China’s treatment of Uighur minority – a Crime Against Humanity.
By Rolene Marks
We said NEVER AGAIN. After the Holocaust, when the devastating images and testimony hit international consciousness and Jews struggled to come to terms with the murders of so many of us, including generations of our families, the world said NEVER AGAIN. We agreed that we need to learn from the genocide that was the Holocaust that was built on the foundations of religious intolerance and hatred of the other, including the Roma, members of the LGBTQ community and others. But we did not. After the horrors of the Holocaust, we thought that there would be no more genocide- but there was. The names are familiar – Rwanda, Darfur, Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Syria, the Yazidi people and now China is firmly in our sites.
The images are frightening and familiar. Nearly two million Muslim Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and Uzbeks have been detained in internment camps since April 2017. The Chinese government is cracking down on anyone that practices Islam, and in many cases, traveled to countries like Turkey or Afghanistan and visited Mosques or shared religious texts. Some have been detained for wearing the veil or hijab for respect and modesty reasons as prescribed by Islamic laws; and some men arrested just for growing beards as prescribed by Islam. Children are systematically removed from their families in an effort to isolate them from their Muslim communities. The images that have been smuggled out and have surfaced on social media show the round-up of men in vast numbers and transported via train to these camps. It is a scene horrifyingly reminiscent of the rounding up of Jews during the Holocaust, the majority who were then sent to certain death.
China is a communist country and religion is seen as anathema. The Chinese government has tried to defend their actions by claiming that the Uighur Muslims that they are rounding up and sending to these camps are “extremists” and that this is a “counter-terror” measure and call any allegations against them “baseless”. The Chinese call these facilities, “reeducation camps”.
These are not “reeducation camps”. More like concentration camps!
These reeducation camps are anything but humane. Detainees or rather prisoners are subjected to hours and hours of indoctrination, a process that can last several months until they are forced to denounce Islam. They are forced hour after hour to listen to and study communist propaganda and give thanks to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Chinese officials have also reportedly used waterboarding and other forms of torture, including sexual abuse, as part of the indoctrination process.
Uighur women are treated in the most appalling manner. Pregnant women who refuse to abort their foetus – in order to not exceed the birth quotas – are sent to the camps. Former detainees have said they were given injections that stopped their periods or caused unusual bleeding consistent with the effects of birth control drugs. There have also been reports of sexual abuse. A Uighur activist has spoken out against China’s “Pair Up and Become Family” programme, in which Han Chinese men are sent to live with Uighur women, many of whose husbands have been sent to the camps.
The programme, first introduced in 2017, was discussed in an October 2019 report by Radio Free Asia that cited two unnamed Chinese officials. The report outlined a horrific programme in which many of the Chinese men would often sleep in the same beds as the women.
“Normally one or two people sleep in one bed, and if the weather is cold, three people sleep together,” one official told RFA. “It is now considered normal for females to sleep on the same platform with their paired male ‘relatives’,” he said in reference to the men, who are referred to as “relatives” even though they are not family. Uighur activists have referred to it as a policy of mass rape.
The scenes of men rounded up and transported on trains is not the only image that has a horrific similarity to the Holocaust. Uighur women have their hair cut off and exported to the West.
Earlier this year, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials seized a shipment of human hair from China. Officials said that 13 tons (11.8 metric tons) of weaves and other hair products worth an estimated $800,000 were in the shipment.
“The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in US supply chains,” said Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner of CBP’s office of trade.
This is the second time this year that CBP has slapped a rare detention order on shipments of hair products from China, based on suspicions that people making them face human rights abuses.
Stripped of their femininity and their identity, this bears a striking similarity to the way women were treated during the Holocaust. Today, the Auschwitz Museum has a room filled to the ceiling with human hair, shaved off the heads of Jewish women and girls, forced into labour, treated in the most monstrous conditions before many of them were routinely murdered by the Nazis.
Prisoners are allowed no contact with the outside, including family members. Many are fearful of what could happen to their loved ones if they dare make any contact.
Where is the global outcry?
Where are the UN resolutions and fact finding missions?
Activists around the world are trying to raise awareness – and push for investigations for Chinese crimes against humanity. A group of exiled Uighurs has appealed to the ICC (International Criminal Court) to launch an investigation for crimes against humanity and genocide. Human Rights Watch, UN Watch and US Senator Cory Gardner, are amongst those calling for UN investigations into the treatment of Uighurs and so far the UN human rights panel have said that they have “credible” information to launch an investigation. Jewish organisations and individuals, drawing from our own history of genocide and persecution are trying to raise as much awareness as possible – and showing solidarity with the global Muslim community.
The Chinese (when they bother to respond) insist it is counter terror – or simply do not respond. Earlier this year, Yu Jianhua, China’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said the country was working toward equality and solidarity among all ethnic groups.
The images are growing more and more worrying. So many times, we have said NEVER AGAIN! So many times we have thought we have learnt the lessons from history.
We cannot fail the Uighur people. Never again is now.
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