Concentration Camps with Chinese Characteristics
In recent months, China has intensified its campaign of Sinicization, or forced assimilation into mainstream Chinese culture, directed at the Uyghur Muslims of East Turkestan. They have been targeted with surveillance, home invasions, forced family separation and detainment in re-education camps where they are forced to violate their core beliefs.
This intensification merely marks the newest chapter in China’s suppression of the religious and political aspirations of the Uyghur people, which has been ongoing since East Turkestan was taken over by imperialist China in the late 1800s.
The Chinese government claims that these camps are “vocational training schools”, and that they are only making arrests to quell separatism and terrorism.
So, what is the nature of this campaign? What are its historical roots and end goals? And how should the Ummah respond?
The Surveillance State
China, working with the private firm SenseNets, has installed a surveillance system across the police checkpoints, internet cafes and mosques. Cameras equipped with facial recognition technology have been tracking the names, photos, ID card numbers, birth dates and employment details of 2.5 million people. Victor Gevers, the Dutch cybersecurity expert who first reported about this program, described it as a “Muslim tracker”.
If this weren’t enough, the Chinese state has been tasking members of the Communist Party to go live with Uyghur families under their “Pair Up and Become Family” cultural exchange program; neither the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member nor the family can refuse this arrangement.
The CCP members have been asked to join their family weddings, funerals, and day to day life, asking them questions about their family overseas, and where they learn their deen from. The instructions go further to say that if the older members of the family are not responsive, to ask the children these questions.
The CCP members are also tasked with offering the family alcohol or food during Ramadan. Whatever responses are garnered from these interactions are then to be reported to the Chinese authorities.
Imprisonment and Indoctrination
If the results of these surveillance efforts determine that one is not sufficiently “Chinese”, the Chinese government can claim that in its efforts to curb extremism and terrorism, it is justified to forcibly detain you in a camp, where you can be trained on how to be more productive to Chinese society. Anywhere from 1 million to 3 million Muslims are currently being held in these camps.
This training consists of a steady diet of compulsory chanting of patriotic slogan and songs, forced consumption of pork and alcohol, sessions where you are compelled to renounce Islam, and physical torture. There are even reports of organ harvesting of Muslim prisoners.
And while the parents are away for “training”, the children are deemed orphans and kept at local orphanages where they can be indoctrinated with the ideology of the state and can even be trained in how to inform on the unpatriotic activities of their friends and relatives.
All of this is in the backdrop of the arrests and disappearances of Uyghur activists, and the destruction of historical mosques such as the Keriya mosque in Kashgar, which was built in 1232 CE.
The depth, coordination and scale of this campaign makes it one of the most violent social engineering campaigns in modern history.
The Uyghurs – a forgotten history
The Uyghurs on the other hand are a Turkic people who settled in the East Turkestan region thousands of years ago, playing a crucial part in developing the Silk Road. The first conversions to Islam were as old as 956 AD, during the reign of the Karakhans, and their capital was Kashgar.
Their language was written in Arabic script, and the East Turkestan region became a center for trade, culture and learning. Scholars such as the vizier Yusuf Khass Hajib wrote his famous work, Kutadgu Bilig, in which he advised rulers to be just and wise.
The Muslim kingdom was annexed into China by the Manchu Dynasty in the late 1800s, while the Uyghurs kept fighting for their independence, with uprisings in 1933 and 1944.
After Mao’s revolution, the Communist leadership of China maintained control of East Turkestan, imposing the brutality of the cultural revolution, and forcing secularization on them.
After years of abuse, following the fall of the USSR, the Muslims of the region were hopeful that they would be able to gain liberation from Communist rule. The Chinese government responded with a campaign of brutal suppression, imprisonment and torture, starting with the Baren Massacre in 1990, which was a response to Muslim protesting the forced sterilization and abortions imposed on Muslim women during China’s One Child Policy.
After 9/11, China was able to use the “War on Terror” narrative to intensify its persecution of the Uyghurs, resulting in the current campaign.
The reality is that the Uyghur people have never been tied, whether through their culture or their values, to the Chinese state. This rift has only widened with the imposition of the atheistic communism of the Communist Party of China.
East Turkestan is a Muslim land whose people have been fighting for their liberation from the Chinese for over 100 years.
China’s war against Islam has not gone unnoticed in the Ummah. From across the Muslim world, and even in Muslim communities in the West, we have seen an outcry against this cruelty, and a demand for the Muslim rulers to do something.
But the response from the rulers of the Muslim lands has been dismal, with Imran Khan in Pakistan claiming to know nothing of the atrocities and refusing to condemn it publicly even if he did know something; or the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad bin Salman saying that China has the right to fight extremism within its borders in any way it sees fit, which is a tacit approval of Chinese concentration camps, as the government claims they are designed to curtail extremism.
While Islam has described political leadership as a shield and protector of the Muslims, the regimes across the Muslim world shield and protect their own political power, status and wealth.
To these rulers comes a severe warning over their blatant disregard and inaction. Ibn ‘Abbas narrated that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said,
“Fear the du’a of the oppressed for between them and Allah there is no barrier.”
What an Islamic response would look like
If there were any sincere leadership in the Muslim lands, it would realize that China does not exist in a vacuum and is dependent upon its neighbors to continue its economic progress. Muslim nations have the power to stop selling oil to China (all of which comes from the Muslim lands), or threaten its sea-based trade routes, forcing China to have to create expensive railroads into its mountainous north just to trade with its nearby neighbors.
Wise Islamic leadership would recognize that trade deals with China under its Road and Belt Initiative are not actually economic deals. Instead, they confer more political benefits to China than economic benefits and are an expression of China’s regional ambitions. They should be rejected until China treats its trading partners as equals.
Such leadership would point out to the Capitalist nations their level of hypocrisy in this matter. After all, it is under the deceptive rhetoric of the War on Terror that China was able to justify this brutal campaign of terror.
Much of the propaganda used to sustain this campaign comes from American think tanks, and much of the technology needed to sustain the surveillance state is provided by American companies.
This response is not to be expected from the spineless agents who crawl towards their colonial masters to be given the strength to brutalize the Ummah, in a bid to maintain their power.
It is incumbent on us to right this wrong which afflicts us, so that finally the cries of the weak and oppressed are responded to.
It is incumbent on us to raise the call to demand from all the military officers, politicians and notable figures that we know to extend their Nussrah for the re-establishment of the Khilafah (Caliphate) on the Method of the Prophethood, so that the sincere soldiers within the Muslim armies can be led in the pursuit of martyrdom or victory when marching towards liberating East Turkestan from Communist rule.
This can only happen when this Ummah raises the banner of Islam and implements Islam’s Just socio-economic and ruling systems through the Khilafah state.
Not only will this liberate the Uyghurs, it will become a symbol of liberation as well to oppressed Muslims all over the world and a light to oppressed non-Muslims who would wish to live under the shade of Islam. Let us work together to hasten its return.
“Let there arise from among you a group of people who invite to the good, and order what is right and forbid what is wrong. And they are the successful ones.” [Surah al-Imran 3:104]