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 in the region.
Consequently, numerous Western actors are escalating their political, economic and diplomatic pressure on Beijing to coerce it into stopping the program.
In the US, last year’s Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act condemns gross human rights violations of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, and calls for an “end to arbitrary detention, torture, and harassment of these communities inside and outside China.”
During his presidential campaign, US President Joe Biden referred to the crackdown on Uighurs as “genocide,” and in the past few months imposed numerous political and economic sanctions on Beijing.
The UK has imposed sanctions on Chinese officials, and British lawmakers are discussing a genocide trade bill that, if passed, would seriously restrict trade with China.
Political parties in northern Europe are asking to end the EU’s free trade talks with China.
The list of measures goes on.
A consequence of the growing public outcry against Beijing’s assimilation policies in Xinjiang is the probable partial boycott of next year’s Beijing Winter Olympic Games.
After all, how could a country send its athletes to an event organized by a genocidal regime? Numerous representatives of Western governments have added their support for the boycott.
Canadian lawmakers have called for the relocation of the Olympics over the Chinese government’s reported abuses of Uighurs.
Australia has discussed the possibility of boycotting the Games, and Australian athletes were urged to support the boycott.
US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg also discussed the possibility of boycotting the Games.
British Secretary of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab said that a boycott of the Olympics was possible due to China’s mistreatment of Uighurs.
In September last year, more than 160 human rights organizations called on the International Olympic Committee to withdraw the Games from Beijing.
Again, the list of calls for the Beijing Olympics to be boycotted goes on.
Maybe more damaging than the possibility of the Games being partially boycotted is the growing economic cost that China is paying for not halting its assimilationist policies in Xinjiang.
Large Chinese conglomerates have been targeted directly for having production facilities in Xinjiang or using Uighur “slave labor.” Biden’s trade agenda is strongly shaped by issues related to Uighur forced labor.
Xinjiang’s massive cotton industry, representing 20 percent of global cotton production, is undermined by direct sanctions, and India, China’s regional competitor, is reaping the benefits.
Also, the until recently booming Chinese solar industry is seeing its sales plummet in Western countries.
Numerous global companies, such as Nike, H&M, Hugo Boss, Volkswagen and Burberry (to mention just a few), are under scrutiny and have been asked to prove that they are not sourcing labor or materials from Xinjiang.
Nike is experiencing mounting public pressure and has been shamed because some of its products are allegedly tainted by Uighur “slave labor.”
Despite the mounting Western political pressure, the substantial damage to China’s international standing and the massive economic cost that the assimilationist policies in Xinjiang entail, Beijing has neither recognized that its harsh policies are resulting in massive human rights abuses nor has it signaled that it is willing to reverse or halt them.
Assuming that Beijing is committing massive human rights abuses in Xinjiang, the following question needs to be addressed: Can Beijing stop its harsh assimilationist policies there?
The short answer is no.
Beijing cannot interrupt the forced assimilation of the Uighur population in Xinjiang because doing so would result in an unmanageable national security threat to China.
Despite the complexity of the situation, the core reason is relatively obvious: Uighurs’ despair and hatred toward China and its Han representatives.
This hatred is fanned by the ruthlessness of the assimilationist policies.
For instance, to ensure that all Uighurs renounce their ethnic identity and adopt the Chinese one, millions of them are for long periods held at re-education camps, which some have called “concentration camps.”
There, aggressive brainwashing, physical torment and humiliation are allegedly used to replace their religious beliefs and Uighur culture with communist dogmas and Han Chinese culture. Those who resist are punished harshly.
To prove that they have been successfully re-educated, Uighurs are asked whether they have memorized Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) policies, sing Chinese nationalist songs, eat pork, drink alcohol, and refrain from using the Uighur language, pray and fast.
Obviously, these Uighurs feel extremely humiliated and desperate, and it can be expected that they want to seek revenge against their Han tormentors.
Outside the camps, Uighurs are also suffering under the assimilation policies.
As a consequence of the massive detention of adults and family separation policies, tens of thousands of young children lose contact with their parents and are sent to orphanages, where they are brought up in a Han Chinese cultural environment.
Also, Uighur families are forced to accept thousands of Han Chinese officials to live in their homes as uninvited guests. These officials supervise and “guide” the families on how to reject Muslim values and Uighur traditions to become good Chinese citizens.
There are numerous accounts of Uighur women being coerced into marrying Han Chinese men.
The list of documented human rights abuses committed in Xinjiang goes on.
Obviously, Uighurs hate this situation and would do anything to hurt their Han abusers.
Given that the large majority of the more than 11 million Uighurs worldwide are going through this aggressive, humiliating, painful and devastating assimilation program, it can be assumed that at this stage, nearly 100 percent of adult Uighurs hate Han Chinese.
More importantly, most of them can be expected to be eager to hurt China if they were given a chance.
Hence, if the assimilation process is halted and Uighurs are allowed to enjoy basic freedoms again, many of them would use those freedoms to seek revenge and harm China in any way they could.
These millions of revenge-seeking Uighurs would pose a real national security threat to China, which Beijing might not be able to counter in any reasonable way.
The implications of this situation put Western governments and organizations in a difficult position. Consequently, they would have to stop demanding from Beijing to halt its brutal “genocidal” policies and limit their demands to asking for a softening of the assimilationist policies. Obviously, this is not a position that any Western actor could take openly.
Yes, there is massive evidence that Uighurs are put through an intensive and harsh assimilation program that aims to replace most of their ethnic identity with a homogenous Han Chinese one.
Still, the West should understand that no degree of political and diplomatic pressure, and no level of economic cost inflicted on China would coerce Beijing into halting the assimilation of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
Halting them would result in millions of extremely angry, revenge-seeking Uighurs trying to hurt China, resulting in an unmanageable national security threat.
Patrik Meyer holds a doctorate in politics and international studies and consults on conflict management.
Last week, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, said in a statement that they have decided to end their marriage. The news immediately caused a global sensation. When my daughter heard that I was going to write a newspaper op-ed to comment on the matter, she made sure to remind me not to focus on the divorce agreement or the handling of the world’s richest couple’s wealth. Instead of talking about how much money Melinda Gates would get from the divorce, my daughter wanted me to focus on the many sacrifices she has made, and on her many
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) expressed “deep concern” over the staggering rise of COVID-19 cases in India, and offered to supply medical equipment and vaccine doses to the country, but his overtures sparked debate in India’s academic and political circles about his sincerity to help, particularly as it was followed by a vulgar display of schadenfreude over the hundreds of thousands of cremations of deaths caused by the virus in the country. The vast majority of Indians were already angry and frustrated with Beijing needling the country on a number of issues, including imports from China, which were abruptly stopped
Explore within a 160km radius of central Taiwan and you would stumble across some of world’s most majestic mountains, breathtaking lakes and awe-inspiring valleys. You would also find 95 percent of the world’s most advanced chipmaking. While lacking the same postcard views as Yushan or Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) is still a treasure. The company went from being the upstart of a government industrial think tank to the most crucial chip supplier in the world, but even as it has grown into a US$540 billion company, management has stubbornly kept all state-of-the-art manufacturing capacity at just three
Given China’s regional might, it is little surprise that the nation casts a long shadow across Asia — including in its media coverage. However, we are now seeing a disturbing trend of Western media casting a favorable light on China, right as it stands accused of suppressing democracy in Hong Kong, interning Uighurs and obscuring investigations into the origins of COVID-19. At the same time, important coverage of Asian democracies, such as Taiwan’s 20-place leap in the Democracy Index last year — in the midst of a pandemic that brought major constrictions of democratic rights in many places — gets