While human rights organizations often focus on Beijing's repression of Tibetans and rights advocates throughout China, one group of people, the Uyghurs, has not received the attention a plight of their magnitude should warrant.
This could, in part, be the result of Uyghurs being concentrated in Xinjiang, whose remoteness makes reporting on the situation there more onerous. Beijing's cynical exploitation of the US-led "war on terrorism" since Sept. 11, 2001, as it represses this Muslim minority is also part of the reason why their suffering remains largely unknown. Readers may recall Huseyin Celil, the Canadian Uyghur who in April was sentenced to life in prison for alleged "terrorist activities." Celil, sadly, still languishes in jail and Ottawa has grown conspicuously silent on the matter. In the past six years, more than 3,000 Uyghurs have been arrested on similar charges.
Last week, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Rebiya Kadeer, who lives in exile in the US after spending five years in prison for defending Uyghur rights (or, as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang (
Meanwhile, in an Oct. 18 letter to the National People's Congress, Amnesty International called on Chinese authorities to end a practice known as reeducation through labor (RTL). Amnesty reports that hundreds of thousands of Chinese have been affected by RTL, which can be imposed for "crimes" -- such as criticizing the government or following banned beliefs -- that are not considered serious enough to be punishable by criminal law.
While no one has so far come out and put two and two together, the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of women from a specific ethnic group and religious belief bears all the hallmarks of the RTL policy and promises to be as devastating to Uyghur communities as the reeducation program during the Cultural Revolution was for the educated classes. The removal of 240,000 women of reproductive age (most of them are believed to be between 16 and 25 years old) from a population of approximately 8.3 million Uyghurs in Xinjiang will have severe implications for the birth rate there.
As was the case during the Cultural Revolution, Beijing hopes the women subjected to forced transfer will marry Chinese from a different background -- in the present case non-Uyghurs/Muslims -- and thereby break the bonds that tie them to their community.
This, however, is only a new rung in Beijing's long history of trying to erase Uyghur identity. Starting in 1990, China began promoting mixed marriages in Xinjiang, offering Uyghurs better social benefits if they married non-Uyghur Chinese and, conversely, 3,000 yuan (US$402) stipends for Han Chinese marrying Uyghurs. Birth control, forced abortion and sterilization (which the People's Daily claimed in 2001 was "voluntary") have also been reported.
The ramifications of such practices on the social cohesion of Uyghurs have yet to be fully understood, but it is clear they represent an attempt to assimilate the ethnic minority, with the long-term objective of watering down, if not altogether eradicating, its identity. In other words, we are witnessing nothing less than ethnic cleansing. Also, as international conventions define a child as anyone below the age of 18, the forced employment of many Uyghur women is child labor.
Surely all those women cannot be "terrorists." Their only "crime" is being female and belonging to the Uyghur ethnic minority.
“Testy,” “divisive,” “frigid,” “an exchange of insults” were some of the media descriptions of last month’s meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and their Chinese counterparts. Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass said that, rather than the “deft handling” needed in US-China relations, this encounter was “mishandled, a terrible start [with] way too much public signaling.” Yet, contrary to conventional wisdom, the acrimonious encounter with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) and Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) was a great success for US diplomacy
In studies of Taiwan’s demographic changes, the Institute of Sociology at Academia Sinica has found that a mere 36.5 percent of men and 19.6 percent of women think getting married is an important life event. The institute also found that the government spending money or amending laws and regulations in order to encourage families to have children is having no impact on the birthrate. Opinions differ on whether this kind of change is a matter of national security, as Japan faces a similar situation, without having a negative impact on its economic strength. Fewer women are willing to marry and the divorce
Interrupting the assimilation of Xinjiang’s Uighur population would result in an unmanageable national security threat to China. Numerous governments and civil society organizations around the world have accused China of massive human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and labeled Beijing’s inhumane and aggressive social re-engineering efforts in the region as “cultural genocide.” Extensive evidence shows that China’s forceful ethnic assimilation policies in Xinjiang are aimed at replacing Uighur ethnic and religious identity with a so-called scientific communist dogma and Han Chinese culture. The total assimilation of Uighurs into the larger “Chinese family” is also Beijing’s official, central purpose of its ethnic policies
Early last month, China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), officially approved the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan. The strategy was supposed to demonstrate that China has a long-term economic vision that would enable it to thrive, despite its geopolitical contest with the US. However, before the ink on the NPC’s stamp could dry, China had already begun sabotaging the plan’s chances of success. The new plan’s centerpiece is the “dual-circulation” strategy, according to which China would aim to foster growth based on domestic demand and technological self-sufficiency. This would not only reduce China’s reliance on external demand; it would also