EDITORIAL: The truth about China is not slander

Sat, Jul 13, 2019 - Page 8

The ambassadors of 22 nations in Geneva this week sent a letter to the president of the UN’s Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calling on China to end mass arbitrary detentions and other violations against Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

While the envoys’ statement stopped short of seeking a council resolution, which would be difficult to achieve, it was remarkable for two reasons:

First, it indicates the rising level of international concern over the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) policies and actions in Xinjiang, and second, it did not have a clear initiator that might have become the object of Beijing’s wrath.

Each of the 22 nations, which included the UK, Canada, Japan, Australia, France, Germany and Switzerland, was an equal signatory.

Although the letter is unlikely to achieve a change in Beijing’s behavior, it is a sign that such actions are not without consequences, and that powerful countries can and should be called to account for their actions.

So it is no surprise that Chinese officials responded by calling the letter slanderous, a distortion of the facts and part of a Western smear campaign.

Beijing’s treatment of Muslims and other minorities in the region, which is now happy and secure, was actually a model that other nations should follow, a Chinese diplomat told the council.

However, it is not slanderous to call China’s “re-education and vocational training centers” in Xinjiang what they are: Concentration camps aimed at the extermination of the Uighurs’ language, religion and culture, and those of the Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the region.

Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other minorities have not been rushing to take part in the classes at such sites; if they were, there would not be the need for the stockade walls topped with rolls of barbed wire. If they were, there would not be the flood of stories from Uighurs outside of China asking for information about missing loved ones, about indoctrination sessions, or stories about children being forcibly taken from their families.

China says that the centers are helping to “reintegrate people indoctrinated by radicalism,” and claim that there have not been terror attacks in Xinjiang in the past few years.

However, there were attacks in Xinjiang and elsewhere, but it was not Muslim radicalization that was to blame — it was Beijing’s efforts to “Hanificize” and Sinicize Xinjiang, and its heavy-handed rule as it has increased surveillance and restrictions. Tibetans similarly grew restive and some turned aggressive toward Han immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s as they saw more of their language, culture and traditions being eradicated, while the better-paying jobs went to Chinese.

It is not Islam, or Buddhism — or in the case of Hong Kong, a colonial past and education system — that are to blame for unrest in Xinjiang, Tibet or Hong Kong. The common denominator is the CCP and its unwillingness to tolerate differences or the aspirations of people to preserve their cultures and traditions.

That is why it is so important for those outside China to continue to protest Beijing’s actions, giving a voice to those who Beijing seeks to silence.