30). New York: Routledge .

Davis, E. V. (2008 ). Uyghur Muslim Ethnic Seperatism in Xinjiang, China. Asian Affairs: An American Review, 16–18.

Davis, E. V. (2008). Uyghur Muslim Ethnic Seperatism in Xinjiang, China. Asian Affairs: An American Review, 16–18.

Monthly mentions of Xinjiang by Chinese diplomatic and state media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, 2014 to 2020. (2021, March). Strange Bedfellows: The CCP, fringe media and US social media platforms. ASPI International Cyber Pol.

Nathan Ruser, J. L. (2021). Family de-planning: The coercive campaign to drive down indigenous birth-rates in Xinjiang . ASOI International Cyber Poicy Center.

Sutter, R. (2018). America’s Response To Xi Jinping’s Challenges In Asia . In T.-K. C. Chang, Routledge Handbook of Asia in World Politics (p. 180). New York: Routledge.

The Xinjiang Data Project . (2021). Retrieved from https://xjdp.aspi.org.au/#

(2009). Yuvarlak Masa Toplantısı: Doğu Türkistan ve Uygur Türkleri: Dünü, Bugünü ve Yarını. Ankara : Başkent Üniversitesi Stratejik Araştırmalar Merkezi.

Zenz, A. (2018). Throughly Reforming Them Towards a Healthy Heart Attitude: China’s Political Re-Education Campaign in Xinjiang . Central Asian Survey, 8.

[1] separatism, extremism, and terrorism

[2] Monthly mentions of Xinjiang by Chinese diplomatic and state media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, 2014 to 2020

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Elif Feyza Dinç

Elif Feyza Dinç

I am a sociology and political sciences & international relations student at Boğaziçi University. I publish the papers I write during my graduate period.