The United States concurs with statements by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination regarding the Chinese government’s worsening crackdown on Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
A growing body of public information, including the CERD report, paints a disturbing picture. Under the guise of fighting “terrorism” and “religious extremism,” China’s leadership has greatly intensified their long-standing repressive policies against non-violent cultural and religious practices in Xinjiang, including torturing prisoners, forcing citizens to renounce their religion, and pledge allegiance to the Communist Party.
According to Chinese government sources, the stated goal of the current campaign is to “Sinicize religion” and “adapt religion to a socialist society.” The atheist, Han-dominated Chinese authorities clearly believe they have both the capability and the prerogative to transform religion and ethnicity to their own preferences—a dystopian vision with deeply troubling consequences for the many ethnic minorities throughout China.
China has criminalized many aspects of religious practice and culture in Xinjiang, including punishments for teaching Muslim text to children and bans on parents from giving their children traditional Islamic names. Citizens can also be detained for having “abnormal” beards, wearing headscarves and other modest clothing, refusing to watch state television, refusing to wear shorts, abstaining from alcohol and tobacco, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, attending mosques on days other than Friday, practicing traditional funeral rituals, having family or friends abroad, traveling abroad oneself, owning camping equipment, and asking others not to swear.
The Chinese crackdown on ethnic culture also includes restricting the use of Uighur and other minority languages in classrooms. Uighur academics, writers, and other cultural figures have been detained simply because they study, document, or advocate preservation of aspects of Uighur identity.
Growing evidence indicates that since April 2017, hundreds of thousands – possibly millions – of individuals have been detained in “re-education” centers throughout Xinjiang. This is the largest internment of civilians in the world today. There are no legal charges, no trials and no legal recourse. In these so-called “vocational education” centers, detainees are required to renounce their ethnic identities, religious beliefs, and nonviolent cultural and religious practices.
Chinese authorities attempt to justify these outrageous actions by claiming they are merely responding to extremist threats or helping to eradicate “backwards” practices. However, the scale of these security and social engineering measures is completely disproportionate to the incidence of social violence and extremism among Muslims in Xinjiang. We call on the Committee to continue to monitor this problem.