Genocide, forced labor, sterilization, and much more. These are some of the things the Uyghurs are going through due to the state government of China. ("What's happening"). There have been many accusations and activists speaking against the Chinese government regarding the oppression the Uyghur community has been facing for years. These accusations state that the government has set “re-education” camps that function like high-security prisons where they punish and abuse the Uyghurs to gain control and make them submit to their authority.
The Uyghurs are a targeted ethnic minority in China that live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. They are a Turkic ethnic group with over eleven million people and have a language similar to Turkish. They see themselves as having a similar culture and identity to Central Asia. Although it is officially an autonomous region, the Central government still applies specific restrictions on them. In the last few decades, there have been a lot of Han Chinese (the ethnic majority in China) who have moved to live in Xinjiang. People have suspected that it is a result of the state attempting to “dilute” the ethnic minorities found there ("Who are the Uyghurs").
Tension between the Uyghur and the Chinese government have always been very high. The Chinese government has been accused of oppressing the Uyghur’s religion, culture, and identity on multiple accounts. In 2009, riots and fights between the Han Chinese and Uyghurs resulted in 200 dead (mostly from the ethnic group Han). In 2014 there was a bombing at a market and a knife attack at a railway station that resulted in 30 dead and over 200 injured ("What's happening" 2:32-2:58). Xinjiang has been full of riots and protests from the Uyghur population as a result of the oppression. There have also been calls for the area to become an independent state ("Who are the Uyghurs").
Both activists and Uyghur who were able to leave Xinjiang accused China of putting the Uyghur people through forced labor, the indoctrination of children, sterilization of women, forced abortions, and more. All of which occurred in the “re-education” camps. The Chinese government claimed that, supposedly, those camps helped the Uyghur people get jobs ("What's happening" 7:01-7:05). Uyghurs were forcefully detained in these camps without charge, warrant, or trial. It did not matter if they were loyal to the Communist Party. The government tried to cover the acts that they were accused of by releasing a video demonstrating that they were educating and training them for jobs. In the videos, the Uyghurs were also seen dancing to songs praising the Communist Party. There were clips of children saying they loved China. Despite the video, the public did not accept China’s claims, with more accusations of sexual abuse and rape flooding in.
The Uyghurs were punished for various crimes. These crimes varied from listening to “illegal lectures” to not using their phone enough because it’d be seen as an attempt at avoiding digital surveillance. Even the people who were not in the camps were not safe. Some had been detained for being related to someone inside the camp. Xinjiang is full of checkpoints, security cameras, facial recognition, allegations of QR codes placed outside the homes of the Uyghurs, and an app that Human Rights Watch has concluded by police to monitor people ("What's happening" 6:15-6:34). Some of the forced labor occurred in factories that were supply-chains for 82 big brands like Apple, BMW, Samsung, Nike, Gap, Sony, and Volkswagen but Apple and Nike have denied all allegations.
Uyghur protests in Istanbul against the 73rd Anniversary of the Communist Party in China.
In the United Nations, many countries have condemned China, but none of the resolutions were successfully passed due to China’s veto power in the Security Council (Ingram). The Uyghurs approached the ICC asking for help, but they also don’t have any jurisdiction in China. Reports gathered by the ASPI (Australian Strategic Policy Institute) in 2020 provided estimates that there are now over 380 detention camps, 40% higher than previous estimates. The Xinjiang Police Files showed that almost 2300 residents (12% of the adult population of one county) were detained in either a camp or prison between 2017 and 2018 ("Who are the Uyghurs"). There are around 1.2 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities.
Efforts have been made to shine a light on this issue by having victims of these camps testify before a US congressional committee ("What's happening" 5:28-5:42). The US has also blacklisted Chinese officials and blocked some imports from Xinjiang. There have also been people speaking very openly against China’s actions. It is hard for journalists and researchers to gather more information on what is going on in China. Until there is more gathered proof against them, nothing will change, and the camps will continue.
Ingram, Ruth, R.I. "The Uyghurs After the Shameful UN Vote: 'We Will Continue to Fight.'" Bitter Winter, 10 Oct. 2022, bitterwinter.org/the-uyghurs-after-the-shameful-un-vote/. Accessed 11 Oct. 2022.
"What's happening with China's Uighurs? | Start Here." Youtube, uploaded by Al Jazeera English, 28 Feb. 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9aLNxcokOE. Accessed 10 Oct. 2022.
"Who are the Uyghurs and why is China being accused of genocide?" BBC, 24 May 2022, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-22278037. Accessed 8 Oct. 2022.