China Moves to Destroy Uyghur Culture in Xinjiang

Looks like there’s some big trouble in little Xinjiang.


Photo provided by CNN.

Griffin Sonnemann-Creed, Columnist

Xinjiang Province is an autonomous region located in western China, bordering the former Central Asian republics comprising the Soviet Union. With a known history spanning back over two millennia, the region has experienced countless foreign occupants and invaders. Despite these constant setbacks, however, Xinjiang has always managed to remain somewhat independent, owing its autonomy to rugged terrain and hardy populace. However, China’s new policy towards autonomous regions like Xinjiang could spell the end of the Uyghur culture so prevalent in this region.

Following radical Islamic attacks on Chinese offices alongside an increasing independence movement, China has begun to adopt a new heavy-handed policy based on eradicating any traces of independence from the province. The one-party government has begun to destroy Uyghur culture through the conscription of locals into the police force, imprisonment of politicians and rebels, changes to the local education systems, and even the construction of concentration camps to hold those who are deemed threats to stability, primarily political agitators, protesters and “suspected terrorists.” All of them are imprisoned without fair trial. Adrian Zenz, an expert on the Chinese policy in regions like Xinjiang and Tibet, has stated that the purpose of this new system is to coerce the local populace to accept communist rule and to become culturally homogenous with the rest of China.

Laura Stone, a senior U.S. diplomat, confirmed these claims. She claimed the Chinese measures were “disturbing” and called for more liberal governance and more freedoms for the local Uyghur and Muslim populace. In addition, multiple Chinese rights groups and exiles from the region have begun to push for better governance. In response, Chinese foreign minister Hua Chunying released an official statement, replying that the minorities “…live and work in peace and contentment and enjoy peaceful and progressing lives.” Chunying also accused the United States of attempting to interfere with internal governance in China.

China’s attempts at re-education of the local populace are absolutely heart-wrenching to learn about. The Uyghur population, largely Muslim, are forced to eat pork, renounce their religion and culture as backwards, and to apologize for a variety of religious actions such as wearing long clothes or teaching their children to read the Quran. Instead, the inmates are forced to sing songs praising the ruling Chinese Communist Party and denouncing the “three evil forces” which inspire revolution: extremism, separatism, and terrorism. Inmates are also reportedly subjected to physical torture to make them more pliable to these new ideas and to force them to renounce their beliefs. Their blood is taken to provide DNA samples as well, to prevent them from committing any future crimes, whether guilty or not. Even at home, the Muslim populace is not safe: Chinese officials force them to keep their homes open for observation.

Much of China’s attempts at suppression of local culture is tied in with its new place on the global stage. After the reforms of Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970’s and 80’s, China’s economy has begun to rapidly grow, eventually becoming the industrial juggernaut it has become today. Boasting the largest military in the world and nuclear weapons, China has earned itself a new way to barter in international diplomacy: through force. The Chinese government has recently embarked on multiple attempts to show their force, such as the claiming of the South China Sea, building of islands throughout neighboring waters, and violent suppression of local culture in their westernmost areas. With the United States embroiled in political turmoil, China has also begun to expand its influence to other countries; primarily in Africa and Asia, Chinese investors have become more common, building strong trade links between the nations. Within decades, we could see China become a global hegemon equal or greater to the United States, a return to its old status centuries ago.

China’s attempts at the complete erasure of local culture are absolutely abhorrent. While there are currently no organizations dedicated to helping the local populace, you can still spread the word about what’s going on. Tell your friends and family – our world must not experience another genocide of this level.