Fri, Apr 12, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Global silence on Beijing’s oppression of Islamic minorities

By Brahma Chellaney

For more than two years, China has waged a campaign of unparalleled repression against its Islamic minorities, incarcerating an estimated one-sixth of the adult Muslim population of the Xinjiang region at one point or another.

Yet, with the exception of a recent tweet from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling on China to “end its repression,” the international community has remained largely mute.

In its reliance on mass detention, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has followed the Soviet Union’s example. However, China’s concentration camps and detention centers are far larger and more technologically advanced than their Soviet precursors, and their purpose is to indoctrinate not just political dissidents, but an entire community of faith.

Although independent researchers and human rights groups have raised awareness of practices such as force-feeding Muslims alcohol and pork, the Chinese authorities have been able to continue their assault on Islam with impunity. Even as China’s security agencies pursue Uighurs and other Muslims as far afield as Turkey, Chinese leaders and companies involved in the persecution have not faced international sanctions or incurred any other costs.

Chief among the culprits, of course, is Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), who in 2014 ordered the policy change that set the stage for today’s repression of ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Hui, and members of other Muslim groups.

The forcible assimilation of Muslims into the nation’s dominant Han culture is apparently a cornerstone of Xiism — or “Xi Jinping Thought” — the grand “ism” that he has introduced to overshadow the influence of Marxism and Maoism in China.

To oversee this large-scale deprogramming of Islamic identities, Xi, who has amassed more power than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong (毛澤東), reassigned the notorious CCP enforcer Chen Quanguo (陳全國) from Tibet to Xinjiang and elevated him to the all-powerful Politburo.

Although Chen’s record of overseeing human rights abuses is well known, US President Donald Trump’s administration has yet to act on a bipartisan commission’s recommendation last year that he and other Chinese officials managing the gulag policy be sanctioned.

In general, financial and trade interests, not to mention the threat of Chinese retribution, have deterred most countries from condemning China’s anti-Muslim policies.

With the exception of Turkey, even predominantly Muslim countries that were quick to condemn Myanmar for its treatment of Rohingya Muslims have remained conspicuously silent on China.

While Pakistan’s military-backed Prime Minister Imran Khan has feigned ignorance about the Xinjiang crackdown, Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammad bin Salman has gone so far as to defend China’s right to police “terrorism.”

Emboldened by the muted international response, China has stepped up its drive to sinicize Xinjiang by demolishing Muslim neighborhoods. In Urumqi and other cities, once-bustling Uighur districts have been replaced with heavily policed zones purged of Islamic culture.

The irony is that while China justifies its “re-education hospitals” as necessary to cleanse Muslim minds at home of extremist thoughts, it is effectively supporting Islamist terrorism abroad.

For example, China has repeatedly blocked UN sanctions against Masood Azhar, the head of the Pakistan-based, UN-designated terrorist group responsible for carrying out serial attacks in India, including on parliament and, most recently, on a paramilitary police convoy.

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