What Is Happening to the Uighurs in Xinjiang, China?

According to the South China Morning Post, Xinjiang is a northwest region in mainland China that is “tightly controlled.” An ethnic minority known as Uighurs reside in the region, so much so that roughly 46% of the population is of the Uighur minority. According to a video posted by Vox, Uighurs “had their own independent nation, two separate times in the last century.” However, once China adopted communism---now having a government titled Socialism with Chinese characteristics due to reformation---the Xinjiang region was reclaimed under the country’s control.

Sigal Samuel from Vox, though, shares that China fears separatism. Edward Wong from The New York Times shares that Xinjiang is “a natural hub for oil, gas, and coal.” China has invested a lot of money into the region due to the rich abundance of resources. If Xinjiang were to separate from the country, China would lose its natural hub; therefore, a lot of money being lost as well.

Lindsay Maizland from The Council on Foreign Relations published that the “Chinese government has reportedly detained more than a million Muslims in reeducation camps.” For months, the Uighurs have been detained by the Chinese government, sent away to internment camps where gruesome stories have been shared. Isobel Yeung, a journalist from Vice News, snuck into the regions with cameras posing as a travel blogger as opposed to a journalist. From the footage captured, it is evident that the region appears almost vacant. The reason behind the dystopian-like area has been theorized to be because of the internment camps and detainment of Uighurs.

Courtesy: Vice News

On an overnight train, Isobel was stopped by a Uighur individual who shared information that could have instigated consequences from the police. For safety, his voice has been disguised.

Isobel: How’s Uighur’s life nowadays?

Person: Not good at all.

Isobel: Why?

Person: Do you know that a lot of people are being sentenced? In Xinjiang, a lot of Uighurs are really worried. Something bad has happened. I can’t talk about it. I can’t talk about it.

Isobel: Why? Is it dangerous to talk about it?

Person: Yes, it’s dangerous.

Isobel: Are they---how do I say it---being “re-educated”?

Person: It’s for “anti-terrorism.” They call them “vocational centers.” Those places are prisons.

Isobel: Does anyone go there voluntarily?

Person: No, no, no, no. The police forced them.

Furthermore, Isobel was able to interview former detainees in which they share the truth as to what is occurring within those camps.

The tension between Uighurs and Han people, however, is not new to media. In 2009, Wong published an article detailing one of China’s largest ethnic clashes following the Tibetan uprising in 2008. The riots in Urumqi consisted of 1000 rioters and an estimate of 197 deaths.

Recently, more and more people have been talking about the situation because of a leaked video shared on Twitter. NowThis shared a video that begins with “China is putting Muslims into internment camps and no one’s doing anything about it.” Aydin Anwar comments on how the Uighurs are “forced to denounce Islam, adopt atheism, and pledge allegiance to the Chinese state.” She even shares that people are being sterilized, “a method used in genocide.” Other methods, such as Uighur women forced into marriage with Han men, have been initiated in order to stop the next generation of Uighurs.

Matt Rivers, Max Foster and James Griffiths from CNN shared footage released anonymously revealing the reality of what is happening within these camps. The footage showed prisoners being transferred with blindfolds as well as hands cuffed behind their backs. Xinjiang government attempted to explain that the activity was normal. Two former detainees, though, go against the motion claiming to have been in a similar position when the two underwent detainment due to their identities.

Anwar asks for people to bring awareness of the situation in Xinjiang because most people do not know what is happening. The NowThis video alone has been viewed 21.1 million times; thus, awareness is spreading thanks to social media. More can be done, though.

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