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Uighur Insurgency / Uighur Genocide

From the very start of the Uighur “re-education” campaign, the Chinese state made plans to enrol state-orphaned Muslim children into high-security boarding schools. Writing in the Journal of Political Risk, German researcher Dr Adrian Zenz presents evidence to show that enrolment in Xinjiang state nursery schools, for very young children before schooling age, has gone from being far below the national average to the highest rate in the country – since early 2017. Around 90 per cent of the new pupils are from Muslim minority groups. And satellite images show that, around the same time China started expanding the facilities used for the detention of adult Uighurs, attached or independent boarding schools also started receiving dramatically increased dormitory facilities. China’s government is using a policy of “linguistic imperialism” to marginalize the Uyghur language in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) as part of a bid to “eradicate the ethnic identity” of the Uyghur people, according to a new report by a Uyghur rights group. In their attack on Uyghur culture and identity, Chinese officials have portrayed the Uyghur language as “incompatible with modernity” and are removing its relevance from the education system and public life, Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) said 16 May 2019 in a statement accompanying the release of its report “Resisting Chinese Linguistic Imperialism.”

“Following a pattern of broader development policy that has promoted the adoption of [majority] Han [Chinese] civilization as central to modernization, China has moved to diminish the status of the Uyghur language in society,” UHRP said. In the face of such an attack, UHRP said it is imperative for Uyghur families to ensure a future for spoken and written Uyghur by passing the language and culture from parent to child at home.

Republican Congressman Christopher Smith co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China, accused China on 30 November 2018 of committing genocide against the Uihgurs, calling their actions "without precedent in modern times." He also scoffed at a threat made Cui Tiankai, China's ambassador to the US that Beijing would retaliate if the U.S. imposed sanctions. "It's about time we stood up for the Chinese people," he said, "because that's where our hearts, that's where our solidarity has to be with, not with a dictatorship that ruins lives."

The word “genocide” was first coined by Polish lawyer Raphäel Lemkin in 1944 in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. It consists of the Greek prefix genos, meaning race or tribe, and the Latin suffix cide, meaning killing. Lemkin developed the term partly in response to the Nazi policies of systematic murder of Jewish people during the Holocaust, but also in response to previous instances in history of targeted actions aimed at the destruction of particular groups of people. Later on, Raphäel Lemkin led the campaign to have genocide recognised and codified as an international crime.

Under Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, " genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such ... Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group...."

An editorial in Global Times published 31 August 2018 spoke of "the Chinese system rooted in the reality of Xinjiang and understood and supported by most developing countries. The region had been on the verge of great turmoil, and violent terror activities almost went out of control. Whether Xinjiang governance abuses human rights must be judged by whether its results safeguard the interests of the majority in the region. Had the situation in Xinjiang several years ago not been controlled, more people would have been brainwashed by extremist thoughts and joined the terrorists, leading to more killings against innocent lives. Xinjiang enjoys peace and tranquility from the chaos over the past two years. It's difficult to calculate how many lives have been saved and how many people have been relieved from dreadful days.... To a large extent, the past turbulence in Xinjiang was caused by external factors. Western accusations of Xinjiang governance seriously misled the extremists, making them believe they were launching religious Jihad and won sympathy and support from Western and international society. "

Beginning in April 2017, Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been jailed or detained in political “re-education camps” throughout the XUAR. Numerous reports in 2018 of detention of large numbers of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities held incommunicado and often for long periods, without being charged or tried, under the pretext of countering terrorism and religious extremism. There is no official data on how many people are in long-term detention or who have been forced to spend varying periods in political “re-education camps” for even nonthreatening expressions of Muslim ethno-religious culture like daily greetings.

By late 2018 human rights groups said China had detained up to 2 million Uighurs to promote what the government calls "ethnic unity" in the country's far west. Estimates about the number detained range from tens of thousands to upwards of two million. The "vocational training centers" exist for people who committed minor offences without qualifying what this means. Some sources report a total Uigher population of 10 million, which Chinese census gives the present population of the Uighurs as slightly over 6 million. To put that "one million" number in dog-years, assuming that only males are incarcerated in these camps, this suggests that essentially all "military age men" [ie, age 18 to 40] are presently confined to thought reform centers.

To put it another way, in round numbers, essentially all breeding age men have been physically separated from wives and potential breeding partners. This policy, if sustained over a period of years, would produce a "birth dearth" that would eliminate the Uyghurs as a people, in the absence of young people to carry on their cultural traditions. This is genocide, with Chinese Characteristics.

More than one out of every six ethnic Uyghurs in one county in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) are being detained in political “re-education camps,” according to local officials. Onsu (in Chinese, Wensu) county, in the XUAR’s Aksu (Akesu) prefecture is home to around 230,000 people, according to the county government’s website. Some 180,000 of them are members of minority groups—the largest of which is Uyghurs. While investigating the political re-education camp network in Aksu, RFA’s Uyghur Service spoke with an officer at the Onsu county police station who said that “30,000 people” from the county are currently held in re-education camps.

The 30,000 detainees are held in five main camps in the county. The biggest camp is housed in a recently constructed four-story building located approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the seat of Onsu county in Yangaq Plaza, and holds around 10,000 inmates. A second camp is located in Jam Bazar village and holds around 7,000 people. A third camp, holding around 5,000 people, is located in Qizil Bazar village, around 40 kilometers (25 miles) outside of the seat of Onsu county and some 17 kilometers (10 miles) outside of Aksu city. The fourth and fifth camps, known as the Party School Re-Education Camp and the No. 2 Middle School Re-Education Camp because it is housed in a four-story former school building, are both located inside of Onsu township and hold 1,000 and 7,000 people, respectively.

Reports include mass surveillance disproportionately targeting ethnic Uighurs, including through frequent baseless police stops and the scanning of mobile phones at police checkpoint stations. Additional reports indicate mandatory collection of extensive biometric data in XUAR, including DNA samples and iris scans, of large groups of Uighur residents. Reports indicate that all XUAR residents are required to hand in their travel documents to police and apply for permission to leave the country, and that permission may not come for years. This restriction impacts most heavily on those who wish to travel for religious purposes;

Reports that many Uighurs abroad who left China have allegedly been returned to the country against their will. There are fears about the current safety of those involuntarily returned to China.

To further improve the response time to emergency incidents, such as terrorist attacks, Xinjiang has established a network of public security service stations in all cities and counties. Security officers are expected to arrive at any emergency within a minute. The region plans to set up more stations this year to strengthen the network, according to the regional government. Despite increased security, southern Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture still witnessed terrorist attacks and violent incidents targeting civilians and government buildings.

Beginning in April 2017, Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas had been jailed or detained in re-education camps throughout the XUAR, where members of the ethnic group have long complained of pervasive discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression under Chinese rule. Detainees face rough treatment at the hands of their overseers in the camps and endure poor diets and unhygienic conditions in the often overcrowded facilities. By December 2018 authorities in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) were secretly transferring Uyghur detainees to prisons in Heilongjiang province and other areas throughout the country to address an “overflow” in the region’s overcrowded political “re-education camps,” according to officials. While investigating claims from members of the Uyghur exile community, official sources in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture’s Kona Sheher (Shufu) county confirmed to RFA’s Uyghur Service 15 December 2018 that authorities have been moving Uyghurs from detention centers in the XUAR to prisons in other parts of China. “Based on the seriousness of their crime, inmates are being transferred to other major prisons in the region and also to inner China,” an officer at the police department in Kona Sheher’s Tashmiliq township told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I think they are being transferred to inner China because they can be educated better there, and another reason is that since there are too many prisoners here and we are experiencing an overflow of inmates.” The officer said that authorities began relocating Uyghur inmates to other parts of China at “the beginning of this year.”

"Some international voices say Xinjiang has concentration camps and re-education camps," Xinjiang Governor Shohrat Zakir said on the sidelines 12 March 2019 of the annual meeting of China's ceremonial legislature. "These kinds of statements are completely fabricated lies, and are extraordinarily absurd." Beijing contends the camps are part of a broader campaign to reduce the threat of Islamic extremism. "The number of people in the education centers should be less and less, and if one day society no longer needs [them], these education centers can gradually disappear," Zakir said.


July 2009 witnessed an outburst of ethnic violence in the far-Western Chinese province of Xianjiang, between the native Uighur population and the transplanted Chinese majority Han residents of the capital city of Urumchi. This region's history as a way-station on the fabled silk route means that there is a tremendous cultural and historical significance to the land and its people.

Uyghurs in the city of Urumchi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, gathered on July 5, 2009, to protest authorities' handling of a reported attack on Uyghur factory workers by Han factory workers in late June in Guangdong province, and to protest government policy toward Uyghurs. Reports indicate the demonstration began as a peaceful protest and later turned violent as protesters clashed with police, who used tear gas and stun batons against the protesters, and later were reported to fire on the crowds. Official Chinese media sources described the demonstration as a riot orchestrated by U.S.-based Uyghur rights activist Rebiya Kadeer, and reported that the incident left at least 156 people dead and over 1000 people injured. Demonstrations also are reported to have occurred in other cities in the XUAR, and demonstrations and outbreaks of violence were reported again in Urumchi on July 7. Sources including overseas media have reported that violence in the region has included both Uyghurs' attacks on Han Chinese and Han attacks against Uyghurs. A number of details about the incidents remain unknown, and the Chinese government has instituted controls over the flow of information on the events.

The Chinese government engages in systematic and egregious violations of the freedom of religion or belief. Religious activities are tightly controlled and some religious adherents were detained, imprisoned, fined, beaten, and harassed. Yet, religious communities continue to grow rapidly in China and the freedom to participate in officially sanctioned religious activity increased in many areas of the country over the past year. High-ranking Chinese government officials, including President Hu Jintao, have praised the positive role of religious communities in China and articulated a desire to have religious groups promote "economic and social development". The law governing religion in China is the National Regulations on Religious Affairs (NRRA), first issued in March 2005 and updated in 2007.

In the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), governmental repression of religious freedom increased in 2008. Chinese government authorities routinely have equated peaceful religious practices among Uighur Muslims with religious extremism and separatism and have used the global war on terror as a pretext to crack down on even the most peaceful forms of dissent or religious activity. Uighur Muslim clerics and students have been detained for various "illegal" religious activities, "illegal religious centers" have been closed, and police continue to confiscate large quantities of "illegal religious publications."

XUAR Party Secretary Wang Lequan stated that the government would use "preemptive attacks" and institute "anti-separatist reeducation" in the XUAR to ensure national safety. The government continues to limit access to mosques, including the participation of women, children, communist party members, and government employees. All imams in Xinjiang are required to undergo annual political training seminars to retain their licenses, and local security forces monitor imams and other religious leaders. Imams at Uighur mosques are reportedly required to meet monthly with officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau and the Public Security Bureau to receive "advice" on the content of their sermons. Failure to report to such meetings can result in the imam's expulsion or detention. Religious leaders and activists who attempt to publicize or criticize human rights abuses in the XUAR have received prolonged prison terms, on charges of "separatism," "endangering social order," and "incitement to subvert state power." Numerous Uighur Muslims have been arrested for peacefully organizing and demonstrating for their religious freedom.

Officials in the XUAR prohibit teaching Islam outside the home to minors, and police have stepped up attempts to halt private religious education programs in some parts of Xinjiang province. Teachers and organizers can be charged with conducting an "illegal religious gathering," a criminal offense. Minors are prohibited from participating in any religious activity or instruction before finishing nine years of compulsory public education.

Components of the Armed Police Corps of Xinjiang Province in the Peoples Republic of China have placed increased emphasis on counterterrorist train-ing and improved force structure for special-purpose elements. This includesa exercise focusing on rapid crisis response and on the integrated useof helicopters, paratroopers and ground combat vehicles, as well as on cre-ating a special-operations component and reorganizing the anti-hijackingcomponent of the corps. The police corps has also reportedly upgraded itscommunications infrastructure. While the Armed Police Corps concerns generally include what are characterized as "criminal gangs" and other violentlawbreakers, the force has also been involved in rural and urban suppression and counterinsurgency efforts. Approximately 15,000 personnel ofthe Armed Police Corps were stationed in the southern portion of Eastern Turkestan by 2004 to ensure what officials of the regional Chinese Communist Partycall "the unity of the great motherland.

Throughout Xinjiang, teachers, professors, university students, and other government employees are prohibited from engaging in religious activities, such as reciting daily prayers, distributing religious materials, observing Ramadan, and wearing head coverings; they are reportedly subject to fines if they attempt to do so. These standards are enforced more strictly in southern Xinjiang and other areas where Uighurs account for a higher percentage of the population. The State Department estimated that over 1,300 people were arrested in the XUAR on charges related to state security during 2008, a large increase from the previous year. Such charges have been used to detain religious adherents and other dissidents in the past.

Human rights organizations have accused China of using counterterrorism as a pretext to suppress Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group which makes up the majority of the population within the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of western China. In the lead up to the august 2008 Olympics, China tightened security in Xinjiang, instituting road checkpoints and arresting people it suspected of being linked to terrorism. In July 2008, the Urumqi, XUAR Public Security Bureau in Urumqi declared that it detained 82 terrorists during the first six months of 2008 while police in Kashgar claimed to have rounded up 12 terrorist groups.

Security forces maintained a high-level of vigilance both in Xinjiang and throughout the country during the Olympics. In spite of this, a series of violent incidents did occur in Xinjiang during the Olympics which the Chinese government has blamed on terrorist organizations. In the most violent reported incident, 17 People's Armed Police Border Guards were killed on 04 August 2008 when assailants attacked them with a vehicle, homemade bombs, and knives.

Although minority separatists are not well-armed and seem to be largely disorganized, the violence posed a very real threat to China's ability to develop Xinjiang. The Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) behavior toward its Muslims has received renewed Western attention in the aftermath of 9/11. China's Uighurs have responded to CCP policies with violence and separatist activity, but the Hui (ethnic Chinese who are Muslim) have reacted with relatively high levels of accommodation. Uighurs and Hui have faced different social and economic realities that have led to different perceptions of inequality and thus, different reactions to CCP policy. Also, unlike Uighur ethnic identity, Hui identity stems from and is compatible with the PRC and Chinese society. The Hui who have blended fairly well into Chinese society, tend to regard some Uyghurs as unpatriotic separatists who give other Chinese Muslims a bad name.

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