The Yomiuri ShimbunDenying freedom of religion for ethnic minorities, the Chinese government is suppressing their individual cultures. Such actions by the Chinese government can only be considered infringements of human rights.
Concern in the international community is growing over the human rights conditions of the Uighur ethnic minority group, living in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in western China.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has pointed out that more than 1 million members of ethnic minorities, mainly Uighur people, have been sent to internment camps of the Chinese government to undergo brainwashing. This works out to about one in every 10 Uighur people, who number about 10 million in all, being deprived of their freedom. This is indeed an extraordinary situation.
The U.S. State Department, in a report it released in March, referred to possible abuse, torture and killing of Uighur detainees at the camps. There are also former inmates who claimed they were confined to overcrowded rooms, banned from speaking languages other than Chinese, and forced to sing songs of praise to the Communist Party of China.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said such a state of affairs is “one of the worst human rights crises of our time.” His remarks cannot be considered an exaggeration.
Uighur people believe in Islam and speak Uighur. They have been discriminated against in admission to higher-level schools and in employment, and have repeatedly clashed with the majority Han Chinese. In 2009, there was a large-scale Muslim uprising, which claimed a large number of victims.
The Chinese government has asserted that forces aiming at separation and independence from China were involved in the uprising. Under the pretext of nipping terrorism in the bud, the Chinese government has increased its surveillance of Uighur people, while justifying its “sinicization” campaign, including education in the Chinese language.
Free world must act
The government calls its confinement facilities “vocational skill education training centers,” explaining that they are designed to give reeducation and vocational training to those who have been under the influence of Islamic extremism. Beijing rejects criticism from foreign countries, including the United States, as “meddling in internal affairs.”
Beijing’s claims cannot be taken at face value. Foreign media attempting to gather news in the region where Uighur people live are constantly subject to surveillance or shadowing by the Chinese authorities. These officials insert themselves into conversations between media reporters and Uighur people, pressuring them not to respond to interviews.
It is obvious that China is trying to block any information inconvenient for itself from flowing out of the country. Opening to foreign media only those facilities that the Chinese authorities have chosen at their own discretion cannot dispel international criticism.
Twenty-two countries, including Japan and Britain, have sent a jointly written letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council, expressing their concern over the conditions of Uighur people in China. Meanwhile, 50 other countries, including Russia and Myanmar, have expressed their support to China. Improving the conditions of Uighur people in China through the United Nations would be difficult.
It is alarming to think that, in line with China’s growing influence, other countries may adopt a governing style that does not eschew oppression of religious groups. It is essential for countries that share such universal values as human rights and the rule of law to closely cooperate with each other to prevail upon China to improve relevant conditions.