Drone footage undermines Beijing’s ‘vocational training’ narrative . . .
Two recent media reports have returned the plight of China’s Muslim minorities to the spotlight. Today, The Guardian shared video footage of hundreds of Muslim men, blindfolded and in shackles, in an apparent prison transfer in Xinjiang Province. The image directly supports the claims of the UN and other experts that the facilities are, in fact, detention camps designed to strip away any sense of identification with Islam. This contradicts the Chinese government’s contention that Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have voluntarily participated in vocational training and de-radicalization programs.
Signs of creeping repression . . .
On Saturday, The New York Times reported on another alarming development: the crackdown has spread to the country’s 10 million Hui Muslims. Although the Hui are generally more integrated into Chinese society than the Uighurs, they are nonetheless being subjected to religious repression, such as the shutting down or destroying of mosques, removing Arabic script from buildings, ending calls to prayer, and banning the sale of the Qu’ran. The Times notes that these moves are based on a new confidential Communist Party directive to restrict expressions of Islam.
Issue raised on the big stage . . .
The recent media revelations come at a time when China’s critics will have ample opportunity to raise the issue – which has increasingly gained an international dimension – at the UN General Assembly. For instance, in 2015, Thailand and Afghanistan repatriated 109 and 12 Uighurs, respectively, bowing to China’s demands. On the sidelines of this week’s UN General Assembly, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo implored Central Asian states to resist Beijing’s demand for Uighurs to be repatriated. On Tuesday, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State is scheduled to host an event that will focus specifically on Xinjiang. It has also been reported that the U.S. may be considering sanctions against Chinese officials, including Xinjiang’s Communist Party head. China has vigorously rejected Pompeo’s and the Western media’s portrayals of conditions in Xinjiang.