China’s internment camps

Art made by Abigail (Abby) Lozano. Showing the silence the Chinese government holds over the Uighur Muslims. Inspiration taken from the “Free Uighur” campaign.

Xinjiang is a province in China that has been ruled by China’s Communist party since 1949. Currently, 45% of the population of Xinjiang is made up of Uighur (pronounced Wee-Ger) Muslims. Uighur Muslims originate from Turkic-speaking backgrounds, and China has placed nearly one million of these people in “Re-Education” camps within Xinjiang, China.

Chinese government documents, that were leaked to The New York Times in November of 2019, detailed that the Chinese officials were trying to “…rid their [Uighur Muslims] thinking that has been infected by unhealthy thoughts.” The documents went on to say that the freedom of Uighur Muslims is only possible when the virus in their thinking is eradicated.” 

These Muslim-harboring prisons disguised as operations of “re-education” have been in use since the beginning of 2017. They were established under Chinese President, Xi Jinping. By 2018, it was estimated that Chinese authorities had detained up to one thousand Uighur Muslims. Then, by late 2019, up to one million Uighur Muslims had been confirmed to be held in these camps. As of 2020, 52 of these camps still remain. 

Recently, China has claimed that all Uighur Muslims who had been detained in Xinjiang are now freed, and yet have not offered evidence of release. On December 3, 2019 the United States House of Representatives passed a bill (with a vote of 407-1) to try to stop what it calls the “arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment” of Uighur Muslims in China. The bill calls for “targeted sanctions on members of the Chinese government in order to stop this humanitarian crisis.

In an November 23, 2019 segment of the NPR (National Public Radio) show Weekend Edition, host Scott Simon talked with Bahram Sintash, a researcher for the Uighur Human Rights Project about China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslim. Simon asked Sintash about his family in Xinjiang. Sintash has not seen his family for two years. He said “I still know my mother and sister are living in their home in Urumqi, but I learned my father was taken to one of the concentration camp near (unintelligible) since the beginning of 2018.”

When asked how he felt when reading the leaked documents, Sintash replied, “What is China doing is a crime against humanity. Uighurs are not radical Islamist’s. We are just peaceful and normal minority group. So what China is doing is trying to wipe out Uighur identity. And they’ll wipe out their religion in the Uighur region.”