Chinese Muslim Oppression

Ruhee Merchant, Online Editor

While there is a historic precedence of acceptance of the Muslims within China emphasized with the instatement of powerful muslim admirals, such as Zheng He, everything has changed in recent years. Islamophobia has peaked throughout the world in places such as the United States, Canada, UK, and in China, they have taken extreme measures to act on this hatred of Muslims. According to The Conversation, the Muslim population within China has been oppressed for 10 years and this has been referred to as the most neglected humanitarian crisis. Conflict and tensions have been progressing since 9/11 and peaked in 2009 with multiple ethnic riots. In fact, the government utilized the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a way to justify their actions towards the Uighurs. The tensions became exacerbated with the detainment of Uighur– compose the majority of the detainees– Kazakh, and Hui Muslims in reeducation camps. 

According to Council on Foreign Relations, around eight hundred thousand to two million muslims have been detained since 2017. While many human rights organizations have been pestering China to stop the crackdown, Chinese officials insist that these “vocational training centers” are not oppressive, however this claim is very suspicious as no one is allowed to examine these centers. Things became more transparent in 2019 however when internal classified Chinese government documents were leaked that contained important details on how officials repress the Muslims and lock them up in the camps to prevent their escape.

The people within the camps have been detained due to a variety of reasons including being in contact with any of the countries China views as sensitive, praying at their mosques, sending texts with reference to the Quran, or simply being Muslim as it is viewed as a form of extremism. Chinese officials consider these camps as a way to eliminate any threat to China’s goverment, and this discrimination progressed so far off to the point that the government passed an antiextremist law in March 2017 that outlawed a person’s freedom to grow a long beard or wear a veil. A plethora of camps are located in Xinjiang and many of the camps have tripled in size. This accentuates the rapid acceleration of the oppression due to global ignorance of this injustice. 

The Chinese who have escaped talk about the harsh, hostile conditions within the camps where the detainees are forced to pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. Some reported severe restrainment due to strict monitoring and oversight via cameras and microphones installed in the camps. There have been reports of torture within the camps including sleep deprevation and even sexual abuse–some women claimed that they were forced to carry our abortion or have contraceptive devices implanted against their consent. Under these harsh conditions, it is not surprising that many of the released detainees considered commiting suicide or witnessed others comit suicide. A major factor that explains why detention causes mental health deterioration and suicidal thoughts include forced familial abandonment. Many children are sent to orphanages and unable to contact their parents. 

Furthermore, many people who were detained have been forced to work in factories in Xinjiang to stimulate its economic development. This is essentially a more discrete form of slavery perservering into modern day. Not only this, but the benefits of resource extraction are disproportionately enjoyed by the Han Chinese in comparison to the Uighurs who are progressively marginalized. 

Outside of the camps, Muslims are still suffering due to the consistent crackdowns by Chinese authorities. They are under a strict watch with the grid-management system and the facial-recognition cameras that they use to create lists of so-called suspicious people. Not only this, but the core elements of Muslim life have been eliminated as Communist Party members are essentially bombarding the Uighur homes to watch over the muslims and report “extremist” actions such as fasting during ramadan. Many mosques have been destroyed with the justification that they were “unsafe” or “poorly constructed”.  Also, Muslim parents are restricted in the names that they can give their child, as names such as Mohammed and Medina are banned. To add to this, Halal food is growing very scarce and hard to find as the government has launched a campaign against it. 

Though there are major organizations such as the United Nations and European Union addressing China’s injustice and religious oppression of Muslims, and other countries that are condemning China’s actions such as many European countries, Turkey, and even the United States in some aspects, they all could do more. Given that this is one of the biggest, possibly even the biggest humanitarian crisis that has been prolonged throughout the years, there needs to be more attention towards it. Countries should be denying exports to China, imposing economic sanctions on them, or even just granting asylum to the maltreated Uighur and other Muslim populations. We need to take more action now or else we will see a heartbreaking article much like this one 20 years in the future. This vicious cycle of hate and discrimination must be broken now to allow for the freedom and growth of the human race.