China’s Horrific Crimes Against Uyghurs

The Chinese government has recently been accused of committing genocide against the Uyghur (pronounced wee-gur) population in China. The Uyghur people are a mainly Musilm ethic group who reside in the Xinjiang region of China.

Human rights organizations from around the world estimate that China has forcibly detained over one million Uyghur people against their will. These people were then either sent to re-education camps, sent to prison, or sentenced to death. A group of documents stolen from the Chinese by BBC have revealed the use of these re-education camps as well as Chinese officers’ “shoot-to-kill” policy if someone tries to escape from a re-education camp.

China completely denies the myriad allegations regarding human rights violations against the Uyghur people. The government has even gone so far as to say that what they are doing has brought “peace and prosperity” to Xinjiang because of the “anti-terrorist” measures they are taking. Essentially, they are classifying the Uyghur population as terrorists, soley based off of their ethnicity and religion.

Currently there are over 12 million Uyghurs, mainly Muslim, living in Xinjiang. The Uyghurs have their own native language similar to Turkish and see themselves as ethnically and culturally similar to people from central Asian nations. China has recently been accused of forcibly migrating a large number of Han Chinese, China’s East Asian ethnic majority, to Xinjiang to thin the density of the Uyghur population. China has also been accused of targeting Muslim religious figures, destrying mosques, and destroying the burial sites of its Muslim population.

Xinjiang is in the north-west of China and is China’s largest region. It is made up of mostly desert and produces about a fifth of the world’s cotton supply. For many years, China had been accused of using forced labor to harvest this cotton, yet there had never been any proof of these allegations. Recently however, research by the BBC revealed that over half a million people, mostly Uyghurs, were being forced to pick cotton in Xinjiang. 

The allegations against China regarding the Uyghurs have been accumulating over the past few years. For instance, The US, UK, and Canada have accused China of mass genocide and have even claimed that China has been forcibly sterilizing Uyghur women and separating them from their children. In 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that over 380 Uyghur re-education camps exist in China, even though previously, China claimed that they never existed at all. This number of re-education camps is 40% greater than had been estimated in the past.

Xinjiang is currently covered in an extremely large and extensive security network including checkpoints, police, and hidden cameras which scan license plates and individual faces. Police are also using a mobile app to monitor Uyghurs’ behavior, such ashow often they open their front door, and how much electricity they use. The Chinese police files that were uncovered also reveal that Uyghur people were regularly arrested for not using their phones enough, which the Chinese took as a sign that users are trying to circumvent digital surveillance.

Uyghurs in China have been subjected to intense surveillance, forced labor, and involuntary sterilizations, among other human rights abuses, and China is continuing to deny that this is happening, claiming that the measures they are taking are necessary to prevent Islamist extremism. However, there are things individuals can do to help the Uyghur population. We can use our voices to raise awareness of the Uyghurs’ plight, donate to human rights organizations who support change and provide assistance to Uyghur refugees, and sign legal petitions asking our government to take a stronger stand against China’s abuses. Together, we can make a difference.