By: Suraj Shah June 19, 2023
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is in the midst of committing one of the greatest human rights abuses of the century. Since 2014, China has instituted new “re-education camps” (as described by the CCP) for the Uyghur Muslims, a Turkic-speaking religious minority located in the province of Xinjiang, China. China has implemented programs that force abortion, sterilization, and population control on this vulnerable group of people. It has detained at least one million Uyghurs out of the eleven million that live in Xinjiang. According to intelligence gained by the State department, the Uyghurs participate in forced labor. The government has shut down their mosques and bans youth from participating in religious and spiritual practices. The detention camps encourage people to learn Chinese propaganda and praise President Xi Jinping. Chinese officials even use torture to deal with those who do not comply with orders, with techniques including waterboarding, sexual abuse, and rape.
Why are they doing this? To put it simply, the Chinese government wants all people to be immersed in communist ideology. By their own admission in the mission statement, “The communist and socialist ideals expounded in Marxism tally with Chinese cultural values such as a people-centered orientation, harmony, and unity in diversity.” Of course, this harmony is not being experienced by nearly 1 million Uyghurs.
The CCP believes that the practice of religion may promote disunity under the distinctly atheist regime. As the Department of State finds, CCP members and members of the armed forces are required to be atheists and are forbidden from engaging in religious practices.
Mihrigul Tursun, a Uyghur who was detained in the camps, illustrates the violence perpetuated. She testified in the Uyghur Tribunal: “Before we ate our breakfast, [...] we had to sing songs hailing the Chinese Communist Party and repeat these lines in Chinese: ‘Long live Xi Jinping,’ and ‘Leniency for those who repent and punishment for those who resist.’ We had seven days to memorize the rules of the camp and fourteen days to memorize all the lines in a book on Communist ideology. [...] I was taken to a special room with an electric chair [...] There were belts and whips hanging on the wall. I was placed in the chair, with my arms and legs locked in place and tightened by the pressing of a button. [...] Each time I was electrocuted, my whole body would shake violently, and I could feel the pain in my veins. I thought I would rather die than go through any more of this and I begged them to kill me.”
The sheer violation of human rights has been called out by many human rights organizations, including the UN Human Rights Office, which denounced the camps as crimes against humanity. However, many Western corporations still bend the knee to China due to economic dependence and fear of retaliation by one of the world’s largest superpowers, evident when Disney remade the immensely-popular Mulan to make it live-action and streamed it on Disney+. To the dismay of many viewers, the company filmed the movie in Xinjiang and thanked the eight government bodies of the province.
Though Beijing has claimed it closed the camps in 2019, reports from American media and researchers tell a different story. Satellite images and leaked documents show that the suspicion of genocide is correct.
Fortunately, the West has denounced the actions of the Chinese government not only through words but also through policy. For example, the United States passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which virtually prohibits imports from the region. Additionally, many politicians in the United Kingdom have advocated for laws that fine companies who do not check whether their goods were made with forced labor at any point in the manufacturing, producing, and shipping process.
The overall conflict that appears is broader than the genocide. It is a battle of ideological and moral values. One can contrast the values of democracy and a representative government with a regime of a communist government. This clash of ideas will last for generations to come. The United States, as a major global influence, has a unique role to play. The steps the United States takes, as a leader of the free world, along with other countries will greatly impact the future of human rights and the boundaries we should or should not cross.