Concerns Rise as Muslim Crackdown Broadens

Concerns Rise as Muslim Crackdown Broadens

Authorities in Xinjiang have detained an estimated one million or more Turkic Muslims in “re-education” camps and turned the region into a frontline laboratory for draconian surveillance methods that have since expanded to Muslims in Gansu. Now, Gansu authorities are following the Xinjiang model in shutting down a 34-year old Arabic language school that supports underprivileged students, raising fears that such religious controls will only continue to tighten across China’s Muslim communities. At Inkstone, Mimi Lau reports on the school’s impending closure:

Pingliang Arabic School, a charity that caters to underprivileged students, has been told by city education officials to close by December 17 and send its 200 students and 20 teachers home.

Officials claim the school does not have the operational permits it needs, although it has been in business since 1984 in Pingliang: a poor, small city on the border between Gansu and Shaanxi province.

[…] Facing a deadline to shut down before next Saturday, teachers at Pingliang Arabic School last week sent a petition containing more than 1,000 signatures to the education bureau.

[…] “It seems that the officials are not interested in talking to us at all,” said the teacher, who requested anonymity.

[…] “If the school is closed, they could end up as dropouts on the street.” [Source]

In late November, the People’s Daily-owned tabloid Global Times reported that Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region had signed an anti-terrorism cooperation agreement with Xinjiang, and sent senior Ningxia Party official Zhang Yunsheng to study Xinjiang’s counterterrorism and religious management practices. Last week, Hong Kong sent its anti-terrorism task force to Xinjiang, while emphasizing that this did not signify endorsement of its re-education camps. At the South China Morning Post, Christy Leung details how Hong Kong will continue to learn counter-terrorism efforts from cities across China:

“The controversial re-education centres are among the measures used but that doesn’t mean Hong Kong should borrow the idea. As a matter of fact, we have no such needs due to the differences in terrorism situations we each face.”

[…] “The response time to terrorist attacks in Xinjiang is just one minute, to avoid mass casualties. It is worth knowing how they manage to execute such a prompt response,” the source continued.

On a similar mission, security minister John Lee Ka-chiu will next month lead the unit chiefs to Beijing and southwestern Yunnan province.

Islamist terrorists have been said to be using coastal routes to slip into Xinjiang via Myanmar and Vietnam and then Yunnan in recent years.

[…] The bureau and local law enforcement have visited the northwestern province every few years. This current trip comes just after China rejected a German human rights delegation’s request to visit Xinjiang to investigate detention centres for Uygurs. [Source]

Beijing is increasingly drawing international criticism for its ongoing crackdown in Xinjiang. Despite this, it has refused to back down. Instead, it has sought to legally justify the camps as vocational training and Mandarin instruction centers, released glowing portrayals of life inside the camps, used U.S. “War on Terror” rhetoric, and threatened retaliation if the U.S. sanctions Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo under the Global Magnitsky Act.

On November 26, an international group of scholars issued a joint statement—which now has over 600 signatories—calling for worldwide action against China for its “mass human rights abuses and deliberate attacks on indigenous cultures presently taking place in China’s XUAR [Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region].”

Human rights analyst Ye Shiwei has curated a side-by-side comparison of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review recommendations for Myanmar’s Rohingya versus China’s Uyghurs, which Xinjiang scholar and statement signatory Darren Byler highlighted on Twitter last week:

Human Rights Watch has also sent a letter to EU foreign and interior ministers requesting that the entire EU expedite Turkic Muslims’ asylum claims, and suspend deportation of Turkic Muslims back to China until it ends its widespread repression in Xinjiang.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has also been briefed on the Uyghurs’ deteriorating rights in Xinjiang:

Now, a new report from RFA shows that starting in April 2017, several hundred residents of a Kyrgyz village have been sent to re-education camps for possessing “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas. The report claims that the Kyrgyz had enjoyed a relatively high degree of freedom prior to Chen’s arrival.

For more in-depth coverage on China’s network of re-education camps, see former camp detainee Mihrigul Tursun’s full testimony before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, or Reuters’ recent investigative report “Tracking China’s Muslim Gulag”:

Reuters worked with Earthrise Media, a non-profit group that analyzes satellite imagery, to plot the construction and expansion of 39 of these camps, which were initially identified using publicly available documents such as construction tenders. The building-by-building review of these facilities revealed that the footprint of the built-up area almost tripled in size in the 17 months between April 2017 and August 2018. Collectively, the built-up parts in these 39 facilities now cover an area roughly the size of 140 soccer fields.

Construction notices published on local government websites, including tenders and procurement requests, have provided clues about the location and features of many of the camps. The technical specifications in these documents include references to guardhouses, surveillance systems that leave “no blind spots,” automatic weapons and their safe storage.

[…] “I was immediately struck by how many camps there were, how large, and how quickly they are growing. In a matter of months they are throwing up five-story buildings, longer than football fields, lined up in rows in the desert,” said Edward Boyda, co-founder of Earthrise. “The construction and arrangement of buildings is very similar from site to site, in the new sites especially, which means there is a method behind it.” [Source]

Correction: This post originally misattributed Ye Shiwei’s work to Darren Byler. CDT apologizes for the error.


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