Thu, Sep 06, 2018 - Page 9 News List

Muslim governments silent as China cracks down on Uighurs

Bloomberg

The panel called for an immediate halt to the detentions, the release of those already held, and an official investigation into allegations of racial and religious profiling.

China’s clampdown has been fueled by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) orders to “strike first” against Muslim extremism following deadly attacks in the region involving Uighurs and reports that some members of the minority were fighting alongside terror groups in Syria.

A Chinese Communist Party-run newspaper has rebuked criticism of the crackdown, saying that it had prevented Xinjiang from becoming another Syria.

The silence on Uighurs contrasts with outrage last year when about 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled clearance operations by the Burmese military, which the UN has since likened to genocide.

One big difference between the two cases: Myanmar’s economy is 180 times smaller than that of China, which is the top trading partner of 20 of the 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

China accounts for about one-10th of Saudi Arabia’s oil exports and about one-third of Iran’s, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

It is Malaysia’s top source of foreign investment and it has ensured the flow of more than US$60 billion in loans for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor infrastructure projects.

Muslim nations “don’t want to damage their relations with China, and consider China a potential ally against the West and the US, and therefore they are trying to stay silent,” said Omer Kanat, chairman of the executive committee at the World Uyghur Congress, an overseas Uighur advocacy group.

Over the years, these governments have vocally opposed US slights of Muslims, including US President Donald Trump’s ban last year on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif called it “a great gift to extremists.”

An expert testifying before a UN human rights panel on Aug. 10 cited reports that Beijing might be holding up to 1 million Uighurs in re-education camps.

Bloomberg in January reported on the Chinese government conducting experiments with facial recognition technology in the region.

The governments of Turkey, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt did not respond to requests to comment for this story.

Multiple telephone calls to the OIC for comment were not answered.

To be sure, maintaining trade ties is not the only motivator. Some governments are loathe to draw global attention to their own shabby human rights records. Beijing has largely refrained from involving itself in conflicts in the Muslim world.

Those nations “don’t particularly respect human rights themselves, so it’s hard to imagine that they would jump at an opportunity to criticize China,” said David Brophy, senior lecturer in Modern Chinese History at the University of Sydney.

Still, it could prove increasingly difficult to maintain their silence, as China’s policies in Xinjiang spill across its borders.

In Kazakhstan — a neighboring economic partner key to Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative — an undocumented, ethnic-Kazakh Chinese citizen has testified to being forced to teach in a camp before escaping.

Kazakh authorities, risking Beijing’s anger, allowed her to remain.

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