In 2018, Radio Free Asia released a report claiming 120,000 Uyghurs were being held at “re-education” camps in China. Meanwhile, headlines of 1 million Muslim Uyghurs languishing in concentration camps were plastered across homepages. The articles go further to say that 1 million Han mobilized to take what belongs to Uyghurs who were forced from their homes. Which reports are accurate? What is truly occurring in Xinjiang? Who is responsible for the reports and the circulation of the “1 million people” figure? Which organisations are making these claims and what are their interests? What is the larger, overarching agenda?
The world is aware of imperialist wars waged by capitalists against revolutionary, nationalist governments in the third world which pursue progressive policies, endangering western corporate mercantilist monopolies and their financial neo-colonialist grip over nations. As alternative superpowers are rising, even historic client states of imperialism are looking elsewhere for investment and arms. Independent third world-nationalist nations have been destroyed, war-stricken, and/or replaced with vassal states of imperialism, leaving few bastions of anti-imperialism in the world. [Re]-emerging alternate global powers have also become involved in these wars, due to the disproportionate use of force against small nations. From their former communist eras, Russia and China both maintain historic relations with the remaining non-aligned or third world nationalist nations. While there is disagreement on whether or not China can still be considered communist, there is no question the trade war between the US and China is hotter than ever before. China’s influence in the developing world is ever-increasing due to their less predatory, more even-handed, “no political strings attached” trade practices with nations across the world. This puts the force and supremacy-based relations of neo-colonial powers at risk.
In order to legislate this war- both military and economic- mass paranoia among the war-weary masses is necessary. The economic tension manifests itself clearly on the news, while the military and militant aspect of this war is portrayed as a domestic issue to absolve involved foreign powers of any responsibility.
NATO states are now well aware that ground invasions are far more difficult than they expected in the past. They failed at their doorstep in Cuba, success is impossible to attain in Afghanistan, their clients in Iraq are falling further into Iran’s arms, and they were sent with their tails between their legs in Vietnam. Thus, proxy war has been chosen in more recent times; the only boots required on the ground, generally, are those which provide tactical support, equipment, and training.
Xinjiang in modern times and the Turkic people
The term Uighur is a relatively modern construct. Initially used in the early 20th century to characterize the historic Turkic nomads living in what is now Western China, many Turkic people reject[ed] the name “Uighur” and preferred to be identified as Turkic. With over 4 dozen ethnic groups residing in it, Xinjiang is among the most diverse provinces in all of China and it has been similarly diverse throughout history. The population of Uighurs (as they are known now) has grown in recent times, making them the largest/equally largest ethnic group in Xinjiang.
Traditionally, those who utilized the term “Uyghurstan” were aligned with the Soviet Union and desired for their own inclusion into the diverse Soviet umbrella of people. The Turkic people however were quite diverse in their sympathies, with others holding “pan-Islamist” pro-Ottoman sentiments.
The USSR supported liberation groups including Turkic ones against Kuomintang rule in China. Xinjiang was split between east and west- Shicai in the East was aligned with the USSR while Kuomintang nationalists ruled in the west. After the Soviets left Shicai to defend their land against the approaching Nazis, Sheng Shicai switched sides and turned to Kuomintang China. While Shicai was an opportunist, other Turkic nationalists were loyal to the Kuomintang government of China from the beginning. Masud Sabri is such an example. Soon after, China was liberated from foreign occupation and Kuomintang rule, under the leadership of Chairman Mao.
After the Sino-Soviet split, the USSR gave support to Turkestan revolutionary parties against the People’s Republic of China as well. As a result of this and China’s growing rapprochement with the west, China joined its new “friends” and backed its own factions in Afghanistan opposed to the USSR and the socialist government.
Friction with China, however, does not end despite privatization, butting heads with the USSR, and other “reforms”. Taiwan, since China’s exile of Kuomintang leader Kai-Shek, remained a vassal state of western imperialism under his leadership and after. China, unlike the USSR, was not completely infiltrated and dismantled by western empire. China’s leaders maintained independent thought and distinct interests from their western counterparts. However, these “counterparts” desired far more than just diplomatic ties- they desired an asset such as Yeltsin to be at the helm of the Communist Party. Tibet remains an issue decades after the 1950s, when the CIA and MI6 first attempted to foment unrest and cultivate a separatist movement.
Recent Separatist Activities and International Deployment
It is around the last two decades of the millenium where western powers and “Islamists” become involved in Xinjiang. Since the 90s, terrorists have actively been engaging in “jihad” against what they call “occupying, atheist, communist regime”. This jihad includes the Turkistan Islamic Party, a terrorist group which is aligned with AlQaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. The TIP receives support from Turkey and other key pro-western states in NATO’s sphere of influence. The Turkistan Islamic Party is also known for fighting in Syria as part of the decade-long international “jihad” campaign; a “jihad” that is always conveniently waged against enemies and competitors of western imperialism. The Muslim Brotherhood and other forebears of AlQaeda were main players of this international, pro-Western, anti-socialist, anti-communist “jihad”.
Among the training camps in Afghanistan were many Uighurs who were trained for so-called “jihad” against China- this diverse group of “Islamist” fighters operated in the presence of Osama bin Laden as late as 2001, and were to travel/return to places such as the Libyan Jamaahiriyyah and Yugoslavia. They were implicated in multiple assassination attempts of foreign leaders and were involved in a number of insurgencies. They also traveled to Somalia, Egypt, Chechnya, Yemen, and Iraq to fight. In some cases, this was problematic for the American camp as the militants not only opposed non-aligned left-wing nations, but they also opposed secular pro-Western regimes.
Journalist, Eric Margolis- “The CIA was going to use them in the event of a war with China, or just to raise hell there, and they were trained and supported out of Afghanistan, some of them with Osama bin Laden’s collaboration. The Americans were up to their ears with this.”
Fighters trained in Afghanistan attempted to assassinate Libyan revolutionary guide, Muammar Qaddafi, on multiple occasions. Today, remnants of and successors to this same web of “Jihadis” are fighting in Syria against the Syrian government. They maintain close relations and collaboration with Al Nusra (now HTS), Ahrar al Sham, and Jaysh al Fateh in Syria.
Turkey’s appeals to the Uighur population as well as their fueling of separatism (with both their propaganda and political support) has effectively made them a third-party proxy of the US to fight China. Lately, their preoccupation with the Kurdish issue has drawn their full attention from the “Xinjiang problem”. Syria remains a common battleground for both Turkey and the TIP, and Turkey’s support of various factions active in Syria is no secret.
Terrorism and Separatism
The forces leading separatism have been responsible for a large number of terrorist attacks in China. The Kashgar attack before the Beijing olympics was carried out by separatist sympathizers. Suicide bombings and stabbings are common; the Turkistan Islamic party and AlQaeda have both assumed responsibility for many of these attacks. Riots conducted by separatists have been portrayed as peaceful protests in western media and by AlJazeera.
Soon after Eid al-Fitr 2014, terrorists with separatist sympathies also stabbed and killed Imam Juma Tahir, who was returning home from Fajr prayer. The Jamestown Foundation, South China Morning Post (formerly owned by Rupert Murdoch), and World Uighur Congress blamed alleged Chinese repression of the Uighurs for the murder of the Imam. The ETESA (based in Turkey) and the UETESA (both Turkic “Islamist” separatist groups) applauded the assassination and lauded the killers.
Turkey has repeatedly called for boycotts and other methods of political and economic pressure against China under the pretext of China’s alleged repression of the Uighur Muslim community. Naturally these calls were echoed by the US as well. US ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, was in Beijing in 2011. Under the foolish notion he could capitalize on the so-called “Arab spring”, he yelled “take down China!” in the streets of Beijing. He was laughed at and mocked by bystanders, but the hostility of the West and its contempt for international sovereignty was once again displayed.
Organizations Involved in Supporting Uighur Separatism
Of the main fronts leading the charge publicizing the repeated “one million people” figure are the following- World Uighur Congress, Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), Radio Free Asia, the Jamestown Foundation, and the NED (extension of the US State Dept). The buzzwords “concentration camps”, “mass internment”, and “religious persecution” originate from these sources.
Firstly, these organizations claim UN conducted an investigation and confirmed their reports and allegations. The UN did not conduct any such investigation- nothing was ever reported about the imprisonment of 1 million Uighurs. The uproar began with a Reuters headline which the NYT, Intercept, and Washington Post all repeated.
Secondly, these sources employ misleading headlines to create mass hysteria with the casual, headline-reading facebook scrollers. The repeated playing card figure of “1 million” provides dramatic effect. However, beyond the headlines and in the text, they once again use the magic “1 million” figure but instead claim 1 million Han were transferred to Xinjiang to replace the Uighurs in order to shift the population bias in their favor. Contrary to their titles, the figure is not the number of detained Uighurs, according to hteir articles. Varying figures of Uighur detention exist within statements by Radio Free Asia, CHRD, and the reports in different newspapers.
CHRD, or Chinese Human Rights Defenders, is a group headquartered in Washington DC. Their main backing is received from war-hawk neocons. They are blessed with healthy donations by a host of pro-western special interest groups and governments, no different from the “White Helmets”. The majority of their annual revenue has come from government grants and US so-called NGOs which are nothing but fronts of the state dept. Led by exiled opportunist, Rabiya Kadeer, the CHRD is the Chinese equivalent of the Syrian Observatory (also led by a single exile who lives abroad and is courted and quoted by Western governments). Rabiya, who became a millionaire in China, reports about the alleged human rights abuses committed against Uighur Muslims in China from the comfort of her own western homes. Not to mention her fraud cases against her and her relatives’ engagement in similar activities.
Members of the CHRD group are hardcore neocons, open advocates of colonialism, and espoused support for all of NATO’s imperialist wars and Israel’s terrorism. From Korea to Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan to Palestine- Liu Xiaobo, Renee Xia, and their colleagues supported military action, occupation, and regime change in them.
On the board of The Jamestown Foundation are current and former State Department and CIA staff. Names such as Cheney, Brzezinski, and William Casey were/are members of the foundation.
The NED (National Endowment for Democracy), a front of the US State Department, openly shows its financial contributions to pro-Uighur groups in China. They are listed below (compiled by globalresearch.ca).
“International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation $187,918 To advance the human rights of ethnic Uyghur women and children. The Foundation will maintain an English- and Uyghur-language website and advocate on the human rights situation of Uyghur women and children.
International Uyghur PEN Club $45,000 To promote freedom of expression for Uyghurs. The International Uyghur PEN Club will maintain a website providing information about banned writings and the work and status of persecuted poets, historians, journalists, and others. Uyghur PEN will also conduct international advocacy campaigns on behalf of imprisoned writers.
Uyghur American Association $280,000 To raise awareness of Uyghur human rights issues. UAA’s Uyghur Human Rights Project will research, document, and bring to international attention, independent and accurate information about human rights violations affecting the Turkic populations of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
World Uyghur Congress $185,000 To enhance the ability of Uyghur prodemocracy groups and leaders to implement effective human rights and democracy campaigns. The World Uyghur Congress will organize a conference for pro-democracy Uyghur groups and leaders on interethnic issues and conduct advocacy work on Uyghur human rights.”
Feasibility of the alleged scale of mass internment
From a few hundred thousand, to 1 million to 3 million, the figures of Uighur incarceration in these reports vary. Publicity surrounding these claims is relatively fresh; before 2018, stories were vague and publicity was on and off. For 1 million people in Xinjiang to be kidnapped in such a time frame is inconceibable. Such an abuse could be easily compared to the Nazi abduction of Jews or Japanese internment camps in the US. It would require a full domestic mobilization of the army. As a result of such a mass operation, much more evidence than “credible reports” and evidence-barren emotional whatsapp and facebook videos would exist.
Xinjiang province’s population is almost identical to that of Texas but its physical size is more than twice as large. Its population is sparse outside major cities and extremely dense in metropolitan areas. For one million Texans to be rounded up over the course of a few years with limited media attention and limited evidence would be impossible. This would be especially difficult in China with so-called “Islamists” and Western powers looming over, eager to spark the next trending clickbait story about China, Russia, North Korea, or Syria. Such an operation would be illogical.
-China’s total prison population is 1.649 million people and the nation’s population is nearing 1.4 billion people. Uighurs make only .01% of China’s population.
-If one utilizes the figures provided by “human rights organizations”, between 1 in 15 and 3 in 11 Uighurs are languishing in camps.
-If 1 million or 3 million Uighurs are incarcerated for suspicions of terrorism, this would mean that Uighurs make up 60 percent or 180 percent of China’s total prison population, depending on which source’s figures are used. One figure is impossible, the other is ridiculous.
-What about other Uighurs in prison for non-terrorism related offenses? Would this mean even more are imprisoned altogether?
-If Uighurs were excluded from the figures these “reports” provide, China would have less total incarcerated people than countries with a fraction of its population.
-By comparison, the US has over 2.2 million prisoners and a total population of 325.7 million people. If one utilizes the figures provided by “human rights organizations”, between 1 in 15 and 3 in 11 Uighurs are languishing in camps. Imagine the scope of an operation to intern every person Austin (950,000 people) or Houston (2.3 million people)- and consider that Uighurs make only .01 percent of China’s total population.
-The Total Uighur population in China is between 11.3 and 15 million people. If 1 million, 3 million, or even 100,000 Uighurs were rounded up out and imprisoned or sent to re-education camps, evidence would be widely accessible.
Required reflection and reevaluation
This raises pertinent question to the Muslims of the world. When western imperialists, their clients, and their backwards proxies are the ones decrying alleged oppression and incarceration of Muslims when they have killed, starved, and brutalized more Muslims than any force in the world, do we not see any warning flags? Do we not recognize any vested interests involved?
Turkic/Turkistani separatists have proven the danger they pose to society, be it in China, Syria, or abroad elsewhere. Even according to mainstream sources, the Chinese government has continued to build mosques over the past few decades for Muslims, ensures religious freedom as a right for all of its citizens according to the law, encourages Muslims (including government workers) to perform Hajj, and allows Muslims to pursue Islamic education after schooling if they please. These privileges are not exclusive to Hui Muslims as pro-separatist organizations say, they’re available to all law-abiding Chinese people. Chinese Muslims retain their historic identities, their vibrant culture, their distinct food, and most importantly, their spiritual beliefs.