What's happening in Xinjiang, China, home to 11 million Uighurs?

What’s happening in Xinjiang, China, home to 11 million Uighurs?

According to an excerpt from John Bolton’s forthcoming book published in The Wall Street JournalTrump told Chinese President Xi Jinping at last year’s dinner that Xi should “proceed with the construction of the camps,” which Trump believed was “exactly the right thing to do.”

Trump’s alleged remarks come in stark contrast to the official stance of his government, which has repeatedly challenged Beijing for its repressive policies in Xinjiang.

Last July, Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo publicly described Uighur’s treatment of China as a “stain of the century.”

Here’s what you need to know about Xinjiang and what’s going on there.

Where is Xinjiang and who lives there?

Xinjiang, officially called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, is a remote area in the far west of China.

It is home to about 11 million Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority who speak a language closely related to the Turks and have their own distinct culture.

Rich in natural resources, especially oil and gas, the region has seen a large influx of Han’s population in recent decades, amid coordinated government efforts to develop the region’s economy.

Historically, the Uighurs were the majority in the area. They now make up almost half of Xinjiang’s total population, and many of them live in the southern, rural part of the region.

Xinjiang is also geographically strategic to Beijing. It is China’s gateway to Central Asia, bordering Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, as well as Mongolia and Russia in the north and Pakistan and India in the south.

What is happening there;

The State Department estimates that more than a million Uighurs, as well as members of other Muslim minority groups, have been detained in an extensive network of concentration camps in Xinjiang, where they are allegedly subjected to torture, cruel and inhumane treatment and physical treatment. forced labor and death. ”

Former inmates have told CNN they have experienced political disaster and abuse in the camps, such as food and sleep deprivation and forced injections.

Initially, Beijing categorically denied the existence of the camps. But he later claimed that the facilities were voluntary “vocational training centers” where people learn work skills, Chinese language and laws. The government now insists that the camps are necessary to prevent religious extremism and terrorism.

Chinese government documents leaked, however, exposed individuals can be sent to a detention facility simply by “wearing a veil” or by “growing a long beard”.

The documents, along with other first-hand reports, signal a worrying picture of what appears to be a strategic campaign by Beijing to strip the Uighurs of their cultural and religious identity and to suppress behavior that is considered unpatriotic.

The Chinese government has questioned authenticity leaks.

The repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang also saw an increase in mass surveillance throughout the region.

When CNN traveled to Xinjiang in 2019, there were surveillance cameras about every 150 feet, tracking people’s faces and daily routines. Mobile police checkpoints appeared randomly throughout the area, leading to long lines on public roads. At checkpoints, and sometimes accidentally on the street, police stopped people from asking for their ID cards and occasionally demanded that unconnected electronic devices be connected to mobile phones to scan them without explanation.

What’s the story behind it?

Beijing’s repression of Xinjiang reflects a long-standing paranoia about the border region and a deep suspicion of its non-Han population among China’s leaders, who have historically been the result of oppression and insurgency.

While the Chinese military has hit what is now Xinjiang and controlled parts of it for centuries, the modern command unit dates only to the mid-19th century, suggesting its name, which translates as “new frontier” in Chinese.

China's paranoia and oppression in Xinjiang have a long history

In the 1930s and 1940s, Xinjiang experienced short periods of partial independence, when two separate Republics of East Turkestan were proclaimed and quickly abolished.

Today, Wigo activists are pushing for Xinjiang to become a separate country, they still call it “East Turkestan”.

Over the past decade, the Chinese government has tightened its grip on the region following incidents of violent national unrest. The turning point came in 2009, when ethnic unrest broke out in Urumqi, the regional capital, killing at least 197 people.

Beijing has blamed Islamist militants and separatists for the attacks. However, activists and rights groups in Washington claim that the crackdown on religious freedom and Beijing’s unfair ethnic policies is the cause of the conflict.

Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang have long been protesting discrimination in employment and education, and corruption is rampant in state-owned industries that continue to dominate the local economy.

In 2014, Ilham Tohti, a finance professor in Beijing who was considered one of China’s leading moderate voices in Xinjiang, was sentenced to life in prison for “secession” and spreading “ethnic hatred”.

IvanN Watson, Matt Rivers and CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to the report.

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