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Petition: Stand up for Uyghur Muslims in China

March 30th, 2020
topic:Human Rights
by:Yair Oded
located in:China
tags:activism, Change.org, China, concentration camps, forced labour, genocide, online activists, petition, United Nations, Uyghurs

China’s clampdown on Chinese Muslims is worsening. At the moment, over a million Chinese Uyghurs are being held in concentration camps erected by the government in the western region of Xinjiang.

There, prisoners are subject to torture, rape, indoctrination, and brainwashing with the goal of having them renounce their religion and culture and pledge unwavering and exclusive allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

A Change.org petition launched by Nawid Wardak calls on the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention, UN Secretary General António Guterres, and Amnesty International to do all in their power to intervene on behalf of Chinese Uyghurs and mobilise an international effort to end their oppression by the CCP. 

China’s persecution of ethnic minorities — particularly the Muslim Uyghur and Kazakhs, who are viewed as separatists refusing to assimilate in the predominant Han Chinese culture — dates back to the early 2000’s. Back then, a governmental program was launched which forced young Uyghurs (mostly women initially) to go work at factories in inner China. Refusals resulted in threats, fines, land confiscations and jail time. 

The programme was halted in 2009, but harsh restrictions on the Uyghur population and its ability to practice Islam had led to ethnic tensions, riots, and bloody terrorist attacks that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians, both Uyghur and Han. 

After President Xi Jinping rose to power, he made the crackdown on Uyghur self-determination a top priority. In an initially covert operation of Communist Party officials, ‘voluntary re-education’ camps were erected in Xinjiang over the past three years as part of what the government called a “struggle against terrorism, infiltration and separatism.” 

But hundreds of documents leaked following investigations by sources like The New York Times and the BBC, as well as accounts of locals and Uyghurs who escape, confirm that the Xinjiang facilitates could not be further from voluntary re-education camps, but are concentration camps operated at the direction of the CCP’s top tiers of leadership. 

Uyghurs from across the region are being kidnapped and held in such camps against their will under inhumane conditions, and are shown “absolutely no mercy,” as leaked internal documents containing orders from the government reveal. Imprisoned Uyghurs are subject to torture and women have reportedly been raped. They are also forced to undergo inhumane medical experiments and sterilisation. 

Testimonies and leaked documents reveal that Uyghurs held at the camp go through harsh indoctrination programmes in which they are forced to renounce their cultural and religious practices and become fully immersed in the predominant Han culture. 

As reported by Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), those who are released from the camps in Xinjiang are often transported to factories across China where they are subject to “conditions that strongly suggest forced labour.” Reporting by ASPI and the Associated Press both corroborate that Uyghurs are coerced to sign contracts that obligate them to work at factories for several years, and that those who refuse risk being thrown back in the camps or have their family members arrested. At the factories, Uyghurs are forbidden from praying, they must attend mandatory ‘assimilation’ classes, and are only permitted to venture out of the compounds twice a month. 

One such factory is located in Nanchang and is owned by the supplier OFILM. There, Uyghurs are among the workers who make computer screens, cameras, and fingerprint scanners which are sold to companies ranging from Apple, Lenovo and Sony to fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Subway. Other factories reportedly make sportswear for companies like Adidas and Nike. 

But forced detention and labour are only some aspects of the crippling oppression Uyghurs in China undergo. Millions of Uyghurs are subject to relentless surveillance by the authorities (even those living abroad), restrictions on their religious practices continually rise, and ‘disappearance’ of members of their communities has become part of the norm. 

As mentioned in Wardak’s petition, “Outside the camps a spyware app must be installed on [Uyghurs’] phone, so the government can monitor their activity, Muslim women cannot wear the hijab (scarf) unless she is over the age of 45, they are not allowed to speak any foreign language, there is no halal food, pork and alcohol MUST be in every household... and facial recognition can capture who is passing by a mosque and punish them for doing so.”

“I am Nawid, a muslim and student from The Netherlands. The stories I came across on social media about the Uyghur crisis moved me,” Wardak writes. “As a human being with basic human rights I felt it was my duty to do something, so I used my meme page as a platform to raise awareness about this issue and created this petition.”

So far, the international community has been largely silent about the persecution of Chinese Uyghurs. And although some in-depth, rattling reporting has emerged about the camps in Xinjiang, little has been done by world governments or corporations to pressure the Chinese authorities to cease their abhorrent treatment of Uyghurs.

Wardak’s petition has so far garnered over 765,000 signatures. Please consider adding your name and help him reach his goal of 1,000,000 signatures.

It is up to each and every one of us to carry the torch and raise our voices in solidarity with Uyghurs. We must ensure that our elected officials do all in their power to raise the alarm on this issue and take concrete steps to end the torture.

Article written by:
yair oded profile
Yair Oded
Author, Project Editor, Contributing Editor
China
At the moment, over a million Chinese Uyghurs are being held in concentration camps erected by the government in the western region of Xinjiang.
A Change.org petition launched by Nawid Wardak calls on the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention, to do all in their power to intervene on behalf of Chinese Uyghurs and mobilise an international effort to end their oppression by the CCP.
It is up to each and every one of us to carry the torch and raise our voices in solidarity with Uyghurs.