China defends detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang

The horrors of Chinese atrocities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in China’s Northwest are, without doubt, emerging on a daily basis. In response, China has continually changed its narrative about the mass internment of Uyghurs.

Organisations such as United Nations estimates that at least a million Muslim citizens are incarcerated in concentration camps, which China insists are “Vocational Training” camps. This figure amounts to 10 per cent of Xinjiang’s adult Muslim population. Beijing is now feeling Western pressure over its gross abuse of human rights and is now preparing itself with an entire arsenal of instruments to refute allegations and deflect criticisms.

In January 2021, the USA accused China of genocide. As the diplomatic pressure ramped up, other countries also followed the suit. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) displays irrational fears over the instability and dismemberment of China. Top leaders in China have suggested ethnic blending of more than 120 million minorities. They want to make the ethnic minorities more like the Han majority by blending minorities into a cohesive racial state with “stability-maintenance” as a key driver.

“We should not continue with what is rotten. Rather, China should discard the dross and select the essence; weed out the “chaff” to bring forth new roots.” said party chairman Xi Jinping at Central Ethnic Work Conference. The first couple of years saw widespread militant attacks against the state. It angered the paramount leader and turned a “softer” approach into a harsh one.

Soon, Xi personally set about transforming Xinjiang into a “social re-engineering hub” with XUAR party Zhang Chungxian pushed aside by Chen Quango in August 2016. Chen adopted a “clenched fist” approach and his appointment marked a turning point for Xi’s strategy. The CCP abandoned small-scale de-radicalization work and instead, adopted a “concentrated transformation through education” apparatus.

Chen spoke of a five-year plan to alter Xinjiang society: stabilizing the situation in the very first year, consolidation during the second year; normalizing the third year; and achieving “comprehensive stability” within five years. The CCP was secretive about its concentration camps for the first 1 and a half years, but when the news about them started making rounds, China’s first response was to vehemently deny their existence.

When the mounting evidence became overwhelming, China changed its narrative and claimed that the “camps” were actually “training centres” to give the backward Uyghur people valuable “job skills”. 

Yet,  the question remains that if the camps were so holistically beneficial, why did China originally cover up their existence? Moreover, if these were “vocational training schools” that Uyghurs attended voluntarily, why did reports from former detainees of torture and abuse made rounds all around the globe? Thus, China’s reasoning for running these camps is not logical. This phase of China’s propaganda highlighted some “positive” aspects of its ethnic-expulsion program. This involved inviting foreign diplomats on highly restricted visits or encouraging media outlets (or foreigners) to completely deny the existence of concentration camps. These propaganda campaigns were further supported by rumoured stories that these camps were “anticipated measures against extremism”. Thus, China provided evidence that no act of terrorism has occurred from the time they started making the efforts. 

In other words, the end justifies the means, no matter how much loathing and hate the treatment of many Uighurs attracts. Many innocent people, including families, had to undergo horrible treatment and were split forcibly. Many children were separated from their families and sent to “orphanages”, when parents were being incarcerated. This allowed the government to indoctrinate them, and alienate them from their own culture.

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