BY IAN XU
Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, located in northwest China, live in a real-life Orwellian police state. Throughout the Xinjiang Region are security checkpoints where residents must scan identification cards. Authorities use facial recognition technology to track residents’ movements. Police confiscate phones to download information, which they later scan through. Police also confiscate passports to prevent Uyghurs from traveling abroad. Authorities detain Uyghur Muslims indefinitely for refusing to give DNA samples. Recently, however, the Chinese Community Party (CCP) has cracked down even further. It placed 1 million Uyghur Muslims in camps “vocational education and training programme”, a euphemism for internment in concentration camps. The CCP claims that its curtailing of Uyghur Muslims’ civil liberties is part of a policy of “de-extremification.” But its greater purpose is to use Uyghur Muslims as laboratory rats to perfect their Orwellian police state, which they can then deploy throughout China.
Shohrat Zakir, second in command of Xinjiang’s provincial government and its most powerful Uyghur leader, claims the CCP’s policy against Uyghur Muslims has a purpose—to tackle the “three evil forces” of terrorism, extremism, and separatism. The “vocational education and training programme” allows “trainees” to “reflect on their mistakes and see clearly the essence and harm of terrorism and religious extremism.” Zakir also added that “trainees” were in fact grateful for the opportunity to change their ways and make their lives more “colorful.” This is unequivocally false.
In these concentration camps, Uyghur Muslims are psychologically brainwashed through studying communist propaganda and thanking President Xi Jinping, China’s authoritarian dictator. They also face physical abuse such as waterboarding, torture and hard labor. One Uyghur Muslim named Omir described his experience to the BBC. He was detained in Karamay, a city in northern Xinjiang, and placed in a concentration camp. In the camp, he was shackled to a chair, deprived of sleep, hung, and beaten by police. He was also forced to share a small room with 45 other people, where space was so limited that they had to take turns sleeping. Omir’s story seems to support Kayrat Samarkand’s story. Samarkand, also an Uyghur Muslim, was held in a camp for three months. He lived in a dormitory with 14 other men. Their day began with a room search. This was followed by two hours of studying CCP propaganda such as China’s policies on minorities and religion, and “the spirit of the 19th Party Congress,” where President Xi gave his three-hour speech asking CCP members to “adhere to and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era.” They would then chant CCP songs like “Long Live Xi Jinping.” In the afternoon, they would do military-style training and write journal entries of their days. Those who disobeyed were shackled in hand and ankle cuffs for up to 12 hours.
Choosing to discriminate against Uyghur Muslims is no accident. The CCP purposefully chose Uyghur Muslims as a scapegoat because it could justify its actions to the Han Chinese, which accounts for over 90 percent of the overall Chinese population. The Han Chinese have historically had tensions with Uyghur Muslims. This was caused by government supported Han migration to Xinjiang, the Uyghur’s homeland, which resulted in economic and cultural clashes. Between 2012 to 2014, these tensions boiled over, leading to a series of terrorist attacks; the worst of which was the 2014 Kunming Train Station attack, where eight knife-wielding Uyghur separatists, with ties to Xinjiang’s Uyghur Muslim community, left over 170 civilians dead or injured.
Using Uyghur Muslims as a scapegoat seems to be working as the internal response within China seems virtually nonexistent, which makes sense. In the eyes of the Han Chinese, placing Uyghur Muslims under the watchful eye of the CCP and allowing the CCP to use them for experimentation seems fine as it offers them protection, which is exactly what the CCP wants. But the people must open their eyes because in the near future, the CCP will subject them to “de-extremification” or some other policy that uses these tried-and-true techniques. We see this already happening.
The CCP’s use of cellular data extraction devices has already expanded into other provinces. Furthermore, in 2017, the CCP drastically boosted spending on domestic security—it spent about 1.24 trillion yuan, or $196 billion, which is over 20 percent more than its military budget. Its budget for internal security, which includes surveillance, has doubled in regions including Xinjiang and Beijing. This expansion of the Orwellian police state is already happening. The Chinese people cannot turn a blind eye. They must confront their CCP before the CCP confronts them.