Islam and China: a battle for human rights

James Rudolph

Over the past month, the world has witnessed human-rights crimes committed by the Chinese government. The United Nations have expressed their concerns over many credible sources that China is rounding up Muslims in their country and placing them in internment camp. On Aug. 28, the U.N. and U.S. officials estimated that one million Muslims are being held captive in these interment camps by the Chinese government. Their mission: to change their very system of belief.

   Former inmates of these camps were the sources for these reports. Muslims, mainly consisting of Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic group living in Central and Eastern Asia, were rounded up by the Chinese government. In these camps, they are subjected to an indoctrination program that spans several months. The program is designed to break down Islamic doctrine and beliefs in the individual and rebuild them to an image that fits the ideas of the Communist Party in China. The inmates’ accounts contain stories of them forced to renounce Islam and criticize Islamic beliefs in themselves and their fellow inmates. They are forced to recited Communist Party propaganda songs, and some inmates report being forces to eat pork and drink alcohol. Additionally, there are reports of torture and death from the camp as well. 

  The internment camp system is huge. The Wall Street Journal reports the system doubled in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. The U.S Congressional-Executive Commission on China said it is “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.” 

   For some time now, Beijing was targeting Uighur extremists that posed a threat to the communist government. However, reports indicate that extreme measures have been taken on Muslim identity. For example, individuals with a long beard, associated with Muslim identity, can be hauled away to an internment camp. When a U.N. panel confronted a Chinese official about the internment camps, he denied the existence of these facilities and said that they are “vocational schools for criminals,” despite the fact that Chinese government documents classify them as “reeducation centers.” 

 The Chinese government are feeding their people a very different story. They are described as schools and hospitals. An official Communist Party audio recording, transmitted to Uighurs through social-media platform WeChat, said that these people were chosen for reeducation because they have been “infected by an ideological illness.” They liken Islamic belief as a medical condition. The message concludes with, “If we do not eradicate religious extremism at it’s roots, the violent terrorist incidents will grow and spread over like an incurable malignant tumor.”

   Historically, the Chinese government feared that Uighurs are attempting to establish their own homeland in Xinjiang, which they call East Turkestan. Ethnic riots in the area in 2009 resulted in hundreds of deaths, and radical Uighurs have been carrying out terrorist attacks over recent years. The Chinese government believes that they need to crack down on a significant part of the population, as opposed to just those who shows signs of radicalization. And that appears to be what is happening. According to Radio Free Asia, police officers are under orders to meet specific population targets. One township had police reports containing information that they were relocating 40 percent of the population for reeducation. 

 The dehumanization of an ideological enemy is a classic tactic used by communists. Communist ideology teaches those living under its system to oppose those who want to stop progress, that progress being the communist utopia. Individuals opposed to communism are taught to not feel morally wrong for wanting to eradicate undesirable people, which are those opposing communism, as they are holding back the rest of mankind. Those who oppose communist ideas are sub-human. This was true for the Soviet Union, and this remains true for Communist China, as we see here.

   This is also evident in how they view Islam. They take a medical and psychological approach, insinuating that religious belief is like depression or anxiety. The cold and calculated system or reeducation, to them, is like a hospital visit for a physically or mentally ill person. This is how communists deal with individuals who believe in something else. If it goes against the communist party, the communist party will eliminate it.

  This is the face of modern communism, which isn’t too different from the communism during the Cold-War. The death of the private life and loss of individual freedom, all for the sake of the “greater good.” Even as an atheist, I don’t believe people should be persecuted, yet alone forced to change their way of thinking, simply because of a different belief system. They may be fighting extremism, but this is absolutism in aggressive form. 

As China continues its violation of human rights, and we see, yet again, more crimes against humanity by a communist country, the world waits for what happens next, or if anything will be done about this at all.