The Uighur Muslim diaspora is seeking “American justice” to force China to stop persecution of their community in that country’s Xinjiang province as part of President Xi Jinping’s drastic and inhuman policy of sinicization of Islamic religion.
Campaign for Uighurs (CU), an umbrella organisation of the community, has written to US President Joe Biden, “to urge your administration to make human rights a priority in US-China policy.” The organisation says it was encouraged by the Biden administration making it clear that respect for human rights will be an integral part of the new policy of the United States towards China. “President Xi and his government are assaulting human rights on a scale unprecedented in decades. Your administration’s actions and responses will be critical to halting – and possibly reversing – that crisis”.
The letter says: “We understand that the new administration is in the process of reviewing its approach to China, and we note and appreciate remarks from you and other senior officials, including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, reflecting the gravity of Chinese government-inflicted human rights violations in Hong Kong and the Uyghur region/Xinjiang. We also appreciate your condemnation of racism against people of Asian descent in the United States”.
The CU has proposed a set of steps the US needs to take while reviewing its China policy. It asks for making human rights a priority in its China policy. “The escalating and egregious abuses by the Chinese government should be one of the priority topics of discussion with President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders, and should be given credibility through your and other senior US officials’ public commentary.” It urges the Biden administration to restart “the bilateral human rights dialogue only when independent civil society groups from China and the US can participate, and when specific objectives and outcomes can be publicly discussed”.
Noting how China has sought to weaken international human rights bodies, including the UN Human Rights Council, it says “the US should urgently support the June, 2020 call by 50 UN human rights experts for urgent action on China, which could include a special session of the Human Rights Council, and the appointment of a special rapporteur to monitor and report on human rights violations by the Chinese government….also urgently support an international investigation into human rights crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the Uyghur region/Xinjiang”.
The organization asks President Biden to “stigmatize the worst forms of mass data collection – the kind the Chinese government is promoting, such as facial recognition, racial profiling, and genomic surveillance” and “put in place a series of escalating actions against technology companies found to be contributing to China’s mass surveillance, including by imposing Global Magnitsky sanctions”.
The communication from the Uighurs is prompted by the correct political noises President Biden has made since assuming office. On the day he took oath of office, he signed an executive order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. Though the order relates to internal racial strife in the United States, it was seen by the Uighurs as evidence of Biden’s possible commitment to their cause.
The relevant portion of the executive order states: “Affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our Government. Because advancing equity requires a systematic approach to embedding fairness in decision-making processes, executive departments and agencies must recognize and work to redress inequities in their policies and programs that serve as barriers to equal opportunity”.
US secretary of state Anthony Blinken on February 6 spoke with prominent Chinese diplomat and close aid of President Xi, Yang Jeichi, who is the vice minister, ministry of foreign affairs, in-charge of affairs of North America, Oceania, and Latin America. “I made clear the US will defend our national interests, stand up for our democratic values, and hold Beijing accountable for its abuses of the international system,” Blinken tweeted later.
Two days later, the United States confirmed its decision to re-enter the United Nations Human Rights Council. President Donald Trump had walked out of the body in a huff in 2018.
The US President followed it up with a telephonic conversation with President Xi Jinping on February 10 during which he “underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan”.
On February 17, in his first trip out of Washington, President Biden told the CNN that there will be “repercussions” if China continues to abuse human rights in Xinjiang. “The United States will reassert its global role in speaking up for human rights”, Biden said. He promised to work towards raising a global platform to get China to protect the Uighurs.
Biden’s strongest response resonated across the international community: “Well, there will be repercussions for China, and he knows that. What I’m doing is making clear that we are going to reassert our role as spokespersons for human rights at the UN and other agencies that have an impact on their attitudes. China is trying very hard to become the world leader, and to get that moniker and to be able to do that, they have to gain the confidence of other countries. And as long as they are engaged in activity that is contrary to basic human rights, it’s gonna be hard for them to do that”.
China, suddenly finding itself at the wrong end of the stick on the issue of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, sought to convince the world of its innocence. A think tank, the Council for Foreign Relations, reported: “But Chinese officials maintain that what they call vocational training centers do not infringe on Uighurs’ human rights. They have refused to share information about the detention centers, and prevented journalists and foreign investigators from examining them. However, internal Chinese government documents leaked in late 2019 have provided important details on how officials launched and maintain the detention camps”.
For decades China has tried to justify its harsh measures against Uighurs of Xinjiang as its battle against “terrorism”. Using that pretext, it has launched a ceaseless crack down on the Uighur Muslim population including mass surveillance, arrests, indoctrination and forced sterilisation. The idea is to simply wipe out the religion, culture, language and customs of the Uighur Muslims and put checks on their population growth.
Over a million Uighurs suffer in concentration camps. Thousands of them have disappeared without trace even as the Chinese officials are demolishing the houses forcibly vacated by the Uighurs, their mosques and Islamic schools.
A Chinese Communist Party audio recording transmitted to Uighur Muslims through a social media site said: “Members of the public who have been chosen for re-education have been infected by an ideological illness. They have been infected with religious extremism and violent terrorist ideology, and therefore they must seek treatment from a hospital as an inpatient. … The religious extremist ideology is a type of poisonous medicine, which confuses the mind of the people. … If we do not eradicate religious extremism at its roots, the violent terrorist incidents will grow and spread all over like an incurable malignant tumor”.