The topic that I chose to write about for my reflected annotated bibliography is the current tragedy occurring in the region of Xinjiang, China. Millions of Uighurs and muslim minorities have been taken and held in these “re-education” camps. The Uighurs are a turkic muslim group that live in the northwestern territory of Xinjiang, China. The language they speak is an Asian Turkic language similar to Uzbek and most of the people practice Sunni Islam. Uighurs are considered to be one of China’s officially recognized ethnic minorities. They have a significant political importance to China due to the fact it’s been an independent region in the 1940s up until 1949 when China took Xinjiang under their control, ever since then there have been many clashes and incidents of terrorism in Xinjiang, and in other parts of China which was either attributed to or claimed by Uighur extremists. The government in China has blamed the protests on violent separatists groups which is a tactic they would use against Uighurs and other religious/ethic groups across the nation. Since 2017 at least 1 million Uighurs have been interned and since then the number of detainees have grown massively. The Chinese government has claimed that these camps are benign vocational centres teaching useful career skills, but a former camp detainee has described these camps as de facto prisons in which mass brainwashing and obedience to the communist party have been implemented. At first the Chinese government tried to deny that these camps even existed, but they have stopped pretending and now are trying to cast them as “lawful and innocuous”. There have been many leaked documents clearly exposing these detention camps and all the inhumane and unjust actions implemented towards the Uighurs such as torture, forced sterilization of women as a method to reduce reproduction, and forced medication. This is ultimately a mass genocide that needs more attention. I would like to find out how this situation can be brought to justice and how we as Americans can help stop this massacre.
Jack, Victor, and Victor Jack. “I Am an Uighur Who Faced China’s Concentration Camps. This Is My Story.” Varsity Online, Victor Jack, 13 Dec. 2020, www.varsity.co.uk/interviews/19990.
In this article Victor Jack has a discussion with Omir Bekali, an Uighur Muslim who survived his imprisonment, torture, and indoctrination at the hands of the Chinese state. Omi was detained for almost eight months in 2017. In early 2017, life seemed to be going well for Omir, 41 years old, father of three, had a tourism degree, and a small business. He had plans to lead the Kazakh delegation to the upcoming international Astana Trade Exposition. In March of 2017, he took a trip to Xinjiang which seemed totally innocuous, to promote the event. During a post work visit to his family in Turpan, on the morning of March 26th, policemen showed up at his door to arrest him. This was just the beginning to his 8 month journey of “unending physical and psychological torment”. “They shackled my hands and put black fabric [over] my eyes,” Ӧmir says. “I feel my body tremble whenever I remember that moment”. Omir’s parents were Uighur and Kazakh and he was born in Xinjiang. This region has been home to Uighur muslims for centuries, and they make up just under half the population. In 2014, when the Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a “People’s War on Terror” a whole new era of mass surveillance, gargantuan police presence, and arbitrary imprisonment arose. This war on terror was aimed at fighting regional terrorists and separatists. Shortly after his arrest, Omir was thrown into a small police station cell, where he was held for a week, with no explanation. The room seemed to be built for 12 people but had 36 others, everyone including him had their arms and legs shackled. He was then transferred into another police station where authorities tortured him for four complete days. Soon after, Omir was moved to a nearby highly fortified prison camp where he spent seven months locked up with no access to lawyers or phones to contact anyone, still no real reason as to why he was arrested. Then lastly, he was moved to the final destination, the “re-education camps”. Four metre walls with electrical fences surrounding the complex and armed guards patrolling all day and night. The inmates were forced to repeatedly sing songs which praise the communist party, stress China’s greatness, and show gratitude to the president. If the inmates show any sign of discontent, the guards respond with torture. Omir often showed discontent with his arrest and therefore was punished for it, he was beaten half to death, had to stand facing a wall for twenty four hours with no food or water, or placed in solitary confinement. After twenty days Omir was released, his wife had sent countless letters to the UN and Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan.
This article had many details which were very graphic and real. Pictures of Omir’s scars were included that showed the results from his torture. That picture was captioned “Omir shows the scars on his knuckles, which were beaten by hammer-like instruments”. “I did not confess anything because I hadn’t done anything,” he says. “Maybe they thought after torture I would just confess something I [had] never done before”. This system is totally unjust and completely inhumane. To get a bit more detailed and graphic he adds “They put needles in between my nails and my fingers,” he adds, “then they put iron sticks into my sexual organs”. The police also hung him from the roof of the cell by his wrists and later smashed his knuckles with hammers.Omir thought that his regional travel might’ve been what caused suspicion upon him. Prisoners as young as 15 and as old as 80 were cramped into cells, no one was allowed outside. Not only that but iron chains were tied around the prisoners necks to keep them in a hunched down posture, a submissive posture. Another picture was included in this article, it is a side by side comparison of Omir one day before his arrest and him ten days after his release, and truly it is heartbreaking to see, on the first picture he looks well and healthy, he also had facial hair, on the right he looked like a totally different person, it’s clear he’d lost a ton of weight and also looks very aged. The prisoners were constantly warned about 48 characteristics considered hostile to the Chinese state, which include growing beards, praying, and religious charity giving. Omir stresses that he hopes students can organise more protests and raise more awareness. It is clear and evident that these are not vocational training camps, these are torture camps designed to exterminate this ethnic group.
Kuo, Lily. “Why More than a Million Uighurs Are Being Held in Camps in China.” YouTube, Guardian News, 24 July 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKpyaDZkNfU.
The Guardian News presents a video on youtube in which Lily Kuo, the guardian’s Beijing bureau chief discusses what’s been going on in Xinjiang, China. She says how there have been many people who have had their relatives disappear into camps and we don’t really know what’s happening to them. She includes a clip from the Andrew Marr show where he interviews China’s ambassador about this matter. In that clip, Andrew Marr shows a videotape of Uighurs and he asks “Can I ask why people are kneeling blindfolded and shaven and being led to trains in modern China?” The ambassador then replies with “I do not where you got this video tape.” Xinjiang is both politically and economically important to China, they have many natural resources and they’ve been taken under their control. These people have been targeted because they’re all seen as potential terrorists or separatists. BBC has satellite data that shows a whole area with suspected camps. To be in Xinjiang means to be checked everyday and to be in those camps means to be tortured in one way or another.
After watching this video, I had a few questions in mind. Firstly, why the ambassador was denying what was going on when the video was clearly being shown of the detainees. I do believe that the choice of genre does indeed affect the meaning and credibility. With this video format, videos and interviews are shown to further support the author’s topic. For example, surveillance videos were shown, armed guards were shown, military tanks, and footage of security checkpoints. The civilians are checked multiple times a day when they’re going to the market, driving a car, or when they are taking a train, even smartphones are checked. I believe this just violates the right to privacy. Everytime a camera was brought out to film some authority figure would always come and block it or yell “you can’t film ”. Videos of people dancing and playing sports are shown to show what apparently is going in the camps, which is obviously not what is happening. “All I could think of was surviving each day without being killed” says a mother who has survived the camp. Although this may not be a one go genocide it is a slow process one, with IUDs and sterlizations being forced into women, as well as inter-marriage being encouraged, all efforts to reduce this ethnic group.
Oliver, John. “China & Uighurs: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO).” YouTube, YouTube, 26 July 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=17oCQakzIl8.
In this video, the host John Oliver discusses his opinions and thoughts on this matter in the show last week tonight on HBO. An ethnic group in Xinjiang, China called the Uighurs have been systematically surveilled and imprisoned in an attempt to wipe the culture off the map. Not only Uighurs have been held but also Kazakhs and other minority groups. Witness accounts, satellites, and communists party revealed what “seems to be the largest imprisonment of people on the basis of religion since the holocaust.” The Uighurs were being shipped (sometimes not willingly) to work in factories to manufacture products that are being shipped to the United States, products such as masks. Another reason the Uighurs have been widely discriminated against is because they are ethnically distinct from the rest of China’s population which is more than 90% Han chinese. The Han people have held bigoted views about the Uighurs, “ The people from Xinjiang are not very good. Robbers, and thieves.” (said by woman in the interview from 2008 shown in the video) “That is totally not an acceptable way to describe an ethnic group”(John Oliver). All of this was exacerbated by the Chinese government, they encouraged Han people to migrate to Xinjiang with them being favored over Uighurs for top jobs. In 2009, all of this finally boiled over with riots in the capital that killed 200 people, mostly Han chinese. Instead of underlying the complex factors behind the riots, the chinese government painted them as religious terrorism. When China’s president, Xi Jinping came to power, he instituted the Strike Hard Campaign against violent terrorism in 2014. “And think of it as the patriot act on steroids because all of a sudden Uighurs started being treated like they were all potential terrorists” (John Oliver). Xinjiang is one of the most heavily policed areas in the world, the government puts cameras over every house entrance to see who enters and leaves. “…more than 24,000 people were deemed ‘suspicious’ and over 25,000 of them were sent to re-education camps”. There have been many reports of forced abortions and sterilizations of Uighur women, China argues this is all about economic opportunity and an attempt to assimilate a historically ostracized minority. “Assimilation when forced is cultural erasure” (John Oliver). The United States has taken small steps with addressing this issue, the House passed Uighur Human Rights Bill, prodding Trump to Punish China. Although Trump signed he also told Xi Xinping to proceed with building the camps, which Trump thought that was the right thing to do.
The author for this video, John Oliver had a unique way of addressing this matter, regardless it was an attention capturing technique. He started off the video with a viral video from an app called tik tok, where a girl started off doing her makeup then quickly changed the topic to address the issue about the Uighurs. It seems to be that the audience Oliver is trying to reach are the younger generation such as teens. When Oliver stated “ Seems to be the largest imprisonment of people on the basis of religion since the holocaust”, it was an eye opener because this just goes to show how severe this situation is. It was mentioned in the video that a few years ago a Chinese reality show went to Dubai and state TV centered all depictions of the women wearing the headscarf in the most bizarre ways, making a mockery of them by covering their scarf with animated helmets or spiky yellow hair, a lady in the clip of the show shown was entirely covered in an animated cactus.
In 2009 when the riots in the capital of Xinjiang occurred, I connected this to the black lives matter movement, when protests, rioting, and looting took place it was a controversial topic. It was controversial due to the fact that some people said the looting wasn’t necessary because small businesses were being harmed, others justified this by saying after all this time of staying quiet people finally fought back so nothing should be argued against. When Oliver spoke about the Xinjiang government placing surveillance cameras over every entrance it made me wonder how the people might be feeling, possibly feeling like they have no freedom whatsoever and always watching their move, and forcing themselves to be self aware of every action they partake in. From a CBSN interview shown in the video, this man says “some people, before they commit murder, already show they are capable of it. Should we wait for them to commit a crime, or prevent it from happening..” They were thrown in camps despite having committed no crimes.
The Uighurs were held extra judicially for the most innocuous things such as growing a beard, fasting, or applying for a passport. Oliver talks about the leaked documents exposing certain conditions in the camps “students may not contact the outside world apart from during the prescribed activities…strictly manage and control student activities to prevent escapes.” From a BBC interview a former internee woman describes her experience when using the bathroom “They tell you quick, quick, quick, if you’re not quick enough they shock you with an electron baton on the back of your head it really really hurts. And they did it alot.” even after all that they had to thank the teacher and apologize, which I find to be totally uncalled for and unnecessary. They have made Uighurs travel 100s and 1000s of miles from home to participate in forced labor, and the chinese media argues that this is positive because it is“distancing them from religiously extreme views and educating them”. The Uighur people have been working in factories that supply Nike and Volkswagen, the CEO of volkswagen has said in an interview that he hadn’t heard anything about the forced labor going on in the factories supplying his company, which I think is hard to believe and insane since China is the supplier for many products across all maps. The entire global community should be doing more, the U.N should have private investigators, governments around the world should be speaking about this without bending to China’s economic influence, and big multinational companies should be using their leverage to end the abuse from China’s government.
Ramzy, Austin, and Chris Buckley. “’Absolutely No Mercy’: Leaked Files Expose How China Organized Mass Detentions of Muslims.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Nov. 2019, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/16/world/asia/china-xinjiang-documents.html.
In this New York times post, more than 400 pages of internal Chinese documents provide an inside look at the crackdown on ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. In Hong Kong, a group of students came home at the end of their semester to finally reunite with their families, just to find their parents, neighbors, and relatives missing. All of them were locked up in the detention camps. Local officials were sent to corner returning students to try and keep them quiet. In one of the leaked documents it had stated “They’re in training school set up by the government.” This was the answer officials were to tell students if they asked about them. The officials would also say that their relatives are not criminals but they also can’t leave the school. The documents included questions and answers, in one of the sections, a threat was included stating students were to be told that their behavior could either shorten or extend the detention of their relatives. The communist party has rejected international criticism of the camps and described them as “job-training centers” that use mild methods to fight islamic extremism. The drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan and other terrorist attacks abroad heightened the leadership’s fears and aided in creating the crackdown. When the crackdown plan began, there were many doubts and resistance from local officials who feared “it would exacerbate ethnic tensions and stifle economic growth.” Chen Quanguo, a zealous new party boss for the region responded by purging officials suspected of getting in his way. For example, he jailed a county leader after finding out released thousands of inmates from the camps. The documents include 96 pages of internal speeches by Mr.Xi, 102 pages of internal speeches by other officials, 161 pages of directives and reports on the surveillance and control of the Uighur population in Xinjiang, and 44 pages of material from internal investigations into local officials. These papers were brought to attention by a member of the Chinese political establishment in hope that their disclosure would prevent party leaders, such as Mr.Xi from “escaping culpability for the mass detentions. The government sends Xinjiang’s brightest Uighur students to universities across China, with the goal of training a new generation of Uighur civil servants and teachers loyal to the party. Many of the Uighurs had questions such as when will my relatives be released? If this is for training why can’t they come home? Can they request a leave? The guide responded with firm answers telling students that their relatives have been infected by the virus of Islamic radicalism and must be quarantined and cured. Mr.Xi claimed that violence was spilling from Xinjiang into other parts of China and could taint the communist’s party image of strength, unless the threat was extinguished.
The authors of this article went into detail with explaining what the leaked documents were translated to and also included images to explain certain details. My first reaction to this article was that it was pretty lengthy but later realized all the details were vital in order to understand the harshness of the reality of the situation. “The document warned that there was a ‘serious possibility’ students might sink into ‘turmoil’ after learning what had happened to their relatives. It recommended that police officers in plain clothes and experienced local officials meet them as soon as they returned to show humane concern and stress the rules” My initial reaction to this was that all empathy shown was purely fake and just a way to manipulate the people into remaining quiet and calm about the news. A picture was included in the article captioned “A restaurant in the old city of Yarkand in August. Above patrons a propaganda poster is quoting Xi Jinping: Every ethnic group must tightly bind together like the seeds of a pomegranate.” This is just forced assimilation and the image looks eerie. The question and answer guide in the document starts off by stating that there is no need to worry but that seems impossible due to the fact that all their relatives and neighbors have disappeared without a notice.
In one of the documents it states “Tuition for their period of study is free and so are food and living costs, and the standards are quite high..even better than the living standards back at home” This seems as if they are glorifying the conditions of the camp to help the people feel at ease but if it were me reading that I’d be frustrated trying to understand why exactly my family have been taken away and how soon they can come back. “If they don’t undergo study and training, they’ll never thoroughly and fully understand the dangers of religious extremism,” one answer said, citing the civil war in Syria and the rise of the Islamic State. “No matter what age, anyone who has been infected by religious extremism must undergo study.” Even the elderly that showed no signs of being a threat were taken and surveillanced. I don’t believe that can be truly justified for being a positive thing. “The authorities appear to be using a scoring system to determine who can be released from the camps: The document instructed officials to tell the students that their behavior could hurt their relatives’ scores, and to assess the daily behavior of the students and record their attendance at training sessions, meetings and other activities.” Officials were told to say family members including you must abide by the state rules and laws and not believe in or spread rumors, and only then they can add points for their relatives, they can only leave if they’ve met the course completion standards. The scoring system slightly reminded me of the holocaust in which numbers were used to identify the people instead of their names which is immensely dehumanizing. “… A 10-page directive in June 2017 signed by Zhu Hailun, then Xinjiang’s top security official, called recent terrorist attacks in Britain “a warning and a lesson for us.” It blamed the British government’s “excessive emphasis on ‘human rights above security’…” This is clear evidence that just goes to show that human rights are put beneath other things as if it isn’t a natural right every human should have.
The sources I have identified were two videos and two articles, both containing detailed explanations about the internment camps and the horrifying tortures going in them. My understanding on this topic has definitely expanded by a ton, I was able to read/hear about people’s personal experiences from the camp. I was also able to learn about the history of the Uighur people and the land that they live on. As well as why exactly they were being targeted. There were many connections I made through my research of this topic, such as the holocaust and the black lives matter protests. Islamophobia has been deeply rooted into some people ever since the 9/11 attacks, but targeting innocent people and trying to force an extinction of a certain group is severely unjust and most definitely genocide. This knowledge is vital because many people need to be aware of all the human rights crisis going on in the entire world, although it is not affecting us directly, in some way it still is, and raising awareness is a step closer to being able to help the people suffering. I believe that anyone who has social media or even a phone should know about this, the reason why is because social media is a great platform to spread awareness about issues like this, the more attention it has, bigger platforms see it and spread it from there, then higher authorities can address it and help.